It was a reunion two years in the making.
Drake Dieker received a call Thursday morning telling him Avery, his jet black Labrador retriever, who had been missing for two years, had been found.
Avery, who had escaped from his pen in late 2014 and never returned, was at a veterinary clinic in Girard.
“We still have no idea how he made it to Girard,” Dieker said. “After looking as long as we did, and not knowing where he was, we just assumed the worst.”
Their happy reunion was made possible because of a decision Dieker made years ago, to have a microchip inserted in Avery’s shoulder when he was a pup.
And, there was a bit of luck involved.
Avery was spotted near Girard about a month ago, and was taken to another animal clinic. “But they never scanned his microchip there,” he said.
Instead, a veterinarian at the clinic waited about a month to see if anybody would claim Avery. When nobody did, the vet took Avery home.
But, as Avery had been known to do, the dog ventured off again.
This time the Lab made it to a nearby farm where he quickly got acquainted with that farmer’s other dogs.
The farmer took the vagabond pooch to Mesa Animal Clinic for safe-keeping, letting it be known he’d take the animal back if it wasn’t claimed.
Employees there, however, found the microchip and scanned it into the system.
Just like that, Avery’s location was known.
“I got a call from the microchip people Thursday morning,” Dieker said, directing him to call the Red Barn Veterinary Clinic in Iola,which had the capability of finding out where the microchip had been scanned.
A quick computer search revealed the scan came from Mesa.
Dieker called to confirm the dog was his. “They told me I could come get him.”
One problem: Dieker had undergone two surgeries the day before: the first to get his tonsils removed, the second a procedure to correct a long-ago nose injury.
Too groggy to drive, Dieker solicited the help of his older sister, Morgan.
“We got there just before it closed for the day,” he said.
THE REUNION went better than Dieker could have hoped.
“He definitely remembers his name,” Dieker said. “He’d be walking around, and I’d say ‘Avery,’ and he’s right back with me.”
Avery also responded promptly to Dieker’s hunting commands, and jumped right in a duck blind when Dieker and dog returned home.
Dieker also took Avery to Red Barn for a thorough examination.
“One of his eyes is sunken a little bit, and while he’s not underweight, he’s still very thin,” Dieker said.
Other than that, Avery received a clean bill of health.
On Sunday, Dieker took Avery to to shoot some chukar.
Avery responded well, naturally retrieving the downed game.
“There’s still a few weeks of duck season left,” Dieker noted. “I’m glad to get him home, but I’m especially glad to get him back with some time left to go hunting.”
The first official hunt could be as early as today.
“It’ll be good to go out and get some good work in,” Dieker said.
DIEKER purchased Avery as a pup in late 2010, for the purpose of training him to hunt. It was then he also made the fortuitous decision to have the microchip implanted.
When Avery escaped the first time in late 2014 — he dug out of his pen — Dieker found him the next day at the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility.
“We fixed up his pen, but he dug out again the next day,” Dieker recalled.
That time, the animal didn’t return.
After weeks and months of fruitless searching in and around his home in Gas, Dieker and his family eventually gave up hope.
“If I’d see a black Lab running around, I’d stop to see if it was Avery,” Dieker said. “But black Labs are pretty common around here.”
Then, when it seemed the dog was gone for good, Dieker decided against getting another.
“I was just about ready to head off for college,” he said. “It just wasn’t a good time to get one.”