Lost dog found after two years

Anita Baumgardner sits with the family dogs, Jack, left, and Chewie, right, who was lost two years ago when the family lived in Arizona but was found and returned thanks to a microchip implanted in the 11-year-old. Baumgardner said Chewie escaped from their home after Jack opened the front door, which he is unable to do at their new residence.

Leah Thompson/Staff

Anita Baumgardner of Vandenberg Village was floored when she got the call. The company that had sold her a microchip for her daughter’s dog was informing her that Chewie had been found — after being lost for two years.

A Good Samaritan had found little Chewie, a Peekapoo (Pekinese-poodle mix), by the side of the road in Phoenix, where the family was living when Chewie disappeared from their home.

The Baumgardners weren’t going to let a mere 500 miles keep them away from their dog when they received the call a few weeks ago.

So Anita and her husband, Randy, jumped in the car and drove back to Phoenix to pick up the family’s beloved pet.

The dog had been a birthday present for one of their daughters, Megan, in 2003. Megan was 11 then and Chewie (short for Chewbaka) became her faithful companion.

So Megan, especially, was devastated when Chewie disappeared in 2010. Megan was 18 and had just graduated from high school. She was away on a trip in Europe when the dog became lost.

“We didn’t tell her for three weeks,” said her mother.

When Megan finally found out Chewie was missing, she was heartbroken.

The family tried valiantly to find him, posting flyers in Phoenix, alerting the microchip company and looking everywhere for the small, white fluffy dog. But it was to no avail.

The Baumgardner family, which includes Megan, a son, A.J., and another daughter, Gaby, resumed their lives. Randy Baumgarnder retired from the Air Force. He had been stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix as a lieutenant colonel, and now he was taking a job with an Air Force contractor on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The family moved to Lompoc a year ago, reluctantly leaving Chewie behind.

A few weeks ago, two years after losing Chewie, Anita Baumgardner received the call. The family had given their new phone number to the microchip company and now they were calling to tell them that Chewie had been found.

The microchip that was implanted into Chewie’s skin had been read by a Phoenix animal shelter, and they notified the chip company.

“I found it hard to believe. I thought it was a joke at first,” Anita said.

But it wasn’t.

“I was overjoyed. But I wondered where he had been for two years. There’s another family out there who is missing a dog.”

She also doesn’t know the name of the Good Samaritan who found Chewie. “I wish I knew who found him so I could thank him.”

Megan found out in a text from her mom that Chewie had been found.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said. “But when Mom sent me a picture, I got all teary eyed.”

Chewie stayed with friends of the Baumgardners in Phoenix until they could pick him up.

When Anita and Randy went to get Chewie, the little dog remembered them right away.

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“He ran right over to us. He wouldn’t stop yapping,” Anita said. “He just wouldn’t leave us alone. He was so happy to see us.”

Chewie was missing a few teeth and his coat was “very fuzzy,” said Anita, but he was in good shape and had obviously been cared for during his absence.

Anita Baumgardner told the story of how Chewie got out in the first place.

Their other dog, Jack, had learned how to work the handle on their front door, so he let Chewie out.

“Jack just likes to lay in the sun,” Anita said. “Chewie likes to explore.”

She explained that Chewie had just been at the groomer that day.

“I hadn’t yet put his collar back on.”

The company that made Chewie’s microchip, HomeAgain, explains that implants are more effective in finding lost dogs than traditional tags. Tags that go on a dog’s collar can fall off, be removed or become impossible to read.

“Unfortunately, one in three family pets will get lost in its lifetime and without identification, 90 percent of lost pets will not return home,” said Julianne Hodges a spokeswoman for HomeAgain.