Family believes dog found in Ohio is missing pet

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Shelter seeking proof of ownership

NOTE: Following a large reaction from Nelson County on social media with posts, comments and reviews, the Fort Defiance Humane Society posted publicly about the situation on its Facebook page, sharing its version of events regarding the dog and the local family. The local family has also since posted a response on a personal Facebook account. These events occured after print publication of this article Dec. 8.

A local family believes they have found their dog nearly a year after the young labradoodle disappeared from their Nelson County farm, but they have yet to be reunited.

They think he was found 300 miles north of his home, in northern Ohio.

For months, fliers have hung on the board at Kroger and in other shops and windows around the county. Larry Wilson, family and friends searched social media posts and shelters across the state, following any lead that might be Charlie. The dog disappeared Jan. 30, around the same time as several other pets in the area, and the family believed he might have been stolen.

“All year long,” said Larry Wilson, Charlie’s owner, of the search. “He’s just like a child for our family … Everything you can imagine possible, we did — mailboxes, fliers, a neighborhood grid search.”

But Charlie was nowhere to be found.

A Facebook page called Finding Charlie Doodle kept the public updated on the search efforts, and a reward was eventually posted with the goal of bringing Charlie back home. After a series of dead ends, though, the family finally found some hope.

Just days ago, a friend, Peggy Schmidt, who was among those keeping an eye out for clues, came across a post from the Fort Defiance Humane Society in Ohio about a dog they called Phoenix. According to a post from the shelter, a Good Samaritan found a dog in a ravine Nov. 27. His eyes were matted shut and he weighed only 16 pounds, but despite his sad appearance, there was something familiar about that face.

The dog appeared to be a male poodle-mix like Charlie, he wasn’t neutered and he wasn’t chipped.

Since his discovery, the staff at Fort Defiance have worked to bring the dog back to health, bathing him, grooming him, feeding him and having him seen by a vet.

Hoping to get their beloved Charlie back, the Wilsons made the roughly five-hour drive to Ohio this past Saturday to visit the shelter, but there were some complications. Because of the condition the dog was found in and the fact he wasn’t chipped, the Wilsons would need to be able to prove ownership, and couldn’t take the dog home. Proving ownership is what they’ve been trying to do since.

Wilson said they have sent puppy papers, vet records and even the missing dog flier to the Humane Society in an effort to establish ownership of Charlie.

“I have spoken with the Wilsons and have been corresponding with them on email,” said Lisa Weaner, Fort Defiance board president. “As I said to them, we are all for a good-news story and getting a dog reunited with their owners, but I need to have some concrete info that this is, in fact, their dog. That’s what we are trying to get right now.”

Weaner said some of the records sent had conflicting information — which Wilson said was a birth date discrepancy and something the vet had acknowledged — but also that the dog did not respond to the Wilsons and being called Charlie.

The Wilsons have since argued that the dog’s unknown experience in the past 10 months and being recently called by a different name at the shelter could contribute to that lack of response.

Weaner said she doesn’t believe the Wilsons have any bad intentions.

“They are hoping this is their dog and I am hoping this is their dog, but we have to do our job and make sure,” she said, adding that the Humane Society has received numerous calls and messages from the Bardstown area about the situation. “I get the public interest in this, and I can certainly appreciate that, but I hope everybody understands we are trying to do the best thing for this animal. We are trying to make sure this is truly their dog.”

The situation is hard for the Wilsons, who say they are certain the dog at the Ohio shelter is Charlie and that they have provided what they needed to, but are complying with the shelter's additional requests. The wait and obstacles have been frustrating for them.

A social media campaign has taken off to show support for the Wilsons and their “Christmas miracle” and to urge Charlie be returned to his home.Despite the tension, some have shared their appreciation to the Fort Defiance Humane Society for taking care of the dog, and hope they will continue to work closely with the family on a resolution.

Regardless of the efforts, however, Weaner said the dog would need to remain in the shelter’s care for a couple more weeks to see his health improve.

“He is severely malnourished and dehydrated and was really on death’s door when we got him,” she said. “Being a rescue, our first and foremost concern is for the dog’s health, and it just has to be that. I understand with their dog being gone so long, they are hoping as much as everybody else this is him. If it were my dog, I would be doing the same thing. We are trying to do what we can to figure this out, but I have to look out for the best interest of the dog.”