Donna Rosen and her six-year-old son, Braxton, may never know why their pet dachshund went missing for 13 months or what happened to him while he was gone.
Those answers, if they ever come, will have to wait. Only one thing matters now.
“Bobo is back!” Braxton proclaimed on a recent Monday as he watched his mother cradle the chestnut-coloured dog in a park near their home.
“Hi, Bobo. We missed you for a long time.”
Bobo has come a long way since he mysteriously disappeared from the Rosen’s Denton County, Texas, home on July 25 last year.
Rosen said she doesn’t know how the dog got away, though she suspects he was kidnapped. What she does know is that she has looked for him every day since.
“I am just flooded with emotions, it’s unreal,” she said, after being reunited with the dog just outside Portland, Oregon.
“With everything that I’ve been through, it’s a miracle and too good to be true.”
Rosen’s friend was driving on a mid-winter night 10 years ago, when she saw someone in another car throw what looked like an animal into a freezing pond. The friend rushed to the animal’s aid, and then called Rosen.
It was a four-week-old dachshund puppy, and it stole Rosen’s heart.
“I rescued him from a bad situation,” she said.
“He was always loyal and appreciative – it’s like he knows where he came from.”
From that day on, wherever Donna went, Bobo went, too. There could not be a more inseparable pair. That was, until the day Braxton was born.
“They’ve been together ever since,” Rosen said.
The dog became Braxton’s best friend. But for Braxton, Bobo was more than just a companion.
Braxton has ADHD and has experienced seizures since his first birthday. As the two grew up together, Bobo became Braxton’s emotional support dog.
“He doesn’t understand emotions of sadness or anger or frustration or how to express them,” Rosen said of Braxton. “Bobo was that calming support to calm him down.”
The dog was like another “child” to Rosen and because he was constantly with her and Braxton, she never had him micro-chipped.
“The dog was always in the bed with us, in the car with us, everywhere,” she said.
Bobo was always there, until he wasn’t. On that July morning, Rosen let Bobo and her other dog, Spike, outside to go to the bathroom in the gated area beside the house.
Spike soon returned. Bobo did not.
“Spike comes through the door. I say ‘Bobo’ – and nothing,” Rosen said.
“I thought maybe he had found something to play with. When I walked around to the side of the house, he wasn’t there. I started searching, and I’ve been searching ever since.”
Devastated but determined, Rosen contacted local shelters and reached out to rescue organisations. She checked countless lost dog Facebook pages – reuniting other people and their pets in the process. She got nowhere.
Meanwhile, her son was restless. Around the same time Bobo disappeared, the family was also dealing with a new move, an accident that required Donna to get plates in her arm, and the start of school.
“There’s never a good time,” she said. “This was the worst possible time for the dog to go missing,” she said. “Everything was changing. The only thing that was consistent or comforting was that dog. And now that was gone, too.”
For Rosen, a single mother, the weight of searching day and night took a physical toll. She has an intestinal disease and was in remission, but the stress caused her health to deteriorate.
“My lung collapsed and I had a stroke, and had to go to ICU,” Rosen said, adding that she spent last September and December in the hospital. “It literally made me sick.”
Pranksters called her in the middle of the night. Some shelters refused to help, blaming her for not micro-chipping Bobo. But she never stopped looking.
After scouring every lost dog resource in Texas, she turned to Kyle Shugart, a member of the All Texas Dachshund Rescue group, who encouraged her to expand her search.
Shugart told her that stolen dogs are often taken to be sold for dog fighting, or flipped, which means they are re-sold as purebred dogs.
“I warned her, ‘your dog can be out of state’,” Shugart said. “She loved that dog and she did not give up.”
So Rosen broadened her search, even contacting a rescue in Australia.
On the morning of Aug 2, she was scrolling through an Oregon found pet’s Facebook page and noticed a dog’s picture that stood out among the countless others she’d scrolled past.
She was certain it was Bobo.
Rosen reached out to the family immediately. Kara Schendel and her boyfriend, Dan Burnett, had found the brown dachshund running by the railroad tracks where they lived in Hubbard, Oregon.
When Schendel learned that Rosen was from Texas, it hit her “that she loved the dog so much that she found it in this little tiny town”.
So she and Rosen started talking. Sure enough, there were similarities between the dogs they described. But there was also a glaring difference.
The dog in Oregon was described as partially blind and deaf, although Bobo had been fine the last time Rosen saw him.
Rosen made a FaceTime call and when she called Bobo’s name, he began looking around for her.
“Immediately when the camera turned around on him, I knew it was him,” Rosen said.
According to Schendel, her boyfriend had doubts about the dog’s owner before the FaceTime call. But when he saw Bobo’s reaction, he said, “Get her out here.”
On Aug 11, Rosen flew to Oregon to reunite with her other “child”, leaving Braxton with relatives.
She returned to North Texas with Bobo two days later, and surprised an unsuspecting Braxton. The Rosen family was back together at last.
“We got him back,” a smiling Braxton said.
“I’m so happy right now. I don’t want to lose Bobo again.” – Tribune News Service/The Dallas Morning News/Meara Isenberg