This is Ace Clark, pet detective, saying: “Case closed.”
Max, the missing mutt I asked you to help find, is back home with his Spokane Valley owners, Dave and Wendy Gerard. He was located in North Idaho, but more on that later.
After Dave picked up his dog Wednesday afternoon, he took Max to the Holiday convenience store Wendy manages for a surprise visit.
Following a plan we hatched in the parking lot, I walked into the North Pines store to provide a diversion.
A cashier called Wendy to the counter and we made small talk while Dave sneaked Max through the door.
He turned the dog loose.
“Say, isn’t that your dog?” I asked, pointing to Max as he padded past us, nonchalantly sniffing packages of junk food.
It took a second for Wendy to realize this was her very own Max and not the typical hairy, fourlegged Holiday shopper.
Wendy yelled “Max!” and fell to her knees. She threw her arms around the friendly Rottweiler/ shepherd, burying her head and sobbing hard into his thick, dark fur.
I’m not ashamed to say that even a hard-boiled gumshoe like old Ace was choked up at such a sincere display of emotion.
“I can’t describe what I’m feeling,” Wendy said when she was finally able to speak. “I’m just ecstatic.”
So where was Max?
Believe it or not, the dog was cooling his paws inside the Kootenai Humane Society shelter near Coeur d’Alene.
He’s been there since April 20, the day after he disappeared from the Gerards’ fenced yard.
Animal control officers found Max wandering near a Hauser Lake mobile home park. His collar and license were gone, fueling Dave’s suspicion that someone dognapped Max and dumped him across the state line.
“He’s so friendly he’ll walk up to anyone,” said Dave. “But I don’t know anything about who would take him or why.”
The Gerards should have bailed out Max soon after he was booked into the slammer. The dog has a microchip implanted in his shoulder, which supposedly makes identification a breeze.
But the shelter’s scanner didn’t register the chip.
So much for high-tech solutions.
It took my sharp-eyed North Idaho readers to save the day. They spotted Max’s photograph in The Coeur d’Alene Press’ regular roundup of animal shelter inmates.
You know, this mutt has had more coverage lately than Kato Kaelin.
“That dog you wrote about looks exactly like the one in the Press,” said one of about 25 Idaho residents who called me Wednesday.
During a telephone call to the shelter, Kootenai kennel worker Sam Bird (honest) scanned the dog again.
Bingo. The match was made.
Many others in Spokane joined the search for Max. In all, some 50 calls poured in from some of the sweetest animal lovers on Earth.
Like Elvis, Max was spotted everywhere.
He was at the top of Carnahan Hill. He was in the Valley. He was on the South Hill. He was downtown.
A schoolteacher saw him near a North Side elementary school. That tip sounded pretty good, because she mentioned that the dog limped.
I didn’t put this in the Tuesday column, but Max has limped ever since he was hit by a car three years ago.
Another woman called to say she thought she saw the wayward canine romping with another dog near Joe Albi stadium.
She called back the next day to say she saw the dog again. This time, she added, a car pulled up and a man began calling, “Here, Max! Here, Max!”
Everyone was on the prowl for Max the missing mutt.
“It’s especially nice to know that there are people who will take time out of their busy day to look for a missing dog,” said Dave. “I wish I could call everyone who helped and personally thank them.”