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A joyful reunion

Becky Vargo • Nov 30, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Nunica resident Carrie McNarland said she was filled with joy and almost disbelief when she learned her missing dog was found along a Kent County highway after disappearing from a friend’s home in White Cloud more than two months ago.

On Nov. 19, a hunter who was driving north on U.S. 131 saw the dog lying alongside the road near Rockford, McNarland said. 

“He took a picture of him lying there, like he had just given up,” she said. 

When that hunter, Joel Scheffler, realized the dog was still alive, he put the animal in his vehicle and called 911. Dispatchers then called the Humane Society of Kent County.

Scheffler said he had just left Rockford to go up north to hunt for the afternoon when “something caught my eye.” The Challenge Manufacturing CEO said his original thought was that the dog was just on the wrong side of the fence where he lived.

But Scheffler found himself taking the next exit and re-routing so he could go back up the highway again.

“Sometimes you just don’t think, you just do,” he said as to why he turned around. “We have dogs. Just the thought if my dog were lost, I would want someone to help him.”

Scheffler said he parked his vehicle and worked his way slowly toward the dog.

“I sat near him and let him get used to me,” he said.

Scheffler was eventually able to get a look at the dog’s tags, which had the dog’s name.

“When I called him Gabe, it’s almost like he looked at me and wanted to know how I knew his name,” he said.

The dog sat up and started licking Scheffler’s face.

“I put him in my truck, went to the car pool lot and waited for animal control,” he said.

Scheffler said it was obvious that the dog had been running because of the raw condition of his legs and nose.

“Probably the only reason I could get close was because he was so tired,” he said. “He was just done.”

Scheffler said the dog was wearing a 24-hour pet finder tag, which he called after notifying animal control. The pet finder company could not get through to McNarland’s cellphone, so they sent her an email.

A county animal control officer picked up the 3-year-old shepherd/spaniel mix and took him to the Kent County Animal Shelter.

McNarland said she saw the email late that Sunday night and was at the animal shelter waiting for it to open the next morning. Up to that point, she didn’t even know if her dog was alive.

“The message I got was that he was lying in a fetal position,” McNarland said of the notification she received.

The email gave her the name and telephone number of the man who found her dog and asked her to call him. The email also noted they tried to reach her by phone, but the number associated with the microchip was no longer in service.

McNarland said her dog took off on Sept. 10.

“We were at a friend’s house and their little dog chased Gabe down the driveway,” she said of the day he disappeared. “He never came back.”

A search for Gabe proved fruitless and was stopped because McNarland was scheduled for surgery the next day and her daughter needed to be back in school. 

McNarland then went to social media, posting on dog lost-and-found sites and Facebook. The friend in White Cloud, Timothy Holman, put up fliers and visited area restaurants, asking if people saw the dog.

McNarland said she got her hopes up a couple of times when she was contacted about a dog people thought might be hers. Each time it turned out not to be the case.

“I thought he was dead,” she said.

Although the dog had been spotted on occasion, nobody could get close because he was so shy. Scheffler said the animal control officer had reports of a white dog running in the area, but nobody could catch him.

McNarland said Gabe is back to being the same happy dog as he had been before he disppeared.

“I didn’t know what kind of dog I was going to get back, he was gone so long,” she said.

McNarland said it is also amazing that he still was wearing his collar and tags when he was found. That helped get Gabe home, as well as save McNarland a couple hundred dollars for immunizations and a license. Instead, she said she got a bill for two days lodging, a $15 fine for a dog running at large and a $25 pick-up fee.

McNarland said it was an emotional scene when Gabe reunited with her daughter, Elizabeth, when the girl returned from school that day. The young girl said she was very excited to have her dog back.

Scheffler said his daughters were also very interested in the outcome. 

“My daughters wanted me to bring him home,” he said.

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