Sassy was just trying to pee.
The 6-year-old Pomeranian was grazing the backyard of her owner’s home in Bradenton, joined on a January evening by her three canine brothers and sisters. But when 56-year-old Barbara Dawson stepped outside to call in the herd after 15 minutes of potty time, Sassy was gone.
Yet the yard was bolstered with head-high fences, and there weren’t any holes. It was a dog-napping, Dawson presumes.
“We believe somebody jumped the fence and got her,” said Dawson, an air-conditioning technician living in Oneco, just southeast of Bradenton.
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She quickly gathered her kids and grandkids and started searching their neighborhood, posting missing flyers and later posting on social media. Going to sleep that night was tough.
Five months later, it was gut-wrenching.
Little did she know Sassy was more than 200 miles away, stranded on the side of a Pembroke Pines road, when a Pines police officer on his way to a call spotted the brown-and-white dog. But she wasn’t injured or underweight. On the contrary, she was wagging her tail and begging for a ride in Officer William Higuita’s marked vehicle.
Luckily for her family back home, she had a microchip — and Pines police have a microchip reader.
It was June 17, two days after her sixth birthday, and everyone’s wish came true.
Dawson cried when she heard the news. She and her husband Jerry were shopping at a Dollar General in Tennessee when police called him.
“When [the cop] found the dog, he told me she was a happy-go-lucky little dog going, ‘Pick me up! I’m owned by somebody.’”
After the Dawsons verified Sassy was in fact theirs, Dawson’s 30-year-old daughter Joy Meeks drove three hours down to South Florida to pick up the prodigal pet, just one of over 1,300 the police department’s Animal Assistance Program has helped rescue over the past five years.
When Sassy got back home, she was greeted by Dawson’s three other Pomeranians — 4-year-old Charlette, 7-year-old Rosco, and 8-year-old Angel — and she got to sleep on her mom’s bed. But that was only temporary. Beds are still a no-no.
As for how the dog wound up in South Florida, that’s anyone’s guess.
“We have no idea,” Dawson said.
Pines police encourages other departments to implement their own Animal Assistance Progam, to prevent missing pets from winding up in Animal Control, where they could face euthanasia.
“By highlighting the success of our program, we hope to inspire and encourage other agencies to follow suit,” the department said in a statement.
In a photo made public by Pines police, Joy and her twin daughters Alexia and Kylie, 12, are seen cuddling Sassy outside the police department, as one of the twins cries and leans her head into Sassy’s side.
“I would call it a miracle,” Dawson said.