When her 4-month-old puppy was stolen two years ago, Tamara Peterson enlisted the help of a pet detective and drove around her Southwest Ranches neighborhood passing out fliers.
And she prayed, hoping Cedar the German Shepherd would one day return.
“If it’s in God’s plan, she will come home,” her son Chase would say to her.
A world away, in the rural town of Hugo, Colorado — population 730 — Cedar lay injured and covered with snow, seemingly abandoned malnourished in a stranger’s yard. After three weeks on the mend, the 2-year-old dog flew to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Saturday afternoon, her paws meeting the sun-kissed tarmac as she reunited with her family.
As she drove home with a trunk full of Easter-dinner essentials, Peterson said in an interview that she would “absolutely” consider Cedar’s homecoming an Easter miracle. But, she admits, it wasn’t all divine intervention.
It was Cedar’s microchip that tipped off Dr. Leesa McCue at Eastern Colorado Veterinary Services that the sickly dog wasn’t a local. The radio-frequency identification implant that served as Cedar’s identification card showed Dr. McCue that she belonged in South Florida.
After calls to Cedar’s hometown veterinarian. Dr. Kimberly Balasky, who runs Balasky Animal Hospital in Davie, and to the Broward County Humane Society, Cedar quickly found herself on a plane home.
“I immediately cried,” Peterson said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. It’s almost two years to the day.”
Wings of Rescue, an animal charity that flies shelter pets across the country, booked Cedar a ticket on a flight from Texas, where the charity was delivering a load of shelter dogs to Broward.
“There’s a movie in there somewhere,” said Ric Browde, president and CEO of Wings of Rescue. “Microchipping saves lives. There’s no doubt about it.”
Cedar, the youngest of four dogs Peterson owned at the time, was stolen from her two-acre backyard in the semi-rural Southwest Ranches on May 4, 2017. When Peterson returned from a parent-teacher association meeting that morning, her gate was ajar and Cedar was missing. She said the theft was one of several pet pilferages on her street around that time.
“We put up signs everywhere, we drove the car, we checked neighborhoods, I hired a private investigator,” Peterson said. “For weeks and weeks and then months. “We were just devastated.”
It remains a mystery how Cedar wound up 1,962 miles away, but earlier this month, a Hugo deputy marshal responding to a citizen’s call for service located her on the side of the road and took her to Dr. McCue.
“The dog was actually snow covered, so I passed it twice — didn’t even see it,” Deputy Marshal Steve Ryan said in an interview with Wings of Rescue posted to Facebook. “She actually wouldn’t get up, so I had to pick her up and put her in my car. She was wet [and] appeared to be malnourished.”
Cedar was in better shape then she should have been, Dr. McCue said in an interview with the charity, but she was weak. After a three-week convalescence and two days of travel, Cedar arrived in South Florida at about 12:20 p.m. Saturday. She was unable to comment, but if the back-and-forth whipping of her tail was any indication, she seemed happy.
Peterson said she didn’t expect the dog to remember her old pack or her human family, but she did.
“She’s resting,” Peterson said. “I think she’s acclimating to the pack. I think the pack remembers her. ”
Peterson commended the actions of Deputy Marshal Ryan to bring Cedar to a vet, and of Dr. McCue to think of scanning Cedar for a possible chip. The coordination of the Broward County Humane Society, Wings of Rescue and subsidiary group Cloud Nine Rescue Flights proved critical, as well. Peterson believes it should be legally required that veterinarians scan every animal they see to check if they had been stolen.
“It was through the grace of God [and] this chip,” she said. “That the police officer took her to the vet and scanned her.”
When Cedar is all done smelling every square inch of her old stomping ground and catching up on her sleep, the Peterson family plans to take her out swimming to celebrate.
“We’ll have a little homecoming pool party or whatever she wants,” Peterson said.