If dogs could talk, Dauz the Italian greyhound would tell you about his eight-month and more than 800-mile journey to find his way back to his Collinsville home.
But the Dausman family will have to settle for the tail wagging, ball playing and warm snuggling that Dauz has shown David, Alicia and their two children, Lilian, 6, and David Jr., 3, since his return home last month.
“He's the same dog, but he won't let us out of his sight,” said Alicia Dausman. “As we will not either.”
The 5-year-old family pet went missing from the Dausman's fenced yard on July 20, 2012; he was discovered at a Fairfax, Va., animal shelter on March 6, 2013. Alicia Dausman said there was initial disbelief followed by pure joy when they heard he was found. And then there were questions — lots of them.
“I asked (the animal shelter) is he okay, is he hurt, is he healthy?” Dausman said. “They said he was fine. So I know somebody must have taken care of him. But I just didn't get how he ended up 900 miles away.”
Dausman said she believes Dauz was stolen by a friend's family member who was temporarily living with them. While the regal-looking small dog will come up to strangers easily for a pet on the head or a chance to catch a ball, he is the only one of the family's four dogs that has never strayed away from home.
“He's my only dog I can have without a leash,” Dausman said.
Dausman recalled the initial panic last summer when she realized that Dauz wasn't in the yard or in the surrounding neighborhood. After diligently searching for him, she called the police the following day. She said it was rough on the entire family, but especially her daughter, Lilian, who was just a year old when they purchased the purebred dog.
“She would just cry her eyes out,” Dausman said of Lilian. “She said, 'Mom, I want my dog.' And I had to say, 'Sorry, I don't know where he's at.' I put his crate and toys downstairs. I couldn't even see a picture of him, I would cry. It hurt.”
Dausman said she tried everything to find Dauz. She posted his picture on her Facebook page, submitted weekly Craigslist ads, contacted shelters and Italian greyhound rescue groups and enlisted the aid of the Illinois Lost Dogs group and their Facebook site. She said she started losing hope in December when the family would have been celebrating Dauz's fifth birthday. But it was Lilian who never gave up.
“Mom thought he was dead,” Lilian said, handing Dauz a treat. “I told her he was still alive.”
Dausman said she believes Dauz was taken to Virginia by the people who stole him and he somehow broke free, ending up in the animal shelter.
“He saw the first chance he was able to run,” she said. “He was trying to find his way home.”
The family's saving grace was the microchip implanted in Dauz's neck. The animal shelter scanned the digital identification chip and called the Dausmans.
“I was freaking out when I got that call,” Dausman said. “I was shaking, I was so excited I had to pull over. I got (Lilian) from school and she was walking down the hallway towards me. When I told her we found Dauz, she just stopped dead in her tracks.”
Dausman said the microchip company, HomeAgain, transported Dauz back home as part of the subscription service the family has. Now happily reunited with his family and armed with a new collar and tag, Dausman said Dauz is a little thinner, a little lighter in color and his bark seems a little raspier. But he's still the same friendly, playful dog he's always been. And he has been basking in the attention and gifts of clothing, toys and special treats from his family, friends and neighbors.
“If there is one lesson to be learned, it's get your pets micro-chipped,” Dausman said. “And never give up. Miracles do happen.”