PANAMA CITY — It was the most grueling four hours of waiting she had ever experienced.
Eventually, though, Animal Rescue Control of Bay County called her with no doubt “that their Stormy was our Abby,” said Holly Julian of Chipley.
Before her disappearance, the dog was part-time inside, part-time penned outside and part-time loose outside.
“She would wander a little in the neighborhood but would never disappear,” Julian said.
But near the end of July last year, Abby wandered away.
“Several weeks later we decided something had happened to her and she’s never coming home,” Julian said.
What they didn’t know was that the Australian shepherd stray was picked up by Bay County Animal Control on July 23, and, five days later, Animal Rescue Control (ARC) began screening her for adoption.
When selecting animals for adoption, in addition to general animal shelter and foster home availability, the agency conducts temperament testing to see if “the dog seems to have personality,” said Charles Cromer, president of ARC, a local all-volunteer organization that helps local animals find homes.
Cromer said Abby is an Ausi-Ausi mix, “intelligent, very people-oriented, easy to train and normally pretty outgoing.”
Leslie Wilkinson, of Monticello, thought the same.
“They are probably the smartest dogs on the planet and they’re also loyal,” Wilkinson said of the breed.
She said she found Stormy online and began the process of adopting her through ARC, adding “she looked a lot like our dog that died and we were looking for an Australian shepherd.”
Stormy was not a perfect match for the Wilkinson family, but Wilkinson soon received a phone call from ARC informing her someone else wanted Stormy.
“Everything that happened was an amazing story; it was just meant to be,” Wilkinson said.
Cromer said that, after he learned the Wilkinsons had decided against keeping Stormy, he posted a photo on Facebook, hoping to find another pet foster parent.
“It was kind of amazing that the day that we were re-homing — the adoptive family was needing us to re-home Stormy — the original owners saw a post on Facebook,” Cromer said.
ARC’s policy is if the pet was a stray, the original owner can reclaim it after undergoing a verification process that includes the submission of veterinary records, old photos and an accurate description of the pet.
“It’s kind of hard for us to say, ‘You can’t have your dog back,’ ” he said, adding microchipping and ID tags are an asset for such cases.
After Julian proved the dog once belonged to her, Cromer linked Wilkinson with Julian, and Julian was reunited with Abby on March 4.
“We had her since she was 4 weeks old, so we are really adjusted to her personality,” Julian said. “We got our Abby back.”
She said she knew Abby recognized her and her son, Timothy, and daughter, Megan.
“As soon as we got there … and we said ‘Abby’ and she came running,” Julian said of the reunion, “she was bouncing back and forth between the kids and myself. … We were all in tears, including Leslie.”
Wilkinson said although she is still looking for an Australian shepherd to adopt, she is happy Abby was reunited with her family.
“I am so glad Holly found her dog again; I can imagine that she was so distraught. Stormy is such a great dog,” she said.