HAYDEN, Ala. — When Stacey Staton Elam’s dog Chris ran away, she was devastated.
The black poodle mix, named in memory of her late husband, was helping her cope with his death.
“Chris got me through the most horrible time in my life, and when he got lost, it was like I had lost a connection to my husband,” Elam wrote in a Facebook message to McClatchy News.
But thanks to a microchip and the kindness of strangers, that connection wasn’t lost for long.
Weeks after Chris slipped off his leash while on a walk in Hayden, Alabama, Elam received an email on her 11th wedding anniversary from an animal shelter that had scanned his microchip.
Her beloved companion had been found, but the saga wasn’t over.
The animal shelter that was caring for Chris was in Pender County, North Carolina — about 500 miles away.
Jewell Horton, manager of the Pender County Animal Shelter, posted a photo of Chris on the shelter’s Facebook page and explained Elam’s story.
“Facebook!!!! What are we gonna do!!!! Can someone get Gordo home!?!?!” reads the post that uses the dog’s original name, given to him before Elam adopted him.
Within days, a local resident, Holly Stahl, had volunteered to make the nine-hour drive to take the dog home to Alabama.
“I am blessed to have been able to help,” Stahl wrote on Facebook when she arrived at Elam’s home with Chris. “It was absolutely heartwarming to reunite them!”
Elam wrote in a Facebook message that she was overjoyed to see Chris again.
“When Holly arrived and Chris jumped into my arms, it was like we had never been apart,” she said. “I was over the moon.”
Horton said she was touched, but not surprised, that a member of the community offered to assist.
“We are very blessed to have such a huge following on our Facebook page,” Horton told McClatchy News. “Any time we have a special needs situation like this, they always jump in and jump to our aid. I knew in my gut somebody somewhere was going to step up to help with this situation.”
Horton said it’s possible that Chris was picked up by someone passing through Hayden, Alabama, and escaped again when he reached North Carolina. When his microchip was scanned, some of his owner’s information wasn’t current, but the email address was, she said.
She encouraged pet owners everywhere to get their animals microchipped.
“(Elam) would have never found her dog had it not been for that microchip,” she said. “It’s literally the difference in getting your pet back.
Also essential to the story’s happy ending was the kindness of strangers who volunteered their time to help, Horton said.
“It’s just amazing how that human-animal bond, how important it is, for one, but how much it brings communities together,” she said. “That’s one of the amazing things about my job, because I work in an industry where that kind of compassion still exists.”
Elam believes, too, that another factor was at play in helping get her dog back.
“Being that all this happened around my wedding anniversary,” she wrote, “I know my husband Chris had a hand in all of this.”