A Columbus family that lost a chocolate Labrador five years ago has been reunited with their pet.
Jan and Betty Finke learned Monday night that their prayers had been answered with the safe return of Cali, their Labrador retriever.
The dog, now 11, had escaped through invisible electric fencing in December 2012 and had not been seen since.
“When you lose a pet like that, they’re part of your family,” said Jan Finke, who lives with his wife on County Road 150W in the Walesboro area.
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Finke, a plumber, said that when he and Betty moved to their rural home, they wanted to have Labs that could run around on their property. First they got two male Labs, one black and one yellow. But later they wanted a chocolate Lab, which led to them getting Cali.
“Sweet, lovable” are words Finke used to describe Cali.
She meant a lot to the family — so much so that they spent thousands of dollars to have a plate put in Cali’s hip after she was hit by a car when she was a puppy.
The lure of wild animals
The Finkes’ home is surrounded by fields on three sides, and deer, rabbits and squirrels often run by — which attract the attention of their Labs. Sometimes the Labs have been so determined to chase animals that they run through the electric fencing even though it shocks them, Jan Finke said.
Once the Labs would get through, they didn’t want to return because they knew they’d get shocked, Finke said. So he would have to go get them and take off their collars to get them back onto the property without feeling the electric shock, he said.
One morning, Jan Finke said he found the yellow and black Labs in the garage, but not Cali. He said he knew she had gotten out through the electric fencing.
“I drove around and around and around and looked all over for her,” Jan Finke said.
He even placed a lost-dog newspaper ad.
But as time passed, hope faded.
“I guess the worst thing is you don’t know what happened,” Finke said.
Finally, good news
Three weeks ago, Linda Jackson opened her door to a chocolate Lab brought in by a good Samaritan, who found her on the side of U.S. 31 between Columbus and Seymour.
“Cali had two severe ear infections and she had hematoma to her ear flaps,” said Jackson, who runs a shelter out of her home in Brownstown, about 30 miles from Columbus.
She posted pictures of the Lab, but no owner stepped forward. This week, Jackson asked her veterinarian to check for a microchip — a way to find the dog’s true home — and it led to a phone call to the Finkes.
“It about knocked me off my chair,” Jan Finke said.
An early Christmas present for the family: Cali.
“I cried for a while realizing that they finally found her after all these years,” he said.
“This is almost a Christmas miracle story. I think this is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Everybody is just ecstatic over this,” Jackson said.
Jackson said taking in Cali is probably the best thing she has ever done as a rescuer.
Having a microchip implanted in Cali is one of the best things the Finkes could have done, Jackson said.
It’s what provided the name of Cali’s owner.
“We push microchips in the rescue world,” Jackson said. “If you microchip your dog, you can get them back.”
Still, it was a reunion the Finkes never expected to happen.
“I think she knew who I was. But being gone five years, we don’t know how many names she had been called,” Jan Finke said.
What happened to Cali, where she’s been and with whom, the Finkes will never know.
But now she is back with them and has three new siblings — two Maltipoos named Bandit and Abby, and one Maltese named Casper.
Jan Finke believes Cali understands it’s where she belongs.
“I think she knows. She’s back home now,” he said.
Eric Feldman of WISH-TV, a newsgathering partner of The Republic, and Zach Spicer, a staff writer for The Tribune in Seymour, a sister paper of The Republic, contributed to this report.
A pet microchip is a radio-frequency identification implant that provides permanent identification for a pet.
A microchip comes preloaded in a sterile applicator and is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. The procedure is similar to administering a vaccine.
When a microchip scanner is passed over a pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the microchip’s ID number. Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to keep charged, wear out or replace. The microchip will last a pet’s lifetime.
Cats and dogs can have microchips implanted.
The average cost to have a microchip implanted by a veterinarian is about $45.