Missing Chihuahua Valdez Returns Home After 9 Months
Dog Mom Kept Searching, Never Gave Up Hope
Last updated 4/22/2021 at 9:50am
Sandy Dent never gave up hope, and after more than nine months her missing chihuahua, Valdez, is finally home.
Dent regularly checked lost pet sites and posted photos on social media, hoping someone would recognize Valdez, who ran off last July 4 after being frightened by fireworks.
As it turns out, Valdez has been well cared for by three different women and even added three pounds to his former 9-pound frame.
"I said I would not give up, and I didn't," Dent said. "This is proof that there is hope for all those poor pets out there that I have been looking at every day that have been reported lost. Just don't give up on your babies."
Dent's husband took their pet outside their home in the Nature's Edge community of Lake Wales without a leash, only to have fireworks scare him off.
"My husband's even happier than I am. He's always carried this terrible guilt. He gave up hope a long time ago," Dent said.
The evening of July 4 a fawn-colored dog with white fur accents was spotted standing by the entrance to Jennings Resort, and then someone reported they saw the dog picked up by two women in a car, who probably thought he was abandoned.
Dent said the details are a little fuzzy, but one of the women reportedly rescued Valdez after she saw him being thrown out of the window of a van driving down U.S. 27. Since then he has lived in Winter Haven and Haines City.
One woman, her sister and then a friend each took Valdez in for a period of time. When one spotted Dent's Facebook posting this week the third person was already looking to re-home Valdez as she was heading north to spend time with her grandchildren.
"He's very difficult to live with. He hates everybody. He loves the one he lives with but if anybody else approaches him, he goes nuts," Dent said. "He does have a terrible personality – he's noisy and he snaps. All he'll do is growl when people are around."
Dent said she worried Valdez might have been eaten by an alligator or not had proper care since he suffered from a kidney problem and needed a special diet. She said the 3-pound weight gain made him look different, but a unique white marking on his chest and his reaction to her validated that it was definitely her Valdez.
"She'd been calling him Peanut. As soon as she called him Valdez he looked up and jumped into her lap," Dent said. "We could hear him barking when we got out of the truck. She opened the door and we came inside and he started jumping up on my husband, licking us."
Dent spent 2-3 hours most days searching lost pet sites as far away as Hillsborough and Manatee counties and re-posting photos of Valdez. She said two of the Lost and Found Pets of Polk County sites were especially helpful, but "I've been on so many wild goose chases, it's ridiculous. I kept telling myself I need to quit this. But I couldn't."
Six days after losing Valdez the Dents rescued another chihuahua they named Kogi, and surprisingly, "Kogi and Valdez are fast friends. They started playing tug of war with a toy."
She said she plans to take both dogs to get chipped so if they ever get lost again they might be returned home more quickly. Dent said hundreds of her online friends who have been following her search reacted with positive messages to the news that Valdez was finally home.
The Dents had Valdez for seven years and hope for many more years together: "We're just overwhelmed. All these ladies were so nice. And they're thrilled to death Valdez got back to his mom."