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Shelter worker goes above and beyond, reunites dog with family

By ALLISON MILES
July 24, 2012 at 2:24 a.m.

UHV president Phil Castille and his son, Ned, take their Siberian husky,  Quilla, for a short walk in the neighborhood. A recent thunderstorm frightened the family dog, who escaped into the neighborhood. She was eventually tracked down through a microchip that was implanted.

ADVICE FROM THE VICTORIA CITY-COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER:

• If your pet goes missing, call the shelter at 361-578-3564. If the pet has no identification or microchip, there's no way to locate its owner otherwise

• If you do microchip your pet, register your information. The shelter sometimes scans pets only to find they were never registered, and so it results in a dead end. Don't forget to update your information if you move

• If your pet doesn't have identification, get some. Microchip if you can, or get an ID tag and collar.

Source: Heather Kern, the animal shelter's assistant supervisor

It was a dark and stormy night - really, it was - when Quilla, a Siberian husky with a fear of thunder, embarked on a canine adventure.

And it was an enterprising animal control worker who made sure her story had a happy ending.

Heather Kern, assistant supervisor with the Victoria City-County Animal Shelter, was on duty July 11, the night the gray-and-white husky made her way into the shelter. The day's thunderstorms drove the pooch to wiggle her way out of her family's Woodway subdivision backyard.

Although picked up just blocks from her house, Kern said she'd lost her tags along the way.

A microchip scan revealed she was registered to Adopt A Husky, a rescue group in Washington state, and Kern followed that discovery up with a phone call to the rescue. There, she obtained the owners' names - Phil and Shannon Castille - and two cell phone numbers. She then forged on.

"I tried them," she said. "One didn't work and on the other, I got a message. But I knew the guy had to be here somewhere."

It was then that she took her search to the Web.

Kern skimmed Whitepages.com but struck gold with a Google search, which revealed Phil Castille's position as University of Houston-Victoria president.

Meanwhile, at the same time Kern was knee-deep in sleuthing, Phil Castille was knee-deep in economic development.

He was touring Victoria's Caterpillar plant with colleagues when a call came in about 8 p.m. on his cell. Although his initial thought was to tuck the phone away until later, he changed his mind when he heard the caller had his dog.

"They said, 'We've got Quilla and she's fine,'" he explained. "I said, 'You do?' I was floored. I had no idea she had even gotten out before they called."

With $20 and proof of a rabies vaccination - something Kern obtained by contacting the Washington rescue - Quilla was reunited with her family.

That mid-July excursion wasn't the first time the dog with one blue eye and one brown found herself on an adventure.

Castille said Quilla's name itself came from the unfortunate situation when a motorist found her after the poor pooch had a run-in with a porcupine, leaving her covered in quills.

After her adoption, the pup accompanied the family on car rides through British Columbia and elsewhere, he added. She also relocated twice with the family: from Washington to Hawaii, which required a long quarantine period, and again from there to Victoria.

"Poor thing, we keep taking her to hotter and hotter climates," Castille said with a laugh. "But she's crazy about the cold and she loves adventures."

In the days since her most recent escapade, 10-year-old Quilla was treated to a grooming, new collar and some extra TLC from the family. Shannon Castille and the couple's 4-year-old son, Ned, were out of state during the incident, but said they were glad their buddy was OK.

"She's nice, and a little crazy," Ned said, tugging on her bright pink leash. "Oh. And she begs for food."

As for Kern, she admitted it wasn't every day that online searches brought about such results. Still, she said she was glad to return the pooch to her rightful home.

"I'm a passionate animal lover," she said. "I just think that, if it were my 9- or 10-year-old boxer, I'd want somebody to do the same thing for me."

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