Woman learns her missing dog adopted by new family, pleads for pet's return

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.
Updated Aug. 23, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

Boy, left, working on the "leave it" command with Ginger at the pet store where Vanessa Balli works. Boy disappeared from Balli's home in January and was adopted by another family in June.

Boy, left, working on the "leave it" command with Ginger at the pet store where Vanessa Balli works. Boy disappeared from Balli's home in January and was adopted by another family in June.

Vanessa Balli was eating lunch at Whataburger on Monday when the image of her lost dog, Boy, appeared on her smartphone.

The headline on Adopt-A-Pet of Victoria's Facebook post read, "Our Alumni: From Homeless to Happy in Homes."

Balli immediately commented on the photo, "This is Boy, and he wasn't homeless. He is an adored, loved dog that belongs with my family. ... We love him, and I am crying all over again. I will do anything for him."

Even though Balli wants the family pet back, it is not likely because too much time has passed.

The brown-and-white Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix was part of Balli's family for two years before she lost him in January. He was about 21/2 years old.

Boy disappeared about 9 p.m. when Balli left the door to her house ajar while she made a quick trip to her Suburban. She lives near the intersection of Depot and Red River streets.

For 11 hours, Balli and her family searched the neighborhood for Boy.

"Boy had never slept alone," Balli said. "He always had to have his ball and his snuggle bunny, or he was restless."

The next day, she temporarily abandoned her search to go to her job as a dog trainer with a local pet store. She has trained dogs for 34 years.

She reported the dog missing to Adopt-A-Pet, the Dorothy O'Connor Pet Adoption Center and the city pound. She posted photos and descriptions of Boy on the rescue organizations' Facebook pages.

For three weeks, she visited the shelters and the pound every day in hopes of finding Boy. She showed his photograph to Adopt-A-Pet volunteer and president of the board Carol Klages when she shopped at the pet store.

"Vanessa is a good pet owner and a good person," Klages said. "I saw Boy in person and in pictures, and I don't doubt one minute that she was looking for him."

Boy was a fixture at the pet store where he sat on the back counter while Balli worked. He greeted customers and solicited treats with a shake of his paw.

When Boy disappeared, he was wearing an $85 tan leather collar with blue and clear crystals. His tag was engraved with his name, Balli's name, an address and two phone numbers.

The city animal shelter picked him up April 24 in the 600 block of Westwood Street without a collar. Boy had been missing for more than three months at that time.

The shelter's policy is to hold dogs for three working days before they are eligible for adoption, rescue or euthanasia.

After three working days at the city shelter, the dog becomes the property of the city, and the owner loses ownership, said Joe Lopez, chief animal control officer for the county.

Adopt-A-Pet rescued Boy among other dogs from the city animal shelter April 30 and posted a photograph of him online. He was adopted June 8.

"I understand that they saved his life," Balli said. "But this is a mistake; he is very loved, a part of our family."

Balli offered to purchase another dog for the family.

Adopt-A-Pet conveyed the situation to the new owner who was unwilling to give up the dog. Boy had been part of their family for more than two months.

"I can't demand the dog back," said Renee Wheeler, director of Adopt-A-Pet. "They signed a contract to care for the dog."

She would not divulge the new owner's identity.

Balli has no legal recourse, Wheeler said.

Laws protect city and private animal shelters so adopted animals cannot be ripped from adoptive families, said Wheeler. No one would adopt if that were the case.

"It has become very uncomfortable for us," Wheeler said. "Our hands are tied."

The more time that lapses, the more difficult it is to reunite lost dogs with their owners. Furthermore, Boy was not neutered, which might explain why he roamed, Wheeler said. And he did not have a microchip implanted, either. The chip would help identify the animal and its owner.

"He slipped through the cracks," Wheeler said. "She has placed blame on everyone but herself."

Adopt-A-Pet saves an average of 500 animals from the city animal shelter a year, Wheeler said.

"I would be devastated like she is but relieved he is alive," Wheeler said. "He is obviously loved, and I would just have to accept it."

Balli wants to see him one more time for closure.

"I don't want to persecute the other family," Balli said. "But I'm surprised that they want to keep him when they know his family wants him back."



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