“At least you can see he has a pretty face now,” said Sindy Cooper, noting they had to clip mounds of matted and knotted hair from Tugger to reveal his eyes and snout. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

B.C. couple reunited with dog three years after disappearance

A purebred Pomeranian is back with his parents, likely after years in a puppy mill.

Tugger is back home with Mom and Dad after three years in possible captivity.

It’s suspected Tugger spent at least part of the past three years in a puppy mill, as evident by his rather aggressive sexual drive, said John Van Elswyk.

He and his partner Sindy Cooper lost the pup when he escaped their Murrayville yard one April evening.

They went door to door asking neighbours. They plastered the area with posters. They visited the SPCA and Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) frequently in the weeks that followed. But there was no sign of Tugger.

After a few months, they gave up the search, assuming he “had dinner with the coyotes” in their neighbourhood.

They gave up hope.

“We cried our eyes out,” Van Elswyk said.

Fast forward to the end of June 2018, and Tugger was found wandering the streets of Fort Langley. LAPS was called, and an ID check revealed Tugger was microchipped.

Although Cooper had changed her cellphone number since Tugger disappeared, Van Elswyk was still listed as a secondary emergency contact. So he took the “jaw-dropping” call.

Over breakfast at a Turkish cafe a few Sundays ago, the astonished couple learned that Tugger was in fact alive, and in the care of LAPS.

“It was like watching those IKEA commercials,” Van Elswyk said. “She just yelled ‘start the car’. Don’t even bother calling back.”

They were at the Aldergrove shelter 20 minutes later in tears of shock and disbelief.

“I could hardly breath,” Cooper said, her shaking while Van Elswyk said he was covered in goosebumps.

What they found was a three-and-a-half old purebred Pomeranian who weighs all of less than four pounds. He was incredibly nervous, filthy dirty, matted, and had to a few rotten teeth that needed removing.

But the second the couple made the clicking noise they used to get their dogs’ attention, Tugger seemingly recognize them immediately.

It was, as LAPS executive director Jayne Nelson described, a “very emotional” reunion.

“They had given up ever seeing him again so were very grateful to have him back,” she elaborated.

Cooper concurred.

“I could never have fathomed this happening… we’re just so grateful.”

.

A working theory

“It would have taken him four years to walk to Fort Langley” from their home in Murrayville, Van Elswyk said, noting there’s no way he made it there on his own.

So, after discussions with the veterinarian, they’re convinced Tugger was snatched up – because he was a young, unneutered male worth a “pretty penny” – and likely thrown in a crate or small cage and contained for breeding purposes only.

With Pom pups selling for $1,500 to $2,500 each, this little guy could was likely bringing in thousands a year, Van Elswyk interjected.

“Our theory now… we think he was in a puppy mill,” he elaborated. Cooper insisting that seems more credible given his disposition.

“He even wants to do the cats… Anything on four legs, he thinks it’s fair game.”

Thankfully, there will be no more breeding in Tugger’s future, Cooper explained, anxious to correct some of the aggressive habits he’s picked up while being away.

“We just want to make sure that he’s well taken care of and knows he’s loved,” Cooper said.

“The first week, it was like oh my god, I have a rotten kid… I was ripping out my hair” with him no longer house trained and constantly trying to mount their other dog, Babe, as well as their cat.

The second week, he calmed down, and started eat properly after the removal of two rotten teeth.

Now, as each day passes, he’s getting better and better.

“It was like getting a problem child and getting him some therapy. He’s actually really good. He’s really calmed down… I think it’s going to take a while just to get him calmed down.”

It’s already cost the couple $600 in vet bills.

The focus for the next few weeks will simply be acclimatizing him back into his life, working on his behavioural issues, and then get him fixed, said Cooper, who compared herself to a stressed mom with a colicy child.

“He hasn’t left my side… I move, he’s there,” Cooper joked, picking him up for another cuddle.

Tugger had been a gift only a few months before he went missing.

Cooper’s coworkers at a Burnaby traffic control company pooled their money – $3,000 – and ordered the pup from Ontario. They did it all in secret, and dispatched Cooper to the airport to pick up a package that turned out to be the little Pom pup.

At the time, she had recently lost her 18-year-old all black toy Pom, Cutie, and Tugger was a birthday gift to help fill the void in her life.

“They got together and decided I needed another puppy because they all missed Cutie. She was just everybody’s sweet little baby,” Cooper recounted.

She and Van Elswyk only had him a few months before he disappeared. But it was enough time to become attached, and the couple say they’re excited and relieved to have Tugger home again.

It goes to show that marking a pet – whether it be a tattoo or a microchip – is imperative. They’d never have Tugger back, if it hadn’t been for the chip, a story that Van Elswyk is quick to share with almost anyone who will listen.

“It’s great having him back. It’s just swell,” he said, picking him up and giving him another hug and words of assurance.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

“At least you can see he has a pretty face now,” said Sindy Cooper, noting they had to clip mounds of matted and knotted hair from Tugger to reveal his eyes and snout. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

Just Posted

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

White Rock acupuncturist suspended for ‘scare tactics, excessive fees’

30-day suspension for Jun Hua (Davy) Hua issued Aug. 18

Man sought in connection with ‘suspicious occurrence’ in South Surrey

Police asking the public’s help to identify man who may have information on Aug. 4 incident

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at B.C. border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

Most Read