1,000-mile trek to be reunited with lost dog ends in heartache for hopeful Ohio man
HAMPSTEAD - When Barret Paust saw an online picture of a lost German Shepherd found in Hampstead, he was convinced that it was his 10-year-old Chewie.
She disappeared on Jan. 17 when Paust, who lives in Ohio, had traveled to Salem for work.
Paust was so sure that the dog was his that he immediately contacted Animal Control Officer Sheila Johannesen and made arrangements to travel to New Hampshire for what he hoped would be a happy reunion with the dog he's had since she was a puppy.
Paust packed his bags and made the 1,000-mile trip over the last days. He knew there was a chance that this dog wasn't Chewie, but he was optimistic when he arrived at Carol's Grooming and Kennels in Hampstead Saturday morning.
"It just looks so much like her," he said as he waited to see the dog.
But when kennel owner Carol Etscovitz brought the dog out to meet with Paust, his excitement turned to sadness.
After a few moments, Paust quickly realized that the dog wasn't Chewie after all. This dog was bigger, had a darker face, and was missing other traits.
Paust kneeled down to pet the dog, and after a minute or so, she walked away.
"If it was Chewy she would be all over me," Paust said, wiping tears from his eyes.
The heart-wrenching scene wasn't what he expected, but Paust isn't giving up hope that one day he'll find his dog.
"I would make the drive again in a heartbeat. To the ends of the earth for my dog," he said. "She's my baby."
Johannesen said this is the first missing dog case she can recall where someone traveled such a long distance for a reunion.
Paust's search began after Chewie vanished while he was staying at the Red Roof Inn in Salem on Jan. 17. Paust installs lighting for companies and often travels for work. At the time of Chewie's disappearance, Paust was doing work at A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts in Salem and said he let Chewy outside the hotel after she pawed at the door.
"Without thinking I let her go out, thinking she would just be a minute, and I laid back down and fell asleep. I woke up an hour later and she was nowhere to be found," said Paust, who brought Chewie on the trip to New Hampshire because she was still recovering after being hit by a car while staying with a neighbor last December.
Paust searched for Chewie and often checks websites for places like Granite State Dog Recovery, a nonprofit organization that helps reunite lost pets with their owners.
It was on the website for Granite State Dog Recovery where Paust spotted a photo this week of the German Shepherd found hanging around outside Acropolis Pizza in Hampstead on March 28.
"It looked so much like her that I stopped and said, 'That's got to be her.' Even a guy that I work with said, 'That's your dog,'" Paust said.
Andy and Wendy Medolo, the Hampstead couple who contacted authorities after the dog was found at Acropolis Pizza, were also on hand for Saturday's reunion that wasn't meant to be.
"It was a letdown, but this shows that he's still out there looking for her," said Johannesen, who stressed the importance of making sure dogs and cats are microchipped to make it easier to trace their owners if they ever get lost.
Paust still hopes someone will come forward with information about the whereabouts of Chewie.
In the meantime, Johannesen hopes she'll find the owner of the other German Shepherd that still needs a home. The dog was covered in mud when it was found, but has been cleaned and appears to be in good health.
Johannesen said the dog will likely be adopted out within the next couple of days if the owner isn't found.
Paust said he wouldn't adopt the dog because he didn't want to take it 1,000 miles from home when there's a chance its owner could be looking for her.
Anyone with information on Chewie or the dog found at Acropolis Pizza is asked to call the Hampstead Police Department at 329-5700.