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Family drives from Texas to retrieve missing dog

MANATEE -- Julian Lemar drove around the Gulf of Mexico, from Brownsville, Texas, to Palmetto with one goal in mind: Get Rocky back.

After more than four months of separation, Lemar finally embraced Rocky, his brown and white 5-year-old English bulldog at the Manatee County Animal Services office Friday.

Cheryl Thompson, animal services supervisor for the county, said that Jan. 30, her office received a call from Florida Auto & Truck Exchange about a stray dog that had wandered into the business.

Animal Services officers scanned Rocky and found that he had a microchip placed below the neck that revealed that he had been reported stolen in September by his owner in Texas.

In the meantime, Thompson said, another man walked into he facility claiming ownership of the dog. The man, also from Texas, said he had owned the dog for about three weeks, after his brother gave him the bulldog as a gift. His brother had bought Rocky for $300 at a Texas flea market about three months ago.

“They were victims of circumstance,” said Thompson. “They were not aware that the dog was stolen.”

Thompson said Rocky’s new owner was very understanding when he was told that Rocky’s initial owner had already expressed interest in getting the dog back. Rocky was healthy and uninjured, Thompson said.

Mass emails were sent to rescue organizations in Florida requesting help to transport Rocky back to Texas. Someone volunteered to drive Rocky to northern Florida so that Lemar did not have to travel too far. Other volunteers said they would fly with Rocky up to Louisiana and meet Lemar there.

Thompson called Lemar to let him know of the options.

But Lemar could not wait.

“He said he was with his parents at a car rental place and would be driving here Thursday morning,” Thompson said Friday. “They drove all night and got here (Friday) morning.”

Thompson described the reunion between Rocky and Lemar as something that “makes my job worthwhile.”

She said that as soon as she turned the corner into the reception area with Rocky he took off and ran over to his owners.

“He was running in circles because he didn’t know who to go to first,” Thompson said. “There wasn’t a lot of words spoken, it was just too emotional. A lot of smiles and hugs. I cannot put into words how amazing it was.”