Chico lost about seven pounds and was far from home, but despite his unplanned sojourn to Needles, he seemed happy and relatively healthy Friday as he was back with his owners in Lake Havasu City.
Amado and Gloria Mares don’t normally take their dog — a chow and shar pei mix — with them when they travel, but they decided to do so in late October when they went to visit their daughter Roberta Montes in Victorville, Calif. Everything seemed fine Oct. 25 with Chico riding in the truck bed, which was covered by a camper shell.
“I tried to make him comfortable,” Amado Mares said. “I opened the window a few inches to give him some air.” He said he thought about tying him to the bed of the truck, but that wouldn’t be comfortable for 14-year-old Chico with bad arthritis.
Everything was OK until the retired couple stopped at a rest stop about 30 to 50 miles from the fruit check point on Interstate 40 in California and found that their dog wasn’t with them.
Amado Mares said he spoke with a man transporting classic cars who was near them on the interstate and just happened to stop at the same rest stop.
The man told him that he had seen a tan colored dog back in the fruit check area, Amado Mares said.
“We turned back and started looking for (Chico),” Mares said.
The Mares couple stopped at the fruit check area, but there was no sign of the dog, and the officers told them that they didn’t see a dog around there. The couple searched the area, then headed back to Havasu and didn’t spot the dog who can’t see well. The couple said they decided to continue on to Victorville after searching for their dog for about four hours.
They stayed in Victorville for about five days with their grown daughter, but the trip wasn’t as enjoyable with their beloved dog missing.
“I couldn’t even sleep,” Gloria Mares said of her visit.
The Mares couple enlisted their daughters, Roberta Montes and Roxane Mares of Albuquerque, N.M., to help in the search. Roxane Mares posted a missing pet announcement on a Web site.
Their search for Chico was a little more difficult because the couple just moved into their winter home in September from Taos, N.M. and hadn’t registered their dog here yet.
As the days passed, the hope that they would see their dog return to their winter residence in the 2600 block of Rango Drive faded a bit.
“I had given up and thought that maybe an 18-wheeler had made a pancake out of him,” said Amado Mares.
The Mares couple was thinking of getting rid of some of the dog’s things, but Gloria Mares said she held onto a glimmer of hope.
“I thought Chico might come back,” Gloria Mares said.
The Mares couple got the call they had been waiting for Wednesday. Chico had been picked up by animal control officers in Needles and shortly after that an animal control officer spotted the missing dog announcement that Roxane had posted on a website and called the Mares couple.
Chico had made his way from the fruit check area about six miles away and was frequenting a McDonalds and Denny’s just off of Interstate 40 because some employees at the restaurants were feeding him, they were told.
When they arrived at the animal control in Needles, they saw their dog, and he began to moan. Gloria Mares said she and her husband started to cry at the sight of their lost dog.
Friday, the Mares couple was still enjoying the fact that their dog was back in his rightful place. Sure, the dog had a scratch above his eye, which the Mares couple said probably came from sneaking out the camper shell window. Chico was so thin that they could see his ribs. But he is back.
The Mares couple doesn’t plan on taking their dog with them the next time they take a trip. Next time, the couple will have someone look in the dog at the house, Amado Mares said.
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