Written by Ranny Green for AKC
eroy, a 17-pound Coton de Tulear, should be the poster dog for why microchipping your dog is so important. Assumed permanently lost—or even dead—Leroy was reunited with his family in Daphne, Alabama, after being missing for nearly two years.
“Microchipping was part of the price we paid when we purchased Leroy from Jaco Kennel in Hulbert, Oklahoma, in 2014,” said Karen Elleard. “It will probably turn out to be the best insurance policy we will ever buy.”
Leroy Goes Missing in May 2021
It was a regular weekday on May 6, 2021 and Rob Elleard had just taken out the trash, leaving the back door ajar just long enough for Leroy to squeeze out and escape. “We had given him a bath the night before and forgot to put his collar back on,” Rob recalls. “He had gotten out before but always turned up at a nearby neighbor’s house or come back on his own within an hour.”
Without his collar, the odds of quickly finding the 5-year-old dog were not in his family’s favor. “Our family, friends and neighbors searched the woods behind our home and nearby streets until about nine that night with no luck,” says Karen. “We posted photos and messages on local social media, the next day and notified AKC Reunite and our local animal shelter.”
The entire community was soon plastered in signs, but when Leroy still hadn’t turned up after a month, local law enforcement officials asked the family to remove the signs from city property, as they were deemed a distraction to drivers. Originally, the family offered a $200 reward, and as more people became involved in the search, it grew to $1,000.
As the weeks went by, Rob sat on the front porch at different times each day listening to neighborhood barks and hoping one would be Leroy. Though people called and messaged they had seen Leroy a few times, nobody was able to catch him. Other leads turned out to be other dogs entirely.
Karen adds, “Our daughter Olivia was super affected by it. Every night, every Christmas, birthday and shooting star she would see, she would ask for the same thing—to get Leroy home. I would tell our children stories of what Leroy was doing that day, and the adventures he was experiencing. At that point, we were all trying to stay positive and clinging with hope.”
About six months after his disappearance, when all the signs were down and social media posts were memories on everyone’s timelines, it was beginning to feel like Leroy was never coming home. “We live in an area where there are plenty of poisonous snakes, coyotes, and other wild animals,” explains Rob. “I was thinking the chances of him surviving in the wild after being a spoiled, rotten [dog] at home, made us think he would not make it in the woods for too long.”
The void left by Leroy’s disappearance triggered different emotions for the family. Rob was not ready for another dog, but Karen felt a puppy would lift their spirits during the 2021 holiday season, so she reached out to Leroy’s breeders to inquire if a puppy was available.
On December 9, 2021, Karen told her daughter that the family needed to make a short trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, near Leroy’s breeder’s home. There were a few Coton de Tulear puppies in a recent Jaco Kennel litter that Rob and Karen had been viewing online, unbeknownst to their children.
“The plan was to meet with the breeders in Tulsa and pick up the puppy they had chosen. We arranged traveling documents for the puppy, took a shuttle to the airport and were back home by late afternoon the following day, puppy in hand,” said Karen. Toby, the new puppy, quickly became a huge source of joy for the family, but that didn’t mean that they forgot about Leroy.
Leroy is Reunited With Owners
A year later, on January 9, 2023, they got a call.
“It was a beautiful sunny day,” said Karen, “and during my lunch break while working at home, Rob and I decided to go for a walk. We were about a mile away from home when we received the best phone call you could have imagined. Officer [Jessie] Payne from the Daphne Animal Shelter had received a call from a nearby resident who detained two stray dogs on his property, one of which was microchipped with our information on it. She asked if we had lost a dog, to which I immediately responded, ‘Yes, but almost two years ago.’
“She offered to bring him to us and asked for our address. So we turned around and rushed back home with all the thoughts of excitement and disbelief. Officer Payne cautioned he was a matted mess. Thoughts swirled through our minds about where he had been all this time. Will he remember us? What has he been eating? How is he going to respond to a stranger [new puppy Toby] in his house?
“When we reached the house, the officer was there with her pickup truck and two cages in the back.”
Rob adds, “My heart was beating so fast. ‘Was it really Leroy coming out of the cage?’ But the moment Officer Payne got him on the leash and put him on the ground, he looked at me and just started jumping with excitement. Of course, it was our Leroy covered in an armor of dirty mats like a mighty warrior that had gone through a lot. He was home and we could not believe it. We spent the next three hours grooming him as best we could, as he was in a big need of getting that mess off of him. He was patient throughout the process, feeling safe, and finally back home.”
The couple spent the first three hours removing thick mats from Leroy after his return home in early January.
While Leroy was reunited with his owners, the couple’s four children were at school and had no idea what was awaiting them when they arrived home. “We sat and waited them for them to react and realize it was Leroy,” Rob recalls. “At first they thought it was a female dog since we had talked about getting Toby a ‘girlfriend.’ But when they edged closer they were overjoyed to see it was Leroy. What followed was an afternoon of hugs and tears.”
What About the Other Stray Dog?
After taking Leroy to a groomer to get cleaned up, the couple decided to visit Sherlock, the other stray dog that had been picked up with Leroy, whose story was a mystery. Many local people following the story were wondering if the couple was going to rescue Sherlock. “There was lot of pressure from the community. After all, he had no home to go to and we all love happy endings,” says Karen. “The shelter had to keep him there for the required waiting period in case someone would claim him. Consequently, this gave us an opportunity to see how our family dynamic was going to change with two dogs now.”
Sherlock’s eyes, adds Karen, expressed “he had gone through a lot, and his attitude reflected wisdom and patience, which I am sure helped both he and Leroy survive. While we were there, Leroy followed him virtually everywhere while Sherlock was chiefly focused on the surroundings. I couldn’t imagine what these two had gone through together.”
With two dogs already in the household, the couple decided they couldn’t take Sherlock home as well. But since then, he has been put into a foster arrangement for what will hopefully be his permanent home.
Leroy’s favorite thing to do since he has been back home is resting on soft, plushy surfaces and enjoying the good life.
Meanwhile, Leroy had to get used to being back with the Elleard family. He was exhausted for the first few days and sought out cozy, soft places to rest rather than playing with his toys. With the long, thick mats shaven from his coat, his skin was highly sensitive. A thorough veterinary check-up revealed no issues with his weight, which was almost the same as it was before he escaped home almost two years earlier.
Though the Elleards may never know what happened to Leroy during those two years, he was able to find his way home again due to his microchip, and to survive with the companionship of another dog. Without his microchip, he may never have been found and reunited again with his family.