After three years, three names and hundreds of miles, Cooper the beagle is finally home.
“I never thought I'd see the dog again,” said Dana Shaw of Clover. “I assumed she was dead, or that somebody had taken her, and I was never going to get her back.”
Shaw was living in Charlotte three years ago when Cooper – who had a habit of escaping for days at a time – ran away and disappeared.
Cooper turned up at Northlake Mall in Charlotte, where she was taken in and adopted by a new family.
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About a year later, Cooper moved to Virginia with the daughter of the woman who had found the beagle in Charlotte.
Cooper escaped again, but this time she was found by a woman who noticed the dog carried a microchip in its hip. That's how Cooper was traced back to his original owner recently.
Dr. Gretchen Love, Cooper's current veterinarian at Palmetto Veterinary Medicine, said Shaw never would have been able to get Cooper back without the microchip.
“There's no way she would've got the pet back,” Love said. “It was just too far away.”
Before her big adventure, Cooper had lived for four years with Shaw, her two children and a miniature pinscher. In 2001, Shaw and her husband, Stephen, adopted the beagle as she was being taken to the pound in a pickup truck.
Cooper, Shaw said, was always in search of something. The dog often would pick up a scent and disappear from home for days on end. One time, the disappearing act lasted longer, and the Shaw family became worried.
They searched for her, checked the local pound and posted pictures of Cooper online. Shaw said she always expected to hear Cooper's howl in the night or her paws at the front door.
“I wasn't sure if I, my 10-year-old daughter, Taylor, or my (other) dog was more upset,” Shaw said. “The miniature pinscher was upset forever because they kind of grew together.”
The Shaws' search for Cooper continued as three years passed. The family made posts online in search of her. They updated their address when they moved to Clover six months ago. By then, though, Cooper had moved to Virginia – and was ready to run off again.
That's when Kari Davenport met the beagle. After Cooper disappeared from this new owner, the beagle ran in front of her car, and she lured it home with dog food.
Davenport had Cooper scanned to see if the dog carried a microchip that could be used to find her owner. She was shocked when the microchip showed that the owners lived in South Carolina.
“I thought, ‘My, you've came a long way,'” Davenport said. “I wondered how the dog got from point A to point B.”
Davenport made a call to Clover and reported she had found Cooper. Shaw broke down crying.
But there was one last obstacle to a happy reunion.
As Shaw's mother-in-law drove seven hours to Portsmouth, Va., to pick up Cooper, a woman had called the Portsmouth Humane Society looking for a beagle named Moxy. That's the name Cooper had received from her second family. Cooper had later been named Ella by Davenport because of her elephant-like ears.
Both families were present when Cooper was returned to the Shaws.
“I was really afraid that she wouldn't remember us,” Shaw said. “But the second we hit the door and started calling her Cooper, she came right to us.”