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Missing service puppy returned to disabled army veteran

Missing service puppy returned to disabled veteran
Q13 / Facebook

A disabled veteran was devastated when his service dog was allegedly stolen from his Olympia, Wash. backyard - but thanks to the media, his pit bull puppy has returned home safely. On Saturday, July 5, Q13 Fox News reported that Maximus the puppy has returned home - just in time to celebrate Independence Day.

Robert Mitchell is delighted to have his service dog back. A woman who lives three miles away from Mitchell saw the story on the news and sent him a message stating that she had his pit bull puppy.

Mitchell, who is a local disabled veteran, told Q13 Fox News on Thursday that Max was stolen as he slept. Four-month-old Max is in training to become his medical alert service dog.

“He didn’t just run away,” stated Mitchell. “He wouldn’t take his toy and his blanket with him to run away.”

According to Mitchell, Max, was stolen out of his backyard between 4:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on Monday. The yard has a six-foot-tall wooden fence and the gate was still locked.

“I came down at 9 to feed him, and the other dog was here, but he wasn’t,” Mitchell recalled.

“I never would have imagined in a million years that someone would jump the fence and take him,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell filed a police report and Thurston County sheriff's deputies went door-to-door looking for the missing service dog. For Mitchell, the loss of Max was profound.

“Never had a dog. I feel like … I feel like I let him down," he stated through tears. "He's not just a pet."

Now that Max has returned home, he will continue his training to become a service dog - and Mitchell can feel a sense of independence again, just in time to celebrate Independence Day.

Mitchell acquired Max on the advice of a medical doctor. After serving 20 years in the Army, including the first Gulf War in Iraq and a deployment in Bosnia, he suffers from PTSD and life-threatening seizures. He was forced to retire in 2008 because of his seizures.

Max is an important life line for Mitchell - and the pit bull puppy is training to be his medical emergency service dog. Max recently began his training to become a service dog. According to Service Dog Central, it typically takes 18 to 24 months to fully train a service animal.

According to the ASPCA, many missing pets do return home. The ASPCA conducted a five-year survey of 1,015 pet households, publishing their findings in the June 2012 issue of the journal Animals. The ASPCA stated that 15 percent of the homes had lost a dog or a cat in the past five years, with 85 percent of those lost dogs and cats returned home.

In Aug. of 2012, the ASPCA noted that pet theft is on the rise - and that animal guardians need to protect their dogs and cats. In 2012, the American Kennel Club (AKC) reported a 32% increase in dog thefts from the prior year. The AKC has been tracking pet theft rates since 2007. The ASPCA notes that some animals are taken from their homes or yards, but opportunistic thieves commonly steal dogs who are tied up outside establishments or left in cars.

In Washington State, there are multiple resources for missing pets, including the Missing Pet Partnership (MPP), Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, the Facebook page Lost & Found Pets Wa State, the Facebook page Help FIND Nahla, and the Facebook pages Stop Pet Theft and Helping Lost Pets.

Many of these resources have successfully returned missing and stolen pets. In 2013, Help FIND Nahla helped track down Nahla the dog, who was taken from Seattle in September of 2012. Lost & Found Pets WA State has also helped hundreds of missing dogs and cats return home.

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