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Missing dog reunited with Nora Springs family after seven months

Missing dog reunited with Nora Springs family after seven months
Jay and Nicci McDonough and their son, Decker, of Nora Springs, are reunited with their dog, Tess, at the Mason City Stray Animal Shelter recently, seven months after the dog went missing after being scared by fireworks and running off. Submitted photo
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

It started as a good news story. The Humane Society of North Iowa sent out a press release last week and posted on the organization’s Facebook page that a full-grown Labrador that had been running wild for months had finally been captured and was available for adoption.

The dog needed some leg surgery and donations were being sought.

Then it turned into a great news story, as a Nora Springs family that had been mourning losing their dog for seven months was reunited with Tess and took her home.

It all began last July, when area fireworks frightened Tess and sent her running from her Nora Springs home.

The Jay and Nicci McDonough family quickly spread the word that Tess was missing and spent many hours looking for her.

Missing dog reunited with Nora Springs family after seven months
Tess relaxes with Mason City Animal Control Officer Dave Houser, who captured her in a wooded area in southeast Mason City after she had been missing from a rural Nora Springs home for seven months. Submitted photo

“There were dozens of sightings in the following weeks, but every time someone would approach, Tess would run off,” said Sybil Soukup, executive director of the Humane Society of North Iowa in Mason City.

“Her family would show up every time there was a sighting, but she would be long gone by the time they got to where she had been seen,” Soukup said. “By August, the Tess sightings had stopped and the family reluctantly and sadly accepted that they would never see their Tess again or know what happened to her.”

Then, several months ago, people began reporting seeing a large dog running loose in a wooded area in the southeast part of Mason City, about 10 miles from the McDonough’s home north of Nora Springs.

“She was eating out of people’s trash cans and did not appear to belong to anyone,” Soukup initially reported.

Mason City Animal Control Officer Dave Houser had attempted, along with others, to capture her, but were not successful.

“Every time someone tried to approach her, she bolted off,” Soukup said.

Officer Houser was committed to rescuing this dog and after reviewing trail cam footage from the DNR, he was able to determine that the dog had been sleeping inside a large concrete culvert located within the woods, Soukup said.

Earlier this month, Houser set up a large live-trap in the area and after two days the dog, a large female silver Labrador, was captured and taken to the Mason City Stray Animal Shelter, which is located in the same building and managed by the Humane Society of North Iowa.

“Because she had been living on her own for so long in the wild, scavenging for food and with no human contact, shelter staff worried she may have reverted into some instinctive survival behaviors that could make it difficult to handle and care for her in a shelter environment,” Soukup said.

“Almost immediately, the dog dismissed these concerns as all she wanted to do was snuggle with staff, give kisses and enjoy stuffed toys.” Soukup said. The staff named the dog Amelia.

After a required seven-day waiting period to see if any owner would claim her, “Amelia” was transferred over to the Humane Society to be put up for adoption.

An examination by a veterinarian determined she had a torn ligament injury that required surgery in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.

Houser said, “Considering what she’s been through, it was quite surprising to see how friendly and loving she is with everyone. I’ll never know how she ended up living in the woods alone for so long eating garbage. I’m just grateful to have caught her and to know that she now has the opportunity for a much better life.”

But what Houser saw as the possibility for a happy ending turned even more so.

On Thursday, the Humane Society sent out the press release and posted “Amelia’s” photo and story online, seeking donations for the surgery.

Someone saw the post and contacted Nicci McDonough, wondering if it could be their dog.

“After a flurry of phone calls this morning, Jay McDonough came to the shelter to see if it was their dog,” Soukup said. “Her reaction to seeing him made it very obvious she was their Tess!”

Soukup said veterinarian records and other identifying information confirmed it was the McDonough’s dog.

“This afternoon, Jay, Nicci and their son Decker came to pick up Tess and take her HOME! It was an emotional reunion for everyone, including Tess who had missed ‘her boy’ Decker terribly,” Soukup posted.

The McDonoughs will take over the care and expenses for Tess’ surgery, and donations that had been made to the Humane Society for Tess will be used to cover the cost of the veterinary care she received in her two weeks at the shelter, with any excess put into the society’s fund for animals that come into the shelter with urgent medical needs.

“We will never know how Tess went missing for seven months and ended up living in the woods in Mason City. What we do know is that she is going home with her family that has missed her and loves her very much,” Soukup said.

“We are overjoyed with how this story has turned out for Tess. It’s really amazing to see her reunited with her family,” Soukup said. “We love happy endings!”

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