It's unclear how Smoke, a sweet pitbull, ended up all the way in Florida after disappearing from his California home three years ago.
Eric Hough, a 30-year-old professional BMX rider, adopted Smoke three years ago in Huntington Beach, CA. Smoke bonded quickly with his new owner and other dog sibling, Molly, a chihuahua. Hough felt his little family was complete.
Hough had to evict a problematic housemate about four months after adopting Smoke. The day the renter left, Smoke went missing. Hough felt the woman probably took the dog because they had also formed a bond. He filed a report with the police, and even tried following the former tenant in hopes of being led to the dog, but Smoke was never found...
...Until June 6th, 2013. A blue-grey pit bull was found wandering the streets of Cocoa, Florida, and was brought to a shelter as a stray. His microchip was registered to Eric Hough, but the phone numbers that were listed were no longer valid.
When Hough was unable to be located, Smoke was put up for adoption, but a local woman posted about Smoke on Facebook to try and see if his original owner could be found. Ryan Gamache, a volunteer for Seattle-based Missing Pet Partnership decided to try and locate the correct Eric Hough in California.
Gamache was successful in finding Hough, but Hough was tough to contact. So Gamache started contacting Hough's BMX sponsors and friends. Hough was suspicious, thinking someone was after his personal information for identity theft purposes. Even when a missing dog was mentioned, Hough thought they were talking about his dog Molly, the chihuahua, who he confirmed was safe at home. Too much time had passed for him to believe it could be Smoke that they were referring to.
Finally, Hough realized they were talking about Smoke, and he was very excited. The next question: How to get Smoke home? Hough was willing to pay the considerable fees to bring smoke home, but was told there was no need.
Heather McNally, of Kindred Hearts Transportation Connection, a nonprofit that coordinates transportation of adopted animals and missing pets, was able to find enough volunteers to make the 2,500-mile trip over four days and 30 legs of driving.
The trip began early on Thursday July 4. By the time Smoke arrived in California on Sunday, he had amassed an amazing number of gifts and reports of good behavior. Everyone was in love with the gentle dog who would often rest his head on the driver's leg or sleep in the back.
The reunion was sweet, with Hough hardly believing his dog was finally home. He knelt in the middle of the street to greet the 65-pound dog. He started petting the happy dog who was noted to be wagging his tail for the first time since the beginning of his long journey.
"Yeah, you remember, don't you?" Hough whispered.
Smoke quickly went into his new yard, marked his territory, and excitedly greeted his chihuahua sister Molly.
To learn how you might be a volunteer to help more lost pets find their way home, visit Kindred Hearts Transportation Connection's Facebook page.