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JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

Cody Baetge holds his dog Cooper on Monday night in an emotional scene at Sacramento International Airport. He's joined by his mother, Michelle Baetge, and sister Natalie Yamada. The dog got loose in West Sacramento two years ago and ended up in Florida.

West Sacramento teen reunited with long-lost dog, found in Florida

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 - 1:28 pm

For two years, Cody Baetge had no idea where his dog Cooper – a Chihuahua-whippet mix – had disappeared to, or even if he was alive.

When Cody, 16, found out two weeks ago that Cooper was alive – but found in Florida – he was in disbelief.

How Cooper got there remains a mystery.

But the jubilant West Sacramento teen and his mother, Michelle, put that behind them Monday night when they finally got the little beige dog back in their arms.

It was an emotional reunion at Sacramento International Airport when Cooper came out of the Delta Airlines cargo terminal at 10:15 p.m. Cody was overcome with tears as he cradled his dog and hugged his mother.

"This is so nice," Cody said. I never thought I would see him again. He is exactly like I remembered him."

Cooper had been found wet and shivering on Sept. 22 by two women in Brandon, Fla., after a Tampa Bay storm. They took the dog to a vet, where the animal was scanned for a computer chip.

That's when they learned the little dog was nearly 3,000 miles from where he had gone missing in October 2009.

"We're all kind of stunned the Home Again company was able to track me down in California," said Michelle Baetge, Cody's mother.

"I couldn't believe it," the boy said. "I didn't think after two years we would see him again."

Cody Baetge said his grandfather had told him to pick out a puppy as a gift. Cooper was not the first one to catch his eye. But the energetic dog ran up to Cody, and followed and played with him until he caught the then-14-year-old boy's heart.

For two years, the boy and his dog played fetch and went for walks. Cooper slept at the foot of Baetge's bed. These years were important ones. They were the last few of Cody's grandfather's life, which is why he got Cooper for Cody in the first place.

The grandfather had an incurable blood disease, and he wanted his grandson to have a living, breathing companion to remember him by.

Two years ago, a gardener forgot to close the Baetges' gate, and Cooper got out. It wasn't the first time Cooper had flown the coop. The teen said Cooper always returned to the front steps and scratched on the door. But this time, the dog didn't return.

"I was scared immediately," said Cody. "We made posters, knocked on every door."

But it was to no avail. Cooper was gone, and stayed gone.

Until the family was reunited Monday night.

"My dad passed away last year, so it was sad," said Michelle Baetge. "It made it even sadder that the last gift that Cody had gotten from my dad was gone, and then he was gone. So this was a way of getting a little bit of both back."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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