Tiny poodle, owner reunite nine years after dog disappeared during robbery

For more than nine years, since her tiny poodle, Gigi, disappeared from her home during a robbery, Sally Butters has kept a poster featuring the pup outside her front door. Just in case.

“Missing” it reads, on bright pink paper. “Please call.”

But as the years passed without any word of Gigi’s whereabouts, Butters admitted, “I thought she probably was dead.”

This week, something happened that Butters, 78, can only describe as miraculous. She learned that someone found Gigi, miles from Butters’ Florin home, wandering the streets of Oak Park. A microchip implanted in the toy poodle’s skin identified Butters as her owner. And on Monday, Butters and Gigi were reunited.

Gigi, according to Butters, disappeared during a robbery of her home on Aug. 8, 2007, when electronic equipment also was taken. Butters quickly launched her search for Gigi, who had lived with Butters’ mother before she moved into an assisted living home.

Over time, even as the search came up empty, Butters never stopped thinking about Gigi.

Then came the phone call from the Citrus Heights Pet Hospital. An administrator told her that Gigi, just a smidge over 4 pounds, with few teeth and matted hair, had been found by a kindly stranger and taken to the veterinary facility.

Butters could hardly believe it.

Late last month, a woman named Debbie Stephens had spotted a small ball of fluff stumbling through the streets of Oak Park. Stephens scooped up the poodle and took her home. Her mother, Reba Hunt of Roseville, persuaded Stephens to take the dog to the Citrus Heights Pet Hospital, where she had taken other animals for care.

Hunt said she hoped to adopt the vagabond pup, but only if efforts to locate her owners were unsuccessful.

“I just fell in love with her,” Hunt said. “She’s so precious. Just like a miniature doll baby. I was all ready to keep her, but I needed to find out whether she had someone who loved her as much as I did. Even more.”

She took the dog to the vet hospital Thursday. Eric Brickson, the administrator, said the rescued poodle was a miniature “teacup” version, and appeared to be elderly, with heavily matted white fur and infections in both ears.

“She looked rough,” Brickson said, but displayed character. “The sweetest little dog in the world.”

Veterinary personnel thought the pup was a stray who had been living on the streets, possibly for years. But it didn’t take long for them to determine Gigi had a loving owner from long ago.

Brickson’s wife, Averi, a vet at the facility, examined Gigi and made sure she was cleaned up and shaved to relieve discomfort from matting that virtually glued her tail to her back legs. She scanned the pup’s body for a microchip that might help identify her. The chip listed contact information for Butters.

Butters said she called the hospital over the weekend, after charging her phone and picking up messages from the previous couple of days, but the office was closed. On Monday, she finally was able to see the little dog that went missing, now 13 years old.

Hunt brought Gigi to the hospital dressed in a pink sweater and presented her to Butters, who said she cried tears of joy and disbelief. Hunt cried, too, as did a few members of the veterinary team.

“I can’t imagine where she’s been, but I know that she wasn’t taken care of very well,” Butters said, cuddling Gigi on the front lawn of her home Monday evening.

She called Gigi’s return magical – and just in time for her upcoming birthday and Christmas.

“It’s the best present I could ever have asked for,” she said.

Gigi’s story carries a powerful lesson, Brickson said. Microchips can help wayward pets find their way home. Even if it takes years.

“It’s something we really focus on in our practice,” he said. “It’s easy to do, it’s relatively inexpensive and it can make a huge difference.”

Cynthia Hubert: 916-321-1082, @Cynthia_Hubert