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Dog with Vermont ties makes extraordinary journey

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 1:58 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Chittenden County woman who works with animal foster and rescue groups recently had one of her adopted dogs make an extraordinary journey.

When Stephanie Gardner’s family in Colchester was contacted by an animal rescue shelter in mid-May, it became another piece of an already epic adventure. “I just got a message saying, ‘We have your dog,” Gardner said.

The dog, a four-year-old terrier mix named Hadley, actually belongs to Stephanie’s sister, Monica, who moved to Salt Lake City eight years ago. “I think we were both in shock. It took a minute to set in, but it was like a sigh of relief eventually,” Monica said.

Hadley had been missing since last November. She snuck out of Monica’s van near the Moab Desert during a rest stop. “I feel so silly for not noticing, but yeah, she got out. We got back in, drove away 10 minutes, came back, but at that point it’s like 20 minutes you’re gone,” Monica said.

In a panic, she contacted her family back in Vermont, who went straight to work. They posted to social media sites and helped make phone calls to animal shelters and vet clinics around Utah and surrounding states. For months, their leads came up empty. “It gets harder, it becomes sadder and you start thinking the worst,” Gardner said.

“The more time goes by, and you’re kind of letting destiny take the wheel. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it’s not, it’s not,” Monica said.

It wasn’t destiny taking the wheel last month, it was Monica’s dad. He drove Gardner all the way to Detroit to pick up Hadley.

“Hadley was definitely a unique story,” said Sarah Rood, who works for Friends of Animals of Metro Detroit. She says Hadley was found wandering around a Walmart in nearby Dearborn without any tags, but a scan of Hadley’s chip revealed her name, a Utah registration, and two phone numbers. After leaving voice mails, the shelter’s staff discovered a Facebook page called, “Hadley Lost in Utah.” “It shows how important having a microchip on your pet is and having the correct info on your microchip.”

Monica was on a camping trip in an area without cell service, so that left Gardner and her father to rescue the pup. “It was incredible. There were lots of tears and I was just so excited. I sat down on the floor and I just gave her a hug,” Gardner said.

“I watched it a lot. I watched it several times, I’m guilty of that,” Monica said.

Hadley was a little worse for wear. Ten extra pounds, a broken tooth, matted hair, double ear infections, and a couple of ticks. But after a trip to the groomer and the vet, she is happy and healthy. The Detroit shelter seems to think Hadley was scooped up in Utah and sold on Craigslist. “It’s kind of a guessing game as to how many hands she passed through and how she ended up there,” Monica said. She says it could be another week before she is reunited with Hadley.

Reporter Scott Fleishman: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you see Hadley again?

Monica Gardner: Probably just give her unlimited hugs and love and be excited that she’s going to be here -- spoil the crap out of her.

Stephanie Gardner: I can’t wait to see the video. It’s going to be way better than mine. Way better than mine.

A crazy tale of one dog’s journey across the country, leaving a family, an animal rescue, and all of us begging to see how it ends

There were people in our area and across the western U.S. who followed Hadley’s story on social media and wanted to help in any way they could. Some donated money for gas to help with the trip to Detroit.

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