Family Looking to Adopt Pet After Dog’s Disappearance Finds Missing Pup at Shelter 3 Months Later

Heartbroken after their beloved Corgi/shepherd mix, Dante, went missing, this Virginia family moved to a new town 20 miles away. Three months later, they walked into a local shelter and found their lost dog!

“We love him so much,” says Ruth Parada de Martinez. “God heard my prayers.”

On July 26, Dante got off leash during a walk while trying to run after some other dogs and disappeared. Ruth, 51, tells PEOPLE she was frantic after she learned Dante went missing and left work to search for him. The devoted dog owner scoured her area and talked to her neighbors, but no one knew where Dante went, and the dog never turned up.

“When Dante disappeared, I felt like a part of me was gone,” Ruth says, adding that the dog feels like another child to her. She adopted the 60-pound dog in 2017 — when Dante was a puppy — after her eldest daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma. Until he disappeared, Dante was always there to comfort and support his family.

On August 2, a 60-pound brown-and-white stray dog was found in Burke, Virginia, and brought to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.

“He’s darling,” says Reasa Currier, the director of Fairfax County’s Department of Animal Sheltering.

Soldier, AKA Dante during his time at the Fairfax County VA shelter before reuniting with family 2022

The friendly, playful dog didn’t have a collar or a microchip when he was found, so the shelter’s staff searched local lost dog reports in hopes of finding the canine’s family.

“Usually, we’re able to reunite about 70 percent of the pets that come into us as strays with their owners,” Currier says. “But there was just nothing that we could find.”

The shelter named the sociable stray “Soldier” and decided to find him a good home.

“He’s a great dog. He’s super sweet,” Currier says. “He’s very adoptable.”

“Solider” had several meet-and-greets with potential families but no introduction that led to adoptions.

“He just wasn’t interested in meeting new people. He shut down during all his meet-and-greets — there was just a little bit of a sadness about him,” Currier says. “We kept talking about it in staff meetings: ‘Why isn’t this beautiful, playful boy getting adopted?’ We couldn’t figure it out. And then, of course, we realized he was waiting for his family.”

On Saturday, October 15, after moving closer to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Ruth visited the shelter with her two daughters and her 2-year-old grandson in search of a new pet. On a wall in the shelter’s lobby, Ruth’s 10-year-old daughter, Kayla Martinez, spotted a picture of a dog that looked familiar. She said, “Mommy, it’s Dante!”

Family dog reunited at the fairfax country animal shelter

Her mother said no, the dog named “Solider” couldn’t be their dog, Dante. But crying, the girl turned to her mother and said she was sure.

They asked to see him.

The dog recognized his family instantly.

“He just started pulling, he was wiggling all over,” Currier says. “We immediately knew that this was Dante’s family. They were crying. Dante was just jumping. And he was clearly thrilled to see his family again.”

Ruth showed the shelter pictures of the dog from her puppy days and thanked them for looking after her beloved pet, who went home with Ruth on October 16.

“Anytime you can reunite a pet with their family, it’s just a magic moment,” Currier says. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the entire shelter watching that reunion. The children were giving Dante big hugs around the neck. So that was amazing for us to see.”

Currier urges families to keep an ID on their pets and to get their furry friends microchipped. For pet parents that already have their pets microchipped, Currier recommends double-checking that the chip’s information is up to date.

“People say, ‘Oh, my dog never goes out, or my cat never goes out, they never leave my side.’ Things happen, and animals do get away from us,” Currier says. “We do everything we can to reunite people with their pets. But having that identification just makes it so much easier. If Dante had an ID, we could have brought him back to his family so much sooner.”


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