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Bowser, the black dog on the left, is finally reunited with his family.

After more than three years and a thousand miles, one Marana family finally has their dog back. A Rottweiler/pit bull mix named Bowser recently completed an epic journey after escaping from a local yard in 2017 and resurfacing in Arkansas years later.

Lynda Rodriguez originally got Bowser from a local pet rescue as a surprise for her husband on Father’s Day 2015. Because the family was new to their home, Rodriguez says Bowser and their other dog, a German shepherd, escaped multiple times. The family had Bowser for roughly two years, but during one escape, only their German shepherd returned.

The Rodriguez family put up posters and calls to the community on social media, but never got any solid leads. However, Lynda did eventually receive a phone call from a woman who briefly claimed to have found Bowser, but said they would not return him. Lynda attempted to find out more, but they would not return the family’s calls and soon after the phone number was disconnected.

“There was nothing we could do, and after a while we had to just let it go,” Lynda said.

Fast-forward more than three years to this May, and Lynda and her husband receive phone calls from a pet rescue in Arkansas. The pet rescue had found Bowser, and his chip still scanned back to the Rodriguez family.

“We were ecstatic to hear they had Bowser, we really couldn’t believe it,” Lynda said. “At first I didn’t answer the phone call when the pet rescue originally reached out because I had no reason to answer a call from Arkansas. But when I listened to the voicemail, it was unreal.”

Bowser had been turned into the pet rescue with a fellow dog, both in poor condition. Lynda says the rescue clinic sent photos depicting chemical burns on Bowser’s face and body, as well as signs of malnourishment. Those who initially turned the dogs into the pet rescue did not return—potentially the same people who once refused to return Bowser—which is why the clinic reached out to the Rodriguez family.

Lynda worked with Blue Collar Pet Transport to ship Bowser across state lines. Blue Collar has helped owners transport their dogs and cats since 2019, but Bowser’s story was a first for them as well.

“This kind of distance is very common for us, it’s what we do daily from coast to coast. We also do work in Canada and even onto the other side of the world,” said Jeff Still with Blue Collar Pet Transport. “But working with lost pets is fairly uncommon. We’ve done a couple, but I haven’t heard of any pets that have been gone for that long. I know of a couple times where the dog was gone for a week or so, but never anything like this.”

In the end, the 20-hour return drive took Bowser through three states.

“Trying to figure out how to get him back from Arkansas was a challenge, but Blue Collar was amazing,” Lynda said. “At first my husband and I were going to keep it a secret to surprise the kids, but eventually we decided to let them know what was going on, because my daughter started asking to get another dog, and we didn’t want her to do that if we were getting Bowser back.”

The family ultimately got to pet Bowser again in early July, more than three years after they lost him, and with no clear picture of how he wound up so far from home.

“When the driver showed up, it was amazing. Bowser came up to us and remembered who we were and his name. He was just a happy boy,” Lynda said. “My two teenagers weren’t home when they brought Bowser home, but my little one was super happy and started crying. I was also a hot mess. We were just so happy to have him back. And when my two older kids got back, they just wanted to cuddle and pet him and give him all kinds of treats.”

Over the past few weeks, Bowser has been re-acclimating to home. Aside from working to get his weight back up, the family is “spoiling him” with treats, playing with their other pets, and letting him sleep in everyone’s bed. Not a bad outcome for a homeward hound after years on the dusty trail.

“He’s always been a very go-with-the-flow dog. He’d never try to compete for dominance. Even before he got lost, he’d just come up and put his head on your lap and ask for pets. Another dog we have was a four-month-old puppy when we lost Bowser, but when they met again they even remembered each other,” Lynda said. “We didn’t know what to expect when they brought him back, after hearing about the conditions he was in, but this was amazing.”

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