See the reunion: Mike Jeffries’ reunion with Bandit, the shih tzu he lost five years ago, was captured on video at ReTails Indy pet rescue. A link to that video is available on the ReTails Indy Facebook page or by clicking here.
INDIANAPOLIS — When Mike Jeffries’ dog ran away, Jeffries felt like he’d lost a member of his family.
Jeffries, who lived in Greenfield at the time, put up posters, placed a lost ad in the newspaper and scoured local neighborhoods. He held out hope that someone would find Bandit and bring him home.
Five years later, Jeffries got his wish.
When the phone rang, Jeffries, 42, thought it was a joke.
Surely, the person on the other end of the line – Greg Brush of ReTails Indy, a nonprofit pet rescue group – was pulling his leg. Bandit, Jeffries’ beloved Shih Tzu, was waiting for him at the store just a few miles away, Brush told him.
“He was my little buddy,” Jeffries said. “I never stopped thinking about him. He was like a family member.”
Bandit had been picked up as a stray in New Castle by the city’s animal control department. He’d been there since November, and somehow, employees had missed the fact that he was microchipped.
The microchip included a current phone number for Jeffries, who had long since given up on reuniting with his pooch.
Brush, president of ReTails, said he was surprised when Jeffries picked up the phone. Information stored on microchips, which are inserted under animals’ skin, is frequently outdated.
“You try to be optimistic, but you realize it’s just as likely it’s not going to work out the way you hope,” he said. “Normally, if you find a dog that’s been missing for that long, …it’s not uncommon that people have moved along, gotten a different pet. So this really, truly, was kind of a miracle that everything just worked out perfectly.”
Brush had trouble convincing Jeffries at first that the dog in their care was his long lost friend.
“He said, ‘You’re not pranking me, are you?’” Brush said. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, no. We have your dog over here.’”
Jeffries now lives on the east side of Indianapolis and was just a few miles away from ReTails offices in Washington Square mall. Hoping against hope he might have finally found Bandit, he rushed right over.
News of the impending reunion spread quickly among visitors to the adoption center. Within a few minutes, a small crowd had gathered to see if this really was the pet that had been lost for five years.
Ten minutes later, the somewhat shell-shocked pup was back in Jeffries’ welcoming arms.
“I think all the people standing around watching were just as moved,” Brush said. “It was quite a joyous kind of feeling among everybody there to see how much he loved Bandit.”
It was the first time Jeffries had seen Bandit since the dog he’d had since it was a puppy ran out his back door in September 2007.
Jeffries had been at work at the time and left the dog out of its crate.
“The door swung open from a burst of wind, and he went on his little adventure,” he said. “By the time I got home from work, he was long gone.”
Where Bandit has been since then is anybody’s guess.
“That’s my question,” Jeffries said. “If he could only talk.”
He appeared to have been cared for at some point, likely by someone who didn’t ever have him checked for a microchip. Jeffries sheepishly admitted that a friend of his who used to dog sit for him went to a psychic after Bandit disappeared.
The psychic told her Bandit was being cared for by an older couple that needed the dog.
“It gave me some hope that he was OK,” Jeffries said.
Today, Bandit is getting acquainted with being back home. Jeffries, who worked out of state for several years and only recently moved back to Indiana, had never acquired another pet.
The dog received a clean bill of health from the vet, and the transition has been smooth.
“He seems like he never left,” Jeffries said.