Ace pet detective solves prodigal pooch mystery

We know Australians love their pets but imagine the rollercoaster of emotions involved receiving a puppy, having it disappear, grieving its loss and then having it returned 13 years later!

Well that is the ride little Dolly, a Poodle Maltese cross, and her Adelaide family have been on.

Let’s head back to the beginning.  It’s December 2002 and Rachel Shephard is in hospital having just given birth to her first child.

Born on December 1st, Oliver is a happy baby boy and Dolly is staying with friends until they can all be home together.


But from a locked backyard and with multiple identification tags and an embedded micro-chip Dolly goes missing.

Devastated, the family spent weeks door-knocking and ringing radio stations but there was no sign of Dolly.

“After a while you imagine the worst but we thought from the beginning she might have been stolen,” Rachel says.

“Then after ten years we just gave up and were resigned to the fact that she would most likely have died.”


Thankfully as with all great lost pet stories, Dolly was well and truly alive and this week she was found dirty and unclipped and her photo was placed on the Lost Pets of South Australia Facebook page.

A wholly volunteer operated service dedicated to getting lost pets home, Lost Pets of South Australia co-founder and “pet detective”, Christine Robertson, spent many hours tracking down Dolly’s owners.

“Dolly’s microchip was still largely readable but the information was so old it was hard work finding Rachel and her now larger family of five,” Christine says.

“The person who found the dog took her to the vet who found the chip which had the name of owner, a suburb and a phone number.

“We then searched Facebook, Google and the White Pages looking for either her name or people that might know her or family members.

“I eventually found a relative who gave me her number and I will never forget the phone call and Rachel’s reaction.”


Desperate to be reunited, Dolly and Rachel were almost instantly back together and finally able to spend time with the now 13 year-old Oliver and his younger brothers Samuel, 11 and Dylan, 9.

“Her little face is the same and she knows me – she follows me from room to room even into the shower,” Rachel says.

“I feel like we have missed out on the majority of her life but at least now we can look after her in her old age.

“Losing a pet, not knowing where they are or if they are ok is devastating so we can’t believe how lucky we are.”


Christine Robertson knows the pure panic pets owners, like Rachel experience.

“We don’t ever judge how or why the pet is on the loose our focus is just on getting them home,” Christine says.

“We spend time to build the relationships that are needed to get lost pets home and it is working.

“This is one of our greatest success stories but every day people are coming together to help us achieve great outcomes like this one.”

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