Bill Ballato still gets goosebumps when he hears that distinct howl. The sound traveled across thousands of miles, reaching his ears through a telephone line. It was a voice he hadn’t heard in a long time – his cherished Bosco. When he picked up the phone, completely unaware of what awaited him, the first thing he heard was the hauntingly beautiful howl of Bosco, leaving him emotional.
“He possesses a unique vocalization that combines the elements of a bark, howl, and growl into one distinct sound that immediately commands attention. It’s a sound that can send shivers down your spine.”
This peculiar canine cry belonged to a dog who had spent three harsh winters surviving on the streets, homeless and filled with fear. The courageous beagle mix had reached the age of 9 when he managed to escape from his collar and mysteriously disappeared from his owner, Ballato’s, residence in Westerley, Rhode Island, in January 2014.
Shortly after, the area was hit by a series of three huge snowstorms, leaving a lasting impression on Ballato’s mind about the possibility of not getting the dog back.
“Simultaneously, I am acquainted with this canine. He possesses a resilient nature despite his small stature.”
However, Ballato, who tirelessly scoured various means such as walking, driving, and social media to locate him, eventually relocated to Lafayette, Colorado.
Sheilah Graham, renowned for her expertise as a “pet detective,” received a Facebook message from a close friend working with Missing Dogs of Massachusetts on the 2nd of March. As winter took its toll for the third consecutive year, Bosco, a furry wanderer, was enduring the harsh outdoors. The owner, filled with despair, reached out to Sheilah hoping that she could bring light to their bleak situation.
Graham, an employee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during the day, downplays her position as a pet investigator. She emphasizes that she does not receive any financial compensation for her services. Instead, her reward lies in the joy of reuniting lost pets with their families.
However, her ability to connect with rebellious animals is extraordinary – she has successfully brought back over 70 pets to their loved ones.
“I track their movements by placing pins on a map,” she explains to The Dodo. “I also set up cameras to observe the dog and analyze its behavior, making necessary modifications. I can certainly give MacGyver a run for his money.”
Unable to resist Bosco’s challenge, Graham was engaged in a three-hour-long conversation with his owner, meticulously discussing every minute aspect of the situation, including specific details, sightings, as well as Bosco’s peculiar behavior, in hopes of gathering any potentially helpful information. It had been reported that a dog corresponding to Bosco’s description had frequently been seen near a local bar in Westerley, sometimes leaving the premises with food held in his mouth.
Bosco, a timid canine, had endured a challenging past living with an abusive household, consequently making him cautious about forming new bonds. Nevertheless, the innovative approach known as the Graham Plan emerged to win over Bosco’s trust. This approach involved devising an enticing path filled with delectable treats such as steak, liver, pork, bacon cheeseburgers, and enticing french fries, all leading up to a secure cage where Bosco could find comfort and security.
It seems that Bosco simply cannot resist his love for food. He couldn’t resist the tempting feast and unknowingly walked right into the trap.
“This has been my longest unsuccessful search and also the quickest successful one,” Graham casually reveals. The peculiar charm of that particular bar seemed to captivate him, most likely due to its delectable food offerings. In most cases when I search for lost dogs, they tend to lose weight. However, Bosco was a unique exception as he managed to gain weight during his unexpected escapade.”
“According to her, in most cases where dogs are on the lookout for food, they tend to lose weight over time. However, Bosco’s situation was quite the opposite.”
While Bosco was loudly howling from his confinement, Graham decided to make a call to Ballato in Lafayette. Bosco’s distinctive voice echoed through the phone line.
“Hey Bill, does this voice sound familiar to you?”
Without a doubt, it did.
“I always had a gut feeling that he would make it,” Ballato expresses. “Except for a few days following those heavy snowstorms.”
Indeed, Bosco remained in outstanding health, except for a harmless tumor that only appeared when he was wandering freely. (A fundraising campaign has been initiated to assist in covering the costs of his surgery.)
However, there was one small issue of making sure Bosco found a new owner who happened to live on the other side of the country. “In the spur of the moment, I thought, ‘Let’s go get my dog!'” he recalls. “But I have an upcoming eleventh back surgery scheduled, and venturing to Kansas would leave me paralyzed.”
Despite the challenges, Graham was determined to ensure Bosco found a loving home. He generously offered to go above and beyond by driving Bosco from Rhode Island all the way to Lafayette, covering a distance of approximately 2,000 miles. And of course, he would then make the trip back to Rhode Island as well.
However, Bosco would require a period of adjustment before returning to the life of a pet. He spent several weeks at the Glocester Animal Shelter, gradually becoming more comfortable around people and frequently exhibiting his bursts of exuberant canine energy, often referred to as zoomies. Additionally, Bosco was also put on a diet during this time.
According to Graham, she has never encountered a dog that required a slimming diet. On April 3, in the wee hours of the morning, Graham and a few companions embarked on a trip with Bosco, their canine companion, comfortably settled inside a minivan they had rented for the occasion. Despite encountering two intense snowstorms, with limited visibility and torrents of rain, they persevered in their westward journey.
Upon their arrival at Ballato’s residence in Lafayette after a grueling 36-hour journey, they were greeted by an unexpected commotion. The house had become a hub for TV crews and reporters, all brimming with excitement, hoping to capture the extraordinary reunion taking place. Ballato couldn’t help but feel a twinge of anxiety, wondering how Bosco would handle the overwhelming attention.
“I had no idea what his reaction would be,” he recalls. “At first, when we were surrounded by people and the cameras were rolling, he seemed skeptical and unsure about who I was.”
That’s when Ballato decided to use a familiar term to address his long-lost friend:
“From that moment on, everything changed,” he explains. “It suddenly clicked for him and he recognized me. It was a wonderful and heartwarming feeling.”
And so, after spending a staggering 764 days apart, Bosco was finally reunited with his loved ones – slightly worn out from his journey, but otherwise in good health, except for a small tumor that had recently appeared on his back.
In the end, the journey towards this heartfelt gathering was made ever so delightful with the indulgence of bacon-infused cheeseburgers.