After 3 years, Michigan couple reunited with lost dog in DuPage County
Excitement and disbelief overwhelmed Debra Mejeur as she stood outside the DuPage County Animal Shelter on Saturday morning, waiting to be reunited with her dog, Lola.
The Kalamazoo, Michigan, resident had been counting down the hours until this moment, unable to sleep since she and her husband, Steve, received an unexpected phone call Thursday that their black Labrador retriever mix had been found safe in Glendale Heights -- three years after she went missing in Elk Grove Village.
"I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Mejeur said. "Mentally, I was mourning her. I had let her go. I still had an ounce of hope, I guess, but the majority of me was thinking she had already crossed the rainbow bridge. I was just completely stunned."
Trained to assist Mejeur as a seizure response dog, Lola was characteristically timid as she emerged from the Wheaton animal shelter wearing a bright red bow and surveyed her surroundings. But the moment she realized the people in front of her were her owners, Lola's hesitation was replaced by exuberance.
"After three years, it's just an unbelievable feeling to be reunited with her, especially since she was lost in another state," Mejeur said. "Knowing that I can bring her home to Michigan is ... just beyond description. I'm so relieved. I'm so excited."
The couple had been visiting friends in Elk Grove Village on Oct. 21, 2017, when Lola escaped from the fenced-in backyard, Mejeur said. They spent the weekend searching for their dog, whom Mejeur had rescued about two years earlier and trained herself. But with her husband's job, her medication and two cats back in Kalamazoo, she said, they had to return home.
For weeks, Mejeur and her husband traveled back and forth between Michigan and Elk Grove, often spending hours scouring the area in the rain and bitter cold, she said. They spread the word on social media and gained a following of volunteers who agreed to help. But as the weather worsened near the end of November, they knew they'd have to give up the search.
"It was just physically and emotionally so tough on us," Mejeur said. "It was a very difficult time."
Lola had been wearing a collar and was microchipped. But after years of silence, her owners never expected to see her again.
Recently, a Glendale Heights couple began periodically spotting a dog wandering near the woods where they live. They got a leash on her and brought her to DuPage County Animal Services this past week, county officials said. Staff members were then able to trace Lola's microchip back to Mejeur.
Receiving a call and text from the microchipping company was a shock to Mejeur, who immediately contacted the animal shelter mentioned in the message.
"By any chance, do you have a female black Lab Retriever named Lola?" she asked the DuPage County employee who answered the phone.
The staffer responded with, "Are you Debra?"
"I absolutely lost it," Mejeur said.
The nearly 9-year-old dog appears to be in good condition with no serious injuries or ailments, her owner said. In fact, she looks exactly the same as she did three years ago.
Mejeur expressed her gratitude for the caring couple who found and took in Lola, saying they will be "part of our lives forever."
Lola's story is a prime example of the importance of having pets microchipped and making sure the information on record is up to date, said Dr. Barbara Hanek, the shelter's administrator. Residents are encouraged to contact authorities if they see animals wandering in the community.
"This couldn't be more perfect for the Christmas season," Hanek said. "That's a take-home message for me -- it's just a little gift, but it reminds us to always have hope and to believe."