Dog and late owner's grieving family 'both cry together' upon reunion months after disappearance

A missing dog is back at home months after an emotional plea from a Metro Vancouver family grieving the loss of his owner.

The husky-shepherd cross named Chief disappeared back in July.

His owner's mother, Dolores Dignan, said she'd let him out into her Burnaby backyard in the morning and went back inside to get ready for the day.

She heard two barks in her yard, she told CTV News at the time, then came downstairs and realized Chief was gone.

Dolores said she was devastated.

She'd lost her son, Darryl, in March of that year. Chief was Darryl's dog, and since his death, the dog had barely left Dolores's side.

"He's really all I have left of my son," she said at the time, wondering if the dog had been stolen from her yard.

It's not clear how seven-year-old Chief got away, but a man who'd been taking care of him since that time said he saw the dog on the road near Simon Fraser University.

According to Dolores, the man said he'd asked his cab driver to stop and picked up the dog, taking him home to Richmond where he's been living since that time.

It was Dolores's cousin who helped put things together. She'd posted about the missing dog on a website of listings for lost pets.

A Good Samaritan who had lost her cat, and was browsing the listings on PawBoost, said she saw the dog and realized she'd recognized it. She reached out with more information, and Dolores's cousin connected them.

Dolores told CTV News that woman was able to lead her to the home where the dog had been staying. She heard a familiar bark, then saw the face she'd been looking for for months.

"Chief got so excited to see us," she said.

It was a happy reunion, but also a difficult parting. Dolores said the man who'd been taking care of Chief had grown fond of the dog, who'd been following him everywhere as well.

She said she was thankful to see Chief had been treated well, and relieved to be able to bring him back home.

Dolores's granddaughter said in an interview Tuesday that the dog remembered her right away.

"When I saw him and walked in the house for the first time I ran into his arms and he ran into my arms, and we were both crying together," Eryn McLean said with a laugh.

"When Chief came home, it was almost like a piece of my uncle came home."

For Dolores, the feeling was mutual.

"He's part of the family. It's bad enough grieving my son, and to have his dog missing was just unbelievable to me. It's heartbreaking when you lose an animal, never mind when it's part of your son. They were never apart from each other," she said.

With his original owner gone, it's Dolores who Chief is never apart from, now.

"We're back to being a team," she said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Spencer Harwood