Five months and 2,700 miles later, Gidget, a Jack Russell Terrier, will be reunited with her owners tonight at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Gidget disappeared from her Pennsylvania home in Huntingdon Valley two days after Easter and was found on September 4, wandering around the community of Hillsboro, Oregon. She was brought to the Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter, a local institution that sees about 4,000 stray animals a year, according to manager Deborah Wood.
Luckily, Gidget had been microchipped by her owners, making the process of finding her family a lot easier.
Discovering how the dog escaped and traveled across the country is more of a mystery. “[Jack Russell Terriers] are good at digging under fences. We like to joke that they can pick locks,” says Wood. She also ventures a guess that Gidget had been picked up by someone who assumed she was abandoned. However, she strongly advises against this way of thinking. “If you see an animal wandering, take it to a shelter that can help.” In Gidget's case shelter workers scanned the 7-year-old pet, located her chip and with it, the owner’s contact information via online registration.
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Once the shelter put the word out about Gidget’s travels, she became an absolute sensation among Oregon locals and animal-lovers nationwide. “Every local station was [at the shelter] in an hour … there was a lot of interest in her,” remembers Wood.
Gidget's vet back home is also an advocate of the microchip technology. She believes if more people invested in the chips, which are usually implanted around the pet’s shoulder and no bigger than a grain of rice, more strays would be reunited with their families. “It’s absolutely heartwarming, it’s incredible! This is the reason we go we go into work every day," says Dr. Laura Weiss of the Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.
Gidget's owners are grateful to get her back, although they prefer to remain anonymous and have not commented publicly on her homecoming or the benefit of pet microchips.
Benefactors pitched in to get Gidget back to Montgomery County. She's being transported by United Cargo. The flight costs were arranged between PetLink, the manufacturer of the chip, and Pet Travel Inc., a pet-friendly travel service. She will be met by her owner and a PetLink representative upon landing. Expect a few hugs and camera clicks. Gidget's loving all the attention.
“She’s a very lovely little dog and seemed to enjoy all of her media attention … sniffing cameras … a sign of a dog that was well socialized and adaptable,” continues Wood. Underscoring the unbelievable nature of the story, she finishes with a laugh, “This is the stuff of a Disney movie."