A Golden Retriever is finally home with his Vermont family, 559 days after he was lost.
"I know he was scared," said Kirstin Campbell of Morristown. "I think he just had his little adventure, and I don't know why he decided now was the time (to be captured), but I'm glad he did!"
Before this weekend, Campbell had last touched Murphy, a nearly 5-year-old Golden Retriever, in late June of 2014. She had gotten into a bad car crash in Stowe and said the scared pooch ran away from the wreck and wouldn't come when called.
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"We never gave up hope," Pat Hamel, Campbell's grandmother, said after her family was reunited with Murphy. "He's back to where he was. It's like he hasn't been gone!"
In nearby Waterbury, Wilson Ring was one of dozens of people who had spotted Murphy from time to time, and who took to leaving out food for him. For more than a year, a trail camera on Ring's property captured shots of the elusive dog.
"It is a pretty improbable story," Ring told necn. "I thought we'd get him in a week or so."
Ring teamed with Murphy's other owner, Ed Hamel, to place out wet dog food and even steak occasionally donated from an area market, hoping to lure Murphy closer and closer to a trap they set up on Ring's property.
Trail camera footage shows they actually did catch Murphy very late one night, but the dog managed to escape again before anyone could get to the cage the following morning.
This weekend, more than a year and half after Murphy fled that crash, the capture plan worked, at last.
"Hallelujah, we caught him!" Ring said, recalling the feeling of finally having Murphy in a cage where he could not escape.
Erika Holm, the animal control officer in Middlesex, Vermont, offered advice and assistance in capturing Murphy. She explained that when dogs are spooked, as Murphy was, and get lost, they can go into a kind of wilderness survival mode and reject help from people.
"These dogs don't come home on their own, they need to be brought back," Holm told necn. "They're evasive. They don't want to be caught. They don't know that they want to be caught."
Holm speculated that Murphy might have sought out food from trash bins or compost piles had people not been leaving food for him.
Holm and Ring both said they were worried Murphy could get hit by a car, because witnesses had reported seeing the dog on both sides of busy Route 100.
Pat Hamel and Kirstin Campbell said Murphy now appears very glad to have been found, because he is particularly affectionate and friendly.
"He's smiling," Hamel observed, referencing what resembles a smile when Murphy sits with his mouth open.
Murphy still needs a check-up from a veterinarian, and has one planned for this week, Hamel said, but believes he is ok, aside from some burrs stuck in his fur.
From here on out, you can bet Murphy will be kept on a short leash.
"We're not taking any chances," Hamel said, chuckling. "Whenever he goes out now, he'll be on his leash!"