A slipped collar, a harrowing week and a tearful reunion for one lucky dog
It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare: An beloved animal that runs off and gets lost in an unfamiliar place.
That’s exactly what happened to Rocky, a Chihuahua mix who arrived to TPA on a flight from Puerto Rico on May 6. When Rocky’s family came to the Airport to pick him up, somehow he managed to slip out of his collar as he was being loaded into their car at baggage claim. The family searched around the Airport for hours that night, but Rocky was gone.
The next week, a pilot taxiing out for takeoff reported seeing a small dog running around near a wooded area just off the runway. Airport crews who had already been looking for Rocky placed two traps in that area of the airfield, hoping to lure the dog to safety using dog food and a t-shirt with his owner’s scent.
On Thursday of that week, a passenger on a St. Louis bound Southwest Airlines flight also spotted Rocky through her passenger window and alerted the flight crew. She took a picture and even drew a map showing the Airport's operations team where to look.
Then on Friday, a week after Rocky went missing, Tampa International Airport Police Detective Dan Jones was riding around the airfield on an ATV when he spotted what “looked like a rabbit” darting into a wooded area near Runway 19L. He circled around checking the area, and returned to find a terrified Rocky inside the cage.
Detective Jones spent the rest of his afternoon comforting Rocky who had spent an entire week outside, on his own, surviving several storms and other outdoor hazards such as coyotes and snakes. Rocky’s family was immediately contacted and made the two-hour drive from their home in Apopka to pick Rocky up.
They arrived to the Airport Friday evening for a tearful reunion with Rocky. The family said they will be forever thankful to Detective Jones, the Airport Operations teams, airline flight crews and even the passenger who assisted in helping locate Rocky.
You can watch the news coverage of Friday night’s reunion here.