When Logan, a blue nose pit bull, disappeared more than two years ago from his Sanger home, his family was so heartbroken they refused to get another dog.
But with the help of a good Samaritan and tenacious animal control officers, Logan was reunited with his owner, a Sanger Marine, on Jan. 10 after he was found roaming about 10 miles from his old home.
A microchip that Elias Muñoz paid for as part of a puppy checkup – more as an afterthought – helped bring them back together.
Muñoz, 22, bought Logan for his mother on her birthday three years ago, just before he went into military training. He selected Logan because he was large for his litter, friendly, playful and followed Muñoz much of the time he was visiting the puppies.
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The family previously had Labrador retrievers and other dogs, but Logan was their first pit bull.
“We hadn’t had a dog for a while,” he said.
One morning in the summer of 2013, Reuben Muñoz, Elias Muñoz’s father, awoke to feed Logan and discovered he was gone.
“I went into the alley and down the street,” he said. “We went out driving like 10 mph around the neighborhood, and we went quite a ways, but he was gone. We were really sad.”
Elias Muñoz, now a corporal who is deployed at Camp Pendleton, was away for military training when Logan disappeared.
“He was a good-natured dog, loved being around children,” Muñoz said. “I socialized him when he was a puppy; he was always around people. He was a really nice dog, never aggressive.”
My parents came to pick me up, and they told me he was missing; I was pretty heartbroken.
Elias Munoz, commenting on the family’s lost dog
His parents didn’t tell him Logan was gone until he came home about two months later.
“I didn’t know about it,” he said. “My parents came to pick me up and they told me he was missing; I was pretty heartbroken.”
Muñoz said he fought off the worst possible thoughts: Logan was stolen and used for fighting; he was in pain; he even hoped Logan was dead so he wouldn’t suffer.
“My parents never got another dog,” he said. “The same person I originally got the dog from offered us another one for free, but (we) just couldn’t do it. We haven’t had a dog since.”
Late last Sunday morning, after three weeks of being home for the holidays, his parents were driving him back to Camp Pendleton. Muñoz’s phone rang, but he ignored it. Seconds later, his mother’s phone rang, but she ignored hers. Then his father’s phone buzzed and he, too, didn’t answer.
A Clovis animal control officer was trying to reach them with some good news.
The good Samaritan
Karle Thornton’s family owns three pit bull-type dogs. The large, friendly trio – Sky, Stella and Buddy – are all rescues.
Thornton, 26, was driving home from a girlfriend’s home early on Jan. 10 when she saw Logan weaving in and out of fast-moving traffic near Academy and Herndon avenues, about 5 miles east of Clovis. Her dog-lover instincts quickly took over. She pulled over to get him out of the road.
She called Logan with a high-pitched “Hey, baby,” and he ran to her, plunking a muddy paw print on the side of her sport-utility vehicle, then taking advantage of her open door, wiggling inside.
“The breed can be intimidating to some people if they don’t know how loving they actually are,” she said. “I was just glad I was the one who was driving by that day.
“I could tell within a few seconds that he was sweet, and I wasn’t concerned about him being in my car. He was getting in my car no matter what, made himself right at home and plopped down in the back seat.”
Once he was inside, staring at her from the back seat, she realized she didn’t know what to do with Logan.
The breed can be intimidating to some people if they don’t know how loving they actually are.
Karle Thornton, who found the dog
She called her mother and drove up to the gate of their home, about 5 miles north of Sanger. They called local shelters and found none open, so they decided to drive into Clovis to see if they could find help.
They went to the Clovis Police Department near Fifth Street and Sunnyside Avenue, where an officer met them.
“He asked if we would follow him to the shelter” on Villa Avenue, she said. “They weren’t open, but he got the keys, opened it and got someone.”
The animal control officer inside said they weren’t allowed to take the dog because he was found outside the city limits, but Thornton and her mother couldn’t keep him because of their three other dogs. The Clovis officer said they could arrange for transit to Fresno Humane Animal Services near downtown Fresno the next day if they kept Logan overnight.
Eventually, Clovis officials agreed to keep Logan. After the Thorntons left, animal control officers scanned the dog’s neck and shoulders for a microchip.
Later that day, Thornton placed a lost dog post on Facebook with a picture of the gray pit bull.
The road home
About the same time Logan invited himself into Thornton’s car for a ride, Elias Muñoz was getting ready to climb out of bed, knowing he was returning to Camp Pendleton.
The morning was uneventful. The vehicle was packed, and they started on their five-hour jaunt to the northwestern edge of San Diego County.
After each member of the family got a phone call near Visalia, Muñoz decided to listen to the message and silently signaled his parents to turn around.
By his expression, Peggy and Reuben Muñoz thought the news wasn’t good.
“He was talking on the phone, and I was looking for the next exit,” Reuben Muñoz said.
He was getting in my car no matter what, made himself right at home and plopped down in the back seat.
They already had turned around before Elias Muñoz could relay the improbable, yet exciting, story about Logan.
“I really didn’t believe it because it was over two years,” he said.
Reuben Muñoz said: “We were all shocked, my wife started crying; she really liked the dog.”
When they saw him, “It was like he never left,” Elias Muñoz said. “He did recognize me.”
Throughout the day, they got reacquainted, buying dog food and supplies before taking Logan home.
“It was like five hours that we just spent getting him everything that he needed,” he said.
Then there was the business of returning to Camp Pendleton.
“Elias has been calling every day to see how he’s doing,” his father said.
As for Logan, he’s a little skinny but didn’t appear mistreated, and he has lost that rambunctious puppy streak, Reuben Muñoz said.
“I am totally surprised because when we had him here, he was always chewing on everything,” he said. “He’s a lot calmer; he doesn’t bark, and we mainly have him in the house. He’s just really calm, passive and respectful.”
Making up for lost time, Logan is constantly cuddled, scratched in his favorite places and taken for long walks, Muñoz said.
We were all shocked, my wife started crying; she really liked the dog.
Reuben Muñoz, Elias Muñoz’s father
The family is grateful to Thornton for finding their long-lost friend.
“I thanked her for everything she did that day,” Elias Muñoz said. “People don’t just walk up to pit bulls and invite them into their car.”
Muñoz is also relieved that he decided to microchip Logan. Three years ago, he didn’t think the microchip would play such an important role after that first puppy checkup.
“I honestly didn’t believe it would work,” he said. “When I got him his shots, if they hadn’t offered it, I wouldn’t have gotten it … they really do work.”
Thornton didn’t learn what happened to her found dog until a few hours later, when she read a reply to her Facebook post. It said Logan was reunited with his owners after more than two years.
“I immediately started crying big, happy tears,” she said.
Days later, Thornton was reminded of Logan every time she got in her SUV.
“He was muddy and put dirty paw prints through my vehicle and nose prints on my window, but it’s not a big deal,” she said. “It makes me smile every time I think about it.”