Winter Haven resident reunites with lost dog after 5 years

WINTER HAVEN, Florida ( — In her seven years on this earth, Rosie the pit bull has, in a sense, already lived several lives.

“It’s been five years and she’s been through a lot in her life. They say dogs still remember years later,” said Vanessa Ayala, who lives in Winter Haven.

Ayala adopted Rosie as a puppy in North Carolina in 2016.

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She said that two years later her ex-husband was in a car accident.

“His truck overturned into a ditch. She jumped out of the window and that day I drove up to pick her up,” she said.

Right after this, Ayala searched everywhere for Rosie, knocking on doors and sharing her phone number with people who lived near Rosie, who was last seen.

For five years, Ayala prayed for Rosie’s health and happiness.

“It got to the point where I really didn’t want to think about it anymore because I was really sad, you know, because I was really fed up with not knowing what happened to her,” she said.

Then, in recent weeks, during breakfast, she received a phone call from North Carolina.

Someone found Rosie in Cedar Point, North Carolina, 40 miles from where she went missing.

Ayala followed her for 10 hours.

During their reunion, Rosie’s tail wagging was a sign that she remembered her first owner.

Ayala said that during the years they were separated, Rosie was adopted by the family for several years, moved to another house, and somehow lived in the forest for the past year.

Six months ago, the neighbors noticed Rosie and began to feed her.

They enlisted the help of Donna Bourget, founder of You Will Be Found (Lost Dogs), who is well known in the area for finding dogs.

Now she has found 388 dogs, including Rosie.

“Usually I’m very good at traps, but Rosie, Rosie was tough. She was six months old,” she said.

For six months, Bourget followed Rosie’s movements through the cells and used three traps in an attempt to capture her.

Credit: Donna Bourget

No steaks, no grilled chicken, no wet dog food worked.

Finally Rosie followed the opossum into the trap.

From there, Bourget was supposed to track down Ayala through Rosie’s unregistered microchip.

She first contacted the chip company, who provided her with information about the spay/neuter clinic where Rosie’s chip was implanted.

“Don’t automatically assume that your dog’s microchip is registered because it isn’t. Please everyone register your dog’s microchip because it will get your dog home much faster,” Bourget said.

Ayala realizes that her reunion could not have happened without the kindness of out-of-state strangers.

Rosie is being treated for a heartworm but otherwise doing well at home.

“This is my first child. I have cried so many times over the past five years and prayed so much that she would be okay. I wasn’t about to let it go. I felt that if God would return her to me, he would make this transition smooth,” Ayala said.

Bourget said this reunion gives hope to other missing dogs that not only can their dog be found, but that their bond will still be strong.

“Look at Rosie. Look what Rosie did when she saw her mom five years later,” Bourget said. “The fact that I see the owner’s face when this dog is in their hands again is worth everything to me.”

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