MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - Separated by miles and months, a southern Illinois dog shows just how far man's best friend will go to find her owner.
Angel, a chihuahua-dachshund mix, or Chiweenie, went missing from a yard in Dowell, Illinois two months ago.
Her journey through Jackson County proved there's truth to the saying "not all who wander are lost."
In June, dispatchers with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office received an early-morning call from a woman about a found dog.
"We got a call from a lady who had found the dog in the middle of Highway 127 up by Ava Road," said Jackson County Dispatcher Sara Bean. "She said it was cowering in the middle of the highway and didn't know what to do with it. That time of the morning there's no animal control on, all the shelters are closed. I didn't know what else to tell her, so I told her to bring it here."
Typically, dispatchers would not advise callers to drop a dog at dispatch, but Bean says she was out of ideas, and the dog was small and adorable.
"She had the most distinctive pair of ears you'd ever see on a dog that size, said Bean. "They looked like there shouldn't be ears that big on a dog that size. She was content to curl up in everybody's lap. Even with the noise and chaos, she was calm and happy.
While the small dog with the big ears relaxed in dispatch, the dispatchers went to work putting out a social media A.P.B. on Facebook in search of the dog's owner not knowing they were harboring a four-legged fugitive.
"She got out of her pen in the backyard, she was gone almost two months," said Trystin Mansfield of Dowell.
Mansfield had been babysitting his uncle's Chiweenie as her owner, Wayne Wolfe, underwent two back surgeries and rehabilitating in a nursing home.
"She is his baby," Mansfield said. "They sit in the chair together, they eat together. They do everything together. When she got out, I was not looking forward to that conversation. I had to tell him that Angel ran away."
"He didn't tell me until after I got home," Wolfe said. "He was like 'sit down' - and he's 'like Angel run off about a month ago.' I just started shaking I'm like – it's not your fault."
Although more than a month had passed since Angel's escape, Wolfe said he refused to give up hope. He had fliers printed up with Angel's picture on them that listed her most prominent descriptor: her big ears.
"There's no mistaking those ears," Wolfe said.
The fliers didn't turn up any leads, but about a month later - Wolfe got word that Angel had been found through the dispatchers' Facebook posts.
"I said you little scamp you! You got picked up by the police!" Wolfe said.
Bean mapped out Angel's journey from Dowell to where she was picked up in Murphysboro.
"That's 10 miles as the crow flies," Bean said. "As to how she got from Dowell to Murphysboro I can only guess."
It would seem, in her two months on the lamb, Angel wasn't wandering aimlessly. She seemed to have a destination.
"During that time it seems like a few people picked her up and she had been in a few houses and had taken off," Bean said. "She was somehow trying to make her way back to Murphysboro to find her person."
Wolfe, who now lives in Dowell, has an explanation for that.
"Murphysboro was the last place we'd lived," said Wolfe. "I didn't move here until after I got out of the nursing home, so she was looking for me in Murphysboro."
That was where Angel ultimately found him. The two were reunited at the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Murphysboro.
"She just jumped on my lap and gave me kisses, kisses, kisses," said Wolfe.
For dispatchers, it was a happy ending to a call that almost ended tragically on the highway.
"The family said they'd started to give up hope after two months, but he refused to give up hope," Bean said. "He just knew he was going to find her again, and to see that, especially – after he's been through so much with his health issues - for him to get his dog back, it was all worth it."
"We're partners, you know?" said Wolfe. "Wherever I go, she goes."
While Angel made it home safely, many dogs do not. That's why dispatchers encourage pet owners to microchip their pets. Bean says it's the quickest way to get a pet reunited with its family.