It had been two years since one pet owner had last seen his cherished dog. So when rescuers found the animal alive and well, the man had no idea if he would even remember him. And yet as soon as the dog heard his master’s voice, his reaction was mind-blowing.
In January 2014 Bill Ballato lived in Westerley, Rhode Island, with his beloved dog Bosco. Bosco was a nine-year-old beagle mix, and Ballato’s neighbors knew the pair well. So when the dog went missing that month, they appreciated how devastated his owner was.
Bosco had been in Ballato’s yard when he managed to escape from his collar and disappeared. In a bid to find the dog, Ballato recruited his friends in the small town to help. The concerned owner also posted missing posters and made contact with the police and local animal shelters.
Bosco was nowhere to be seen, though. All Ballato could do, then, was continue his search in the hope that he would somehow find his buddy. But when Ballato moved to Lafayette, Colorado, a few months later, he almost gave up hope of seeing his dog again.
That said, while Ballato settled into his new life, his old friends back in Westerley continued to keep an eye out for Bosco. And while there were some sightings, no one was able to bring the dog to safety. So the pooch remained missing and was possibly living out on the streets.
Then something potentially disastrous happened: three enormous snow storms rocked Rhode Island in quick succession. So if Bosco was indeed on the streets, the odds would surely be stacked against him. Ballato, however, refused to give up hope.
“There were nights, horrible nights that I wondered, especially after big storms,” he later told Fox 31 in April 2016. “But something told me that he’d make it.” For two long years, then, Ballato lived in hope of finding Bosco alive.
It was then that Ballato received a Facebook message from a Rhode Island cop. The officer revealed that he’d spotted Bosco wandering in a nearby parking lot. Naturally, the news delighted Ballato. But being so far away, the dog’s owner had no way of retrieving his lost pet.
That’s when Ballato discovered Sheilah Graham. Graham is a Department of Homeland Security employee and works as a pet detective in her spare time. And after Ballato messaged Graham on Facebook, she began hatching a plan to catch Bosco.
First of all, then, Graham put up cameras to record the dog’s movements. Next, she decided that the best way to Bosco’s heart was food. So she arranged a trail of treats – including steaks, French fries and cheeseburgers – leading to a metal trap.
“Bosco played a good game of chess,” Graham revealed. “But I love chess, so it’s just a matter of narrowing down his playing field.” And thankfully, the pet detective was able to outwit the dog, finally luring him into the trap in March 2016.
With Bosco secured, Graham couldn’t wait to get home and tell Ballato the good news. Indeed, she decided to call him as soon as she could, but before she could get a word in, Bosco interrupted her. You see, upon hearing his master’s voice, the dog began howling down the phone.
“I answered the phone, not expecting anything, and the first thing I heard was Bosco howling,” Ballato revealed to The Dodo in 2016. “He doesn’t have a bark or howl or growl. It’s kind of all three together. You hear it and it stands you up straight.”
Now all that was left for Graham to do was reunite Ballato and Bosco. But with nearly 2,000 miles standing between them, that wasn’t going to be easy. Luckily, though, that’s when Ballato’s old friends in Rhode Island stepped in.
Yes, Ballato’s pals set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Graham to deliver Bosco to his rightful home. “We recruited our friends, our neighbors, dog lovers, total strangers,” Bob Arnold, Ballato’s childhood friend told the Daily Camera in 2016. “People that I haven’t heard from in 30 years bellied up money.”
So in April 2016, two years after Bosco went missing, Graham and two of her friends drove for 36 hours to arrive at Ballato’s home in Colorado. But the arduous journey was worth it just to see the owner’s reaction when he set eyes on his pet once more. “My payday comes seeing the lost pet back home with their family,” she told The Dodo.
Initially, the reunion was something of a strange experience for Ballato. “I didn’t know what he was going to do,” Ballato explained. “The first couple of minutes, with everyone around and the cameras, he was like, ‘OK, who the hell is this guy?’”
Then, however, Ballato remembered the old nickname he’d given Bosco – “Dude.” And as he said it, the dog looked him straight in the eye. “From that point, it turned around,” Ballato revealed. “Obviously, it was familiar and it was pleasing to him.”
Happily, despite his two-year adventure, Bosco was in surprisingly good health. That being said, he had put on a little bit of weight and had a small benign tumor on his back. Apart from that, though, the little dog was fighting fit.
And now that Bosco was home, he and his owner had a lot of catching up to do. “I’m going to be having some good facetime with him,” Ballato told the Daily Camera. “Not like iPhone FaceTime, but the old-fashioned kind. A lot of it.”