Family's beloved dog feared dead turns up at animal shelter one year later
An elderly dog abandoned at a shelter in a hot box with no water and maggots under her fur has been reunited with her previous owner.
Ken Ross, April's owner for 15 years, came forward following media appeals after she disappeared over a year ago. Staff at the Dogs Trust Ballymena had been caring for the canine since April 22 this year.
April - or Amber as she was known then - went missing from the Ross family home on Easter Sunday in 2014 when she walked out the garage door and never came back.
Mr Ross said: "I was at work eating my lunch when I first saw her rehoming appeal in the local paper. I recognised her immediately and thought that, just maybe, it could be our Amber.
"I told my partner Nicky and when we saw the news report on TV, we just knew it was her.
"When we showed our daughter she was so emotional, it was a truly magical moment."
The family had searched tirelessly.
"The minute I realised she'd gone missing I looked everywhere for her. We searched our local streets and fields for days, and we even asked the local children to help us in our search.
"But after a week I have to admit I feared for the worst and thought we had lost her for ever."
The cross-breed was dangerously dehydrated and had reduced vision when she arrived in Ballymena.
She was so weak she could hardly put one foot in front of the other.
Her matted fur caused ulcers in both eyes and she was reluctant to eat due to a mouth infection.
Her coat had to be shaved off and workers at the rehoming centre put her in jumpers to keep warm.
Manager Oonagh Philips built a strong bond with April in the 24 days she was with them.
She added: "April was still recovering when the Ross family came to visit, but as soon as they walked through the door she suddenly perked up.
"April is partially deaf and blind so we didn't think she'd recognise them.
"But it must have been their scent because she immediately remembered them and snuggled up to Ken. It was a special moment for all of us."
Mr Ross said it was just like she had never left.
"She continues to fill our daughter's life with joy. We are just so glad to have her back with us."