A Florida brewery’s campaign to bring awareness to shelter-dog adoption has led to the joyful reunion of a woman and her missing four-legged friend, who were brought together again — after three years — on Friday.
The amazing story began in January, when Motorworks Brewing in Brandenton, Fla., partnered with Shelter Manatee to create wraps — featuring photos of four adoptable dogs — for its beer cans. The campaign, which aimed to not only bring awareness, but to help the shelter reach its $2 million goal of building a larger shelter, went viral — and led to two of the dogs finding forever homes.
The two dogs left, Day Day and Candy, were still looking to be adopted when the shelter got a call, on Jan. 24, from Monica Mathis in St. Paul, Minn. claiming that Day Day was her long-lost dog Hazel.
“We really couldn’t believe it,” Hans Wohlgefahrt, who works in outreach and communications at the shelter, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was just kind of an unreal thing. The campaign at that point had reached a higher, national level, so we treated it with a little bit of skepticism. We needed some verification from her… so Monica provided everything we needed, she gave vet records and a lot of photographs to show she had the dog ever since it was born.”
Turned out that Hazel went missing back in 2017, when Mathis lived in Iowa. It is still unclear how she turned up over 1,000 miles away in Florida. According to Wohlgefahrt, Hazel had been at the shelter since March 2019, after being brought in as a stray. There was a microchip on the dog, but the contact information was outdated. And, though the pit bull mix was a favorite among the shelter employees, she was having a hard time finding someone to take her home.
Mathis is still in disbelief that she was being reunited with her best friend after seeing her picture of the beer cans in a Facebook post.
“It was amazing,” she says. “I guess it’s like if you ever did a scratch-off or won at the casino — it was like [winning] a million bucks. I just felt like I won the hugest thing ever.”
The thrilled companion was not only overwhelmed by the fact that Hazel was coming home, but also because Wohlegefhart had offered to make the 23-hour trek from Palmetto, Fl. to Minnesota to deliver the dog himself.
“For them to help me figure all of this out…for them to do this was huge. With kids and funds, and everything…it’s a huge thing and they took so much stress off me by even doing that, that was just fabulous of them,” Mathis says.
For Wohlegefhart, the decision came naturally.
“I really didn’t know what I was signing up for,” he admitted, adding that, actually, he “didn’t think much about it, I just knew it was the right thing to do. And I just rented a car and started [driving].”
He documented the first two days of their road trip with photos and video, which was shared in a post on the shelter’s Facebook page on Friday.
Barry Elwonger, marketing director of Motorworks Brewing, says he was “overjoyed” by the impending reunion.
“You can’t make a story that good up,” he says. “It’s just incredible. I mean, all the way in Minnesota, reunited. [Us] getting that press, and that’s the reason she’s getting her dog back. Just heartwarming.”
Mathis had been preparing for Hazel’s arrival by buying lots of treats, toys and essentials to make her feel at home again and when they were finally reunited, she called the moment “unreal.”
“I could not believe first that she was actually here, but all the grief of losing her and not knowing what happened to her, if she was ok or safe and loved...that fear and pain of knowing I may never see her again was lifted and gone,” she says. “I broke into tears ‘cause that pain was over. She’s home and it’s the best feeling to have my family back together. My heart is not missing a piece anymore, and it’s a blessing.”
Between Mathis’ eight children, whose ages range from 6 months to 17 years, Hazel will certainly get lots of love. Now, Mathis urges other owners who have lost their pets to never stop looking.
And as Hazel gets her happy ending, the fourth and final dog, Candy, a 2-year-old German Shepard-Mastiff mix, is still looking for a home.
“She is a great dog,” Wohlegefhart says. “She is beautiful…and a lot of shelter staff have been working with her. She’s a highly trainable dog…she’s a big dog, so she’s very active, so I think that having something to do is good for her.”
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