An Arizona pup is back in the loving arms of his family 12 long years after going missing from the backyard — thanks to a microchip and a friendly animal control officer who helped bring him home.
“The second I opened up that kennel door, I saw from the dog’s body language [that] his tail just started wagging and he didn’t stop jumping the whole time — he knew,” Allyssa Sanford, Maricopa County animal control officer, told Fox News Digital.
“After all that time, he still knew. We went inside and he was running all around. He was like a new puppy again.”
Twelve years ago — when Skip and Raleigh Crandall’s kids were just 8, 10 and 12 — they adopted a 3-year-old dog, a Bichon Frise named Minion.
“He was a great little guy,” Skip Crandall of Glendale, Arizona, told Fox News Digital.
“He was a super cute little Bichon. Very playful. He would sleep with my daughter, Callie,” he added.
But Minion was also very curious.
One day when the backyard gate was accidentally left open — Minion got out.
“He and our other dog at the time ran out,” Skip Crandall said.
“One came back and the other did not,” he said.
The Crandalls said they scoured the shelters, put up signs and asked neighbors to help look for Minion, with no luck.
“It definitely was super sad,” Callie Crandall, a 20-year-old college student, told Fox News Digital.
“He was so playful and loved to sleep on my bed. We had a special bond,” she said.
“We thought the chances were slim that we would ever see him again.”
But after a month went by, the Crandalls began to lose hope.
“We thought the chances were slim that we would ever see him again,” Skip Crandall said. “We just imagined the worst, you know. It was pretty disconcerting.”
Skip Crandall said there were no sightings of Minion and the family assumed he was lost — so they tried to move on.
“As time went on, we got new dogs and the kids grew up,” he said.
“And then all of a sudden, we got this big news.”
Raleigh Crandall, an elementary school teacher, began receiving phone calls from an unknown number — and they were leaving voicemail messages.
“She couldn’t return those calls because she had a room full of first graders,” Skip Crandall said of his wife.
“So I asked her to text me the voicemail and she did,” he explained.
Skip Crandall said he listened to the voicemails and knew it was for real.
“It was a Maricopa County Animal Control field officer,” he said.
“It was legitimate because she had details around his initial adoption and information that no one else would’ve known. So we reached out and they were pretty amazing,” he added.
“I didn’t even think that was possible, to have all that time go by and the dog’s still here.”
Alyssa Sanford was the responding officer.
“I actually had to go pick up the dog from somebody who was reporting it as a stray,” Sanford said.
“So I did what we always do in the field and checked for a chip. I went back to my computer and it was in our system, but the last reported time it was updated was 2011,” she said.
Since it had been so long, Sanford said it could possibly be the same owners, but that the dog could have been re-homed.
She tried the first number and said it was disconnected, while the other one rang and she left a voicemail message.
“I said, ‘Hey, I have this dog. His name is Minion,’” Sanford said. “If he’s yours, call me back.”
Sanford had no idea how long Minion had been missing.
So when Skip Crandall returned her call — and said his dog had been missing for over a decade — she knew she was about to be involved in a special reunion.
“He said, ‘I haven’t had that dog in over 12 years,’” Sanford said.
“I was shocked. I didn’t even think that was possible, to have all that time go by and the dog’s still here. I told him, ‘The dog’s still registered to your name so you can take your dog back. But I know it has been 12 years, so I know life has probably changed,” Sanford said.
Skip Crandall made a quick call to his wife to tell her the news — and then called Sanford back right away to find out how they could get Minion back.
“Officer Sanford actually drove 20 or 22 miles or something out of the way to bring him back directly to our home so that he wouldn’t have to go through processing or anything,” Skip Crandall said.
“When they pulled up and we pulled him out of the truck, he recognized us and his tail started wagging.”
Before she arrived at the house, Sanford reminded Skip Crandall that his dog was 15 years old now — and not to expect the same playful puppy they once knew, she recalled.
“He’s old, he’s slow,” Sanford said. “His eyes were really cloudy, so I don’t really know how much he can see and I don’t think he has a lot of teeth.”
Bichons are curious, playful and peppy and have a life expectancy of 14-15 years, according to the American Kennel Club.
The Crandalls prepared themselves for the worst — but instead, they got the best.
“When they pulled up and we pulled him out of the truck, he recognized us and his tail started wagging,” said Skip Crandall.
“He started trotting around and he went inside immediately and started playing with the other dogs. It was amazing.”
Sanford said when Minion saw his family, “instantly his body language changed.”
When Callie Crandall heard the news, she raced home to see her long-lost dog.
“I walked in and he saw me and started jumping up and down and then came over and started crawling through my legs and everything,” she said.
“And then when I squatted down, he just climbed on top of me and started cuddling with me and everything. So it was definitely sweet to have that reunion.”
It was such a cool experience to be part of, just to see that Minion was back home and could tell that he was back home.
Research indicates that dogs can remember their owners, even after long periods apart, according to Silver Streak Kennels in Morris, New York.
Dogs create memories through association, including people, environments, objects and even situations.
Dogs also recognize people through sight and smell.
They rely heavily on facial recognition and their sense of smell is 40% stronger than that of humans, giving them “an incredible olfactory memory bank in which they can file away your scent.”
The Crandalls took Minion right to the vet.
“He’s got a few things we need to take care of, but I think we have a few good years left,” Skip Crandall said.
He said he’s trying not to focus on where Minion has been, but would tell other pet owners about the importance of microchipping.
“It is really important because they can lose their collar, but they can never lose the chip,” he said.
So we’re excited to have him back and he’ll have some good years here with us.
“And if it wasn’t for that, we never would’ve found him. So that was pretty neat.”
Sanford reinforced that notion.
“Absolutely microchip your pets 100%,” she said.
“It’s pretty cost-effective. Usually most places, like $20 to $30. Most shelters have microchip events sometimes, like we do at our Maricopa County shelter. And keep them updated if you move, if you change your phone number. If I hadn’t had a phone number to call, they probably would never have seen it online because who would be looking online for their dog that’s been gone for 12 years.”
Sanford also said it was nice to be part of a happy reunion. “We do have a lot of hard cases, so it’s really nice to have ‘return to owner’ situations in the field,” she said.
“But this one just kind of just blew me out of the water. It was such a cool experience to be part of, just to see that Minion was back home and I could tell that he was back home.”
As for Minion — Skip Crandall said he’s fitting in just fine.
“We taught him how to use the dog door already, so he’s going in and out again,” he said.
“He likes to go on car rides and hang his head out the window just like any dog. So we’re excited to have him back and he’ll have some good years here with us.”