When Duke first saw Joshua Edwards, he stopped, sniffed and then quickly began licking Edwards’ face.
The 120-pound Rottweiler — panting in excitement — lay down and flipped over so Edwards could rub his belly.
“I think he knew who I was right away,” said Edwards, who last saw his Rottweiler eight years ago when he said his puppy was stolen from his backyard. “I never thought I would see him again.’’
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Edwards, who broke down in tears, was wrong — thanks to a microchip and a Good Samaritan who brought him to an animal clinic.
“I was blown away when I got the call,” he said
The happy reunion happened last week at Tamiami Animal Hospital, after Maria Elena Cartaya found the 9-year-old dog wandering May 15 along Southwest 137th Avenue. He had a limp and was dirty, but “he was a sweet dog and needed help.”
Cartaya, who often stops for strays, said she loaded the dog into her Honda Civic and brought him to the clinic. Veterinarian Juan Santamarina said the dog looked like he had been cared for, and only recently ended up on the streets.
As part of the Rottweiler’s checkup: A scan for a microchip.
“We always hope the animals have chips,” Santamarina said.
Sure enough, Duke did, through Avid Identification Systems.
Cartaya, with the help of the vet’s office, tracked down Edwards, who was listed as the dog’s owner on the microchip. Luis Aguilar, a department manager for Avid’s PETtrac Pet Recovery Network, confirmed that Edwards registered Duke’s chip in 2007.
He likened the chip to a Social Security number for a pet.
“We have had these situations in the past, but it’s usually days or weeks,” he said. “This just proves the system works.”
Edwards said when Duke and his other dog went missing on April 7, 2007, he was heartbroken. He was living in the Shenandoah area at the time and he said he combed the neighborhood, knocking on doors for months.
He also checked the animal shelter daily for at least three months. He kept pictures of Duke and eventually got another Rottweiler and named him Duke Jr. He said the short time he had with Duke, playing with a tennis ball and teaching him tricks, led him to become a dog trainer.
He is now married and has two sons, a 3-year-old named Cooper and a 3-month-old named Graham. The family has three dogs: Minnie, a Dachshund, Duke Jr., a Rottweiler, and Blackie, a Shepherd-Rottweiler mix.
But when he got the call he didn’t hesitate in saying he would bring Duke home to his house in Coconut Grove.
His wife Melissa Ebanks said she had always heard stories about Duke, but “never would have thought,” she would be able to meet him.
“That dog meant so much to him,” she said.
By afternoon, Duke was in his new yard, exploring and marking his territory. Minnie sniffed her new brother as he roamed.
Edwards said Duke obviously was older now and suffered from hip problems.
“But it’s definitely him,” he said, pointing out a skin flap near his nose. “He is definitely the same goofball.”
He wonders where Duke has been for so long.
“I wish he could talk and tell us what happened,” he said, adding that someone obviously took care of him for most of his life.
When Edwards held up a tennis ball, Duke knew it was time to play. Edwards tried out some old commands to see if Duke would comply. Holding his hand low, Duke lay down, as he was told.
“He still remembers,” Edwards said, rubbing the dog’s large head. “Good boy.”