Reunion with long-lost dog not as planned

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It should have been a joyful reunion Saturday between a man and his best friend.

Dave Vitali drove all the way from Georgia to be reunited with the dog he lost in November here in Indiana.

Unfortunately, the reunion did not go as planned.

"He was just so quiet and his eyes just kind of spoke to you," said Ann Miller, speaking about the golden retriever she adopted last week from the Cass County Animal Shelter.

After hearing the dog's story, Miller said she felt like it was meant to be.

"One of the workers had told me he had been euthanized twice," said Miller of the dog who looked to be about ten years old.

Miller said each time the dog was put down, he woke up.

Miller thought the story was so incredible, she posted it on Facebook.

Within minutes she learned the dog she was calling Roscoe was probably a lost dog named Max, whose owner had been looking for him since November.

Dave Vitali was with his dog Max, driving from Georgia to Michigan to see his daughter last Thanksgiving, when Vitali crashed along an Indiana highway in Marshall County.

Max took off from the accident scene.

"The lady EMT worker said, 'Well, he's across the expressway. I'll go get him,'" Dave Vitali remembered.

"She came back a few minutes later as they were still trying to get me out of the truck and she said, 'he took off running,'" continued Vitali.

Vitali spent a night in the hospital, but was too injured to search for his dog, so his friends got the word out about Max on Facebook.

Vitali heard from people in Indiana who offered to hang up flyers with Max's picture, but there was no sign of the golden retriever.

"I just couldn't believe how many people cared and how many people were willing to help," said Vitali of the people who reached out.

Last week though, Vitali heard from Miller who told him she thought she had found his dog. She sent Vitali pictures and video just to be sure.

"I was 99.9% sure it was him when I saw it," said Vitali of the images of the dog.

So this weekend, Vitali drove 700 miles to the Petco in Kokomo for the reunion he'd been praying about for months.

One look at the golden retriever with Miller, though, and Vitali knew something was wrong.

"It's not him," Vitali told Miller.

"He's got real narrow hips in the back and Max was wide all the way," he explained.

"Max was taller, probably a good three to four inches taller," Vitali continued.

"He's a good dog, but it's not my dog," said Vitali of the golden retriever in front of him.

"Here we thought we had found him," said Miller with a crestfallen look on her face.

Now the golden retriever Ann Miller thought was meant to be hers when she took him home from the shelter is going home with her for good.

As for Dave Vitali, he said he's not giving up hope on finding the dog he loves either.

"To get my dog back, I'd go across country," he said, tearing up.

That's what Vitali's ready to do, should the real Max ever turn up.

Vitali says his story is a lesson for other owners - to microchip their pets even you they think they'll never turn up missing.

He says if he ever finds Max again that's the first thing he's going to do.