San Antonio family reunites after 11 years with missing dog in Conroe

A San Antonio family recently found a lost dog in Conroe after nearly a dozen years apart, with the pooch rescued from a life on the streets.

Angela Surrett was phoned on April 7 about Vader, her mix of Shar Pei and black-coated male Labrador retriever being housed at Conroe Animal Shelter.

Following an unwanted split in 2011, everything lined up for Vader’s warm return, his owner said.

“I believe the universe works in weird ways and things are meant to happen, Surrett said. “He’s supposed to be here. He is supposed to live out the rest of his life very spoiled and loved.

A member of the US military for 16 years, Surrett, 54, has lived outside of Texas twice during the time she and the dog were apart. Vader’s recovery comes shortly before his owners leave the state again.

Amazingly for Surrett, the dog’s microchip still had her active phone number, which made her reachable at the animal shelter.

She and her daughter lost the dog when he was around 9 months old after her then-husband gave the puppy to someone unknown to them and without their permission.

Want to help?

Sustain the conroe animal shelter, call 936-522-3550 or visit its location from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 407 Sgt. Ed Holcomb Blvd. South, Conroe.

“We’ve always loved him. He’s just the nicest, goofiest, silliest little dog,” Surrett said.

Animal shelter worker Lauri Nettles sent Surrett photos of Vader, who was malnourished and underweight with his ribs and spine showing. His hind legs were weak and his fingernails were extremely long.

Scared in a corner kennel, the dog was in dire straits.

He could only be held for three or five days, and there was no foster home or rescue available to take him in, Surrett said.

“Regardless of his background, I felt responsible because if he had lived with me all this time he would have been cared for, he would have had a great life,” Surrett said.

That same day, Surrett and her daughter, Marti, 19, made the nearly four-hour drive to Conroe to pick up Vader. The dog seemed to recognize its original owners.

“He was happy to see them. He sat up a bit” and wagged his tail “as best he could,” Nettles said.

An ‘estatic’ Marti cried when she saw the dog she lost when she was just 8, her mother said, adding that the young woman is ‘still smothering her with kisses and hugs’.

Vader has since seen a vet, who told Surrett that due to his condition, the dog was likely living on the streets for a year or more.

His health has made an “incredible” transformation in two weeks, Surrett said, as the dog receives proper care, undergoes tooth extractions and takes medication for his leg pain.

“All we can do from now on is catch up. He’s just settled in. It’s almost like he never left except now he’s a little old man with gray on his face, Surrett said.

Vader gets along well with the other family pets, including two rescue greyhounds, a Shiba Inu and a Chihuahua. Pepper, a 17-year-old cat the Surretts owned when they had Vader as a pup, completes the four-legged clan.

“Chicken dogs,” Surrett advised.

Nettles, who has worked at the animal shelter for three and a half years, said she has never seen a reunion after such a long separation as that between Vader and the Surretts.

Meanwhile, Surrett hopes Vader’s story will compel people to get involved in animal welfare efforts.

“If you can adopt, adopt. If you can’t adopt, adopt. If you can’t become a foster, you can volunteer or donate money, food, bedding, or whatever local shelters need. There are all these fun things you can do that will make a difference in the life of one of these animals,” she said. “Vador is a prime example. I got him off the streets and now he’s living a comfortable life.

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