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'Just a miracle': B.C. family reunited with Delilah the Chihuahua years after disappearance

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A reunion with their long-lost dog was the last thing Mary Kleiner's family expected to receive this holiday season. Then came a text message from a stranger.

"It's just a miracle," Kleiner said Friday after retrieving Delilah the Chihuahua from the B.C. SPCA.

The tiny, frail and elderly dog vanished without a trace from the Vancouver family's yard in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden disappearance was particularly sad, coming just months after their other Chihuahua, Samson, had died on Christmas Day.

Kleiner said they did everything they could think of to find Delilah, from putting up posters to splashing her picture on social media to calling her name day after day in their neighbourhood.

"I know if she heard me yelling, she would come out," Kleiner said.

The family lives near Queen Elizabeth Park, which left them worried Delilah might have had a run-in with a coyote – but they never found her collar, nor any evidence she was harmed.

Kleiner felt certain the dog was still alive, but the family eventually had to give up their search. She and her husband settled on a story that would provide them – and their four children – with some comfort.

With so many people worried and isolated during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, the parents decided Delilah might have been scooped up by someone in dire need of companionship.

"That's what we told the kids," Kleiner said. "We said you know what, we lost her. Maybe she'll come home, but if she doesn't, maybe someone needed her during that time even more than we did."

AN UNEXPECTED TEXT

More than two-and-a-half years later, there was a notification on Kleiner's phone. A stranger had seen the family's social media posts about Delilah from March 2020 and recognized the Chihuahua in pictures shared this week by the SPCA.

Describing Delilah as a "sweet angel," the animal welfare agency said the Chihuahua had been discovered by employees at a Trail Appliances store in Richmond. Delilah was found alone – cold and shivering – in a box.

How she got there, the family may never know. Kleiner urged anyone who recognizes the dog and has information on her whereabouts over the last 33 months, including any veterinarians who might have cared for her, to reach out.

"I don't want to get anyone in trouble, I just want to know where she's been," she said.

Delilah was also suffering a host of health problems. She's now partially blind, her hearing is impaired, her teeth are gone and she's underweight.

While Delilah will need ongoing care, Kleiner said the family was unbelievably grateful to learn that her early vet bills were covered by the SPCA.

"The SPCA is amazing. Donate to them, please," she said.

On Friday evening, the Chihuahua was relaxing in the family's home and getting reacquainted with the couple's four children – plus meeting a fifth who arrived after her disappearance.

"It feels like she's been here the whole time," Kleiner said. "It's crazy."

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