Clover dog owner: 'I never expected to see her again'

Dana Shaw of Clover is pictured with her beagle, Cooper. Cooper was returned to Shaw and her family after the dog left their Charlotte home three years ago.
Dana Shaw of Clover is pictured with her beagle, Cooper. Cooper was returned to Shaw and her family after the dog left their Charlotte home three years ago.

After three years, three names and 358 miles, Cooper the dog is finally home.

Cooper, a beagle owned by Clover resident Dana Shaw, recently came back to the Shaw family after a three-year absence that took the dog from Charlotte to Virginia.

And Shaw is thrilled to have her dog back.

"It's been amazing," Shaw said last week, "because I never thought I'd see the dog again. I assumed she was dead, or that somebody had taken her, and I was never going to get her back."

Shaw was living in Charlotte when Cooper -- who had a habit of escaping for days at a time -- ran away and disappeared. Cooper was picked up by a surrogate family at Charlotte's Northlake Mall and kept for a year.

Then Cooper moved to Virginia with the daughter of the woman who had found the beagle in Charlotte. But Cooper escaped again. The woman who found her discovered that the dog carried a microchip in its hip, which enabled her to be traced back to Shaw.

Dr. Gretchen Love, Cooper's current veterinarian at Palmetto Veterinary Medicine, said Shaw never would have been able to get Cooper back without the microchip.

"There's no way she would've got the pet back," Love said. "It was just too far away."

Before she began moving around, Cooper lived for four years with Shaw, her two children and a miniature pinscher. In 2001, Shaw and her husband, Stephen, adopted the beagle as she was being taken to the pound in a pickup truck.

Never complacent, Cooper was always in search of something. Shaw said the dog often would pick up a scent and disappear from home for days on end. One time, the disappearing act lasted longer and the Shaw family became worried.

They searched for her, checked the local pound and posted pictures of Cooper online, but they had no success. Shaw said she always expected to hear Cooper's howl in the night or her paws at the front door, but that never happened.

Cooper was gone. And Shaw said she doesn't know which member of her family took Cooper's disappearance harder.

"I wasn't sure if I, my 10-year-old daughter, Taylor, or my (other) dog was more upset," she said. "The miniature pincher was upset forever because they kind of grew together."

They all had known Cooper was one to wander.

When the family lived in Charlotte, Cooper repeatedly jumped over or dug under the family's fence. They tried invisible fencing, but Cooper just ran right through it, zapping herself with her electronic collar in the process.

When she returned home, however, Cooper was wily enough to howl for her family instead of running back through the invisible fencing and taking another zap.

The Shaws' search for Cooper continued as three years passed. The family made posts online in search of her. They updated their address when they moved to Clover six months ago.

Kari Davenport met up with Cooper in Virginia, when the beagle got back to her old tricks, disappearing from the family that had taken her there.

The dog ran in front of Davenport's car, and she lured it home with dog food.

Davenport had Cooper scanned to see if the dog carried a microchip that could be used to find her owner. Davenport was shocked when the microchip showed that the owners lived in South Carolina.

"I thought, 'My, you've came a long way,'" Davenport said. "I wondered how the dog got from point A to point B."

Davenport called Shaw and told her she had found Cooper. In disarray, Shaw broke down crying.

There was just one obstacle for Shaw. Her dog was seven hours away, in Portsmouth, Va. Shaw's mother-in-law, Brigitte Henderson, and her two daughters made the trek.

During their trip, Davenport called and told them that a woman had called the Portsmouth Humane Society looking for a beagle named Moxy -- the name that Cooper had received from her second family. Cooper had later been named Ella by Davenport because of her elephant-like ears.

Both families were present when Cooper was returned to the Shaws.

"I was really afraid that she wouldn't remember us," Shaw said, referring to the dog. "But the second we hit the door and started calling her Cooper, she came right to us."

Henderson said she was surprised by Cooper's return.

"I never expected to see her again," she said. "Not after so long. It was overwhelming to see that she was still alive after all that time. Every time I think about it, I just cry."

Shaw was thankful for the help of the microchip, and for the return of her dog. Cooper, she said, is "like my kid."