Nine years after vanishing from outside her Australian family's home, Muffy the dog was found alive and well this month in another backyard — 1,200 miles away — officials said today.
Inspectors with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were investigating a possible animal cruelty case at a home in the southern city of Melbourne two weeks ago when they found the fluffy white mutt sleeping outside on a scrap of cardboard, Victoria state RSPCA spokesman Tim Pilgrim said.
A microchip in Muffy's neck identified her owners, and, after a few days of searching for a current phone number, officials tracked down Natalie Lampard, who hadn't seen Muffy since the pooch disappeared from her backyard in the eastern city of Brisbane nine years ago.
"When the RSPCA described her, I told them her name; I knew immediately it was our Muffy," Lampard said. "It was totally out of the blue — after nine years, I thought she was long gone."
The owners of the Melbourne house where Muffy was discovered said they found the dog about a year ago wandering along a street, Pilgrim said. But where had Muffy spent the previous eight years? And how did she get all the way to Melbourne — about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) from Brisbane?
"Nobody knows," Pilgrim said. "The mystery continues for old Muffy."
Muffy was suffering from a severe allergic reaction to fleas and has been under treatment since the RSPCA removed her from the Melbourne home, Pilgrim said. The dog, which the Lampards originally adopted from an RSPCA shelter near Brisbane, is recovering well and should be in good enough shape to fly back home on Tuesday, Pilgrim said.
Lampard got Muffy as a gift for her now 17-year-old daughter Chloe, and the two had been inseparable, Lampard said.
"After the RSPCA called, I rang my daughter and asked her if she was sitting down, then told her they'd found Muffy," Lampard said. "She's over the moon and there'll be a few tears shed when they see each other again. But just how she got down to Melbourne I guess is a mystery that will never be answered."