March 27, 2013 at 3:59 PM ET
When Ben was separated from the love of his life, the mixed German shepherd showed there was no distance too far that would prevent him from reuniting with her.
Separated from the mother of his children after he was adopted from the Terre Haute (Ind.) Humane Society, Ben went on a 10-mile trek in the middle of winter to find his way back to Jade, a 1-year-old mixed German shepherd.
On Dec. 28, the 4 1/2-year-old, 70-pound dog ran away from owners Courtney and Jason Lawler and traveled across a wooded landscape in freezing temperatures to return to the Humane Society shelter, where Jade was still living.
After finding out about Ben's remarkable journey and seeing the strong bond between the two dogs, the Lawlers decided to bring Jade home as well.
“It was amazing,’’ Courtney Lawler told TODAY.com. “I was really shocked because we thought he was still in our area when he got away, and he walked 10 miles away from us. We knew that they had been caught together (by the Humane Society) and that they stayed together (before Ben was adopted), but we didn’t realize how strong of a bond they had.’’
“We do have the occasional dog that will come back from not very far away, but 10 miles is a pretty good distance and that was some pretty rough territory that dog would have to go through,’’ Jacob Harrod, an adoption counselor at the Terre Haute Humane Society, told TODAY.com. “There’s never been anything like this that’s happened here before.’’
Ben had previously run away twice from the Humane Society shelter and returned, which may explain how he knew to find the place from the Lawlers' home, according to Harrod.
The bond between the dogs made the Lawlers realize that if they wanted to avoid Ben continually running away, they would have to adopt Jade. In the first week of January, they added her to their home, which also includes their 3-year-old son.
“We think that since (Ben) did this, he won’t be happy unless he has her and will keep looking for a way to get loose and come back to her,’’ Lawler said. “We thought, ‘If this is going to keep happening, we can’t leave without her.' Everything’s been pretty good since we brought them both home.’’
The shelter took in the two dogs when they were strays last summer, after Jade became pregnant with six puppies, which eventually found homes through the shelter.
Even after Ben ran away from the Lawlers and returned to see Jade at the shelter, it took employees a lot of effort to catch him.
“It took them over a day to actually catch him because he was being smart,’’ Lawler said. “They had Jade in a penned-in area outside the building where dogs go to exercise, but he knew if he went in, they would close the gate, so he stayed outside the gate. They had to use a (tranquilizer) dart gun as a last resort and still ended up having to track him on foot for hours before he got groggy enough to slow down.’’
A few days later, the Lawlers returned and decided to adopt Jade as well, bringing home both dogs. Though the canine duo was initially very skittish around humans, taking four months before they allowed anyone to pet them at the shelter, they are definitely warming up to their new owners.
“They’ve been pretty confident around our son," Lawler said. "He’s been doing very well around them after we taught him at first to know when to back off. We give them attention and give them time to let them know they can roam around the house, and hopefully they will continue to open up.’’