Despite their efforts, there was no sign of Abby, and the Rountrees were beginning to lose hope.
Three weeks later, an unlikely and perhaps miraculous turn of events left them convinced Abby is either the luckiest or the smartest dog in town.
Rountree, a longtime cashier at Walmart, was busy working her regular shift at register No. 6 on Nov. 28.
She heard a commotion, then looked up and saw a dog inside the store over by the ice machine. People were trying to catch the dog as it ran around.
“I said, ‘It can’t be,’ ” said Rountree, who then watched staff members trail the dog as it darted through the aisles.
“I was like, ‘What in the world is happening?’ ” said Danielle Robinette, 42, a customer service associate at the Walmart. “I’m a huge animal lover, so I just followed her, and she ran up to register No. 6.”
It was Abby.
A shocked Rountree spotted the prominent patch of white fur around her snout and neck.
“I called her name and she came to me,” Rountree said. “I bent over and hugged her. I completely lost it then. I couldn’t speak. I was in complete shock and just couldn’t believe it.”
As the confused staff surrounded her and her long-lost dog, Rountree embraced Abby in silence for several minutes.
“She looked up with tears streaming down her face, and said: ‘This is Abby. She’s been missing for three weeks,’” Robinette said. “I was just floored.”
“I can’t express the feeling,” Rountree said. “All these people were there around the dog and I couldn’t even talk to them.”
Robinette started snapping photos of the improbable reunion and shared them on Facebook. Her post quickly went around social media, amassing more than 9,000 shares.
Rountree said she has no idea where Abby had been for the past several weeks, or how she managed to track down her human mom at work.
“Never in a million years did I think she would show up at Walmart,” Roundtree said.
She had imagined a reunion, but it was always that Abby would be waiting in front of her house when she came home from work.
Rountree has worked at that Walmart — about 1.5 miles from their home — for 10 years. Abby had never before been inside the store, though Rountree had brought her to the parking lot and woods behind the store several times.
“How she knew I worked there, I do not know,” she said.
Clive Wynne, a psychology professor, author and the director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, offered his professional perspective on the reunion.
“I suspect that the dog was roaming around somewhere at random until it stumbled upon a familiar location,” Wynne said. “I think it is perfectly plausible and very likely that this dog was distressed and upset and trying to find home. A dog’s navigation isn’t perfect, but it does recognize certain important, large landmarks.”
He added: “Dogs wander off in the heat of the moment — whether they spot a squirrel or food. But they have a tremendous connection and powerful emotional bond with their people.”
When Abby first ran away, Rountree and her husband went door-to-door to ask neighbors if they had spotted their mixed-breed dog. They left their contact information with as many people as they could and visited the local animal shelter in the hopes that Abby might have been brought there.
“She wasn’t skin and bones,” Rountree said, reinforcing that she believes somebody must have been feeding Abby in the time she was gone. “I want to thank whoever she came upon that gave her something to eat.”
Where Abby went or what she did while missing is still not clear, nor is how she managed to make her way to the Walmart. But the unusually cold weather could have been a factor, as she might have been seeking a warm respite.
“We kid at work that she must have known the weather was going to turn and wanted to find her way back so she could have her warm bed,” Rountree said.
Abby is a rescue dog and was almost 1 year old when she was adopted. Rountree described her as a “very loving dog, but not one that wants to lick and kiss all over your face. She is more laid back, but she wants to be with you.”
After sharing the serendipitous story with surrounding staff and customers, Rountree took her lunch break early to bring Abby home, where she was reunited with Coco — her 6-month-old chiweenie dog sister.
“Coco had just been lost and heartbroken without her,” Rountree said.
Then, after a hearty meal, Abby went straight to her bed, curled up and slept.
“It really is just unbelievable,” Rountree said. “It’s like a dream. You can’t make this stuff up.”
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