The dog found in Ramona as a matted mess has been groomed and is ready to be reunited with his owner.
A matted, ragged little stray dog will be returned to the family who loves him all because of something county animal workers found under mounds of matted hair.
San Diego County Animal Services picked up the Shih Tzu on Tuesday, after getting a call from a Ramona resident who spotted a sick looking dog running down the street.
The dog, matted from head to toe, had obviously been neglected for some time and county workers were considering criminal action when they discovered the key to the dog's identity.
Underneath all that hair was a microchip.
Hopper, a 3-year-old Shih Tzu disappeared from his Ramona home nine months ago. After going out for the day, the owners returned home and found only one of their dogs waiting for them. Hopper was missing.
“A Shih Tzu like that is not going to live off the land for nine months,” said Daniel DeSousa from San Diego County’s Department of Animal Services. “Somebody had him. Somebody obviously didn’t take very good care of him.”
Hopper, who is waiting to be reunited with his owner Thursday, has since been groomed. “He probably lost five pounds of fur when we shaved him down,” DeSousa said.
The county doesn’t know who had the animal for the past nine months or under what conditions they kept him.
“Hopper’s going home all because of the little microchip under his skin,” said DeSousa who wanted to remind pet owners that the county offers microchip procedures from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday for $20.