"We saw a completely different dog."
In March of 2021, Panda and his sister, Nala, were playing together in their backyard in Colorado when they suddenly disappeared.
“We’re not sure if they got out somehow,” Diana Luna Torres, Panda’s mom, told The Dodo. “Nala came back the next morning, but [Panda] never did.”
The family did everything they could think of to try and find Panda. They put up fliers, posted all over social media and walked the entire neighborhood calling out for him. Nothing worked. Panda was gone.
“We never stopped thinking about him,” Torres said. “We would always think, ‘What if Panda is here?’ We would call out his name sometimes, or people would send us pictures and say, ‘Hey, I think we found Panda,’ and it was never him.”
Still, Panda’s family never gave up hope — and two years after going missing in Colorado, Panda was found all the way in Kansas.
Panda was taken in by Helping Hands Humane Society, who at that point had no idea that Panda had a family who was missing him. Unfortunately, whatever Panda went through while he was gone did a number on him, and he was incredibly fearful when he arrived at the shelter. The shelter staffers were unable to get very close to him most of the time, and it took them a week until they were finally able to scan him for a microchip and contact his family.
“Just getting that call and to know that it was him, it was his chip number, it was amazing,” Torres said. “We were full of emotions. We were very happy, very excited, at first — our first question was, ‘Is he doing OK? How is he?’ They did mention to us that he wasn’t being friendly, so we were also worried about if he had any trauma. We weren’t sure if he was his old self.”
The shelter warned Panda’s family that he might be a little different than they remembered him. Panda was so scared of everyone around him, and no one could be certain of how he would react when he saw his family again. Despite not knowing how it would go, Panda’s family was more than ready to bring him home. They drove all the way from Colorado to Kansas and arrived at the shelter full of hope, so excited to see their boy again.
Everyone held their breath as Panda’s parents approached his kennel — and the moment he saw them, everything changed.
“Panda had been barking at any of our staff who came near his kennel, letting us know he didn't want company,” Emi Griess, the communications coordinator at Helping Hands Humane Society, told The Dodo. “However, when Panda's parents approached the kennel, we saw a completely different dog. He was suddenly whining with joy, wagging his tail, and when he was finally able to, he jumped straight into their arms, proving he had missed them just as much as they had missed him over the past two years.”
Panda’s reunion with his family brought tears to everyone’s eyes. He’d been so scared, and in an instant, he was back to his old self again.
Once he had his parents back by his side, Panda happily interacted with everyone at the shelter, letting them all pet him for the first time as they said goodbye and wished him well. Panda’s family took him back home to Colorado, where he fit right back into their routine like nothing had changed.
“He’s doing awesome now,” Torres said. “Everything feels like if he was never gone … Everything is the same just how he left it, so him coming back, adjusting, I think it was a little bit easier for him.”
Panda’s family never lost hope that they’d find him one day, and it seems he never lost hope either.
Photo Source: DIANA LUNA TORRES
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