Woman loses pet dog in France - then finds it in Portugal

The dog went missing from the garden and was later presumed dead

"A crazy story!" The chihuahua was found hundreds of kilometres away across two international borders (image for illustration only)
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A French woman has described the moment she found out her dog, who had been missing for a month and was presumed dead, was alive and well…1,700 km away in Portugal.

Céline normally lives with her chihuahua Joy in Villar-Saint-Pancrace (Hautes-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) - but when the pup went missing, she had no idea what had happened.

“We do not know whether she was stolen or escaped,” she told BFMTV, saying that the dog had been in the garden when she disappeared.

“For days, we stuck up posters, checked with neighbours…we have been searching for her intensively. And then we said that she must have died of cold, or been eaten by a fox, and that we would never see her again.”

‘Found a dog in a field’

But then, the heartbroken owner was contacted by a vet in Savoie, saying he had received an email from a vet in Portugal who had scanned Joy’s microchip. She asked the vet to forward her the email.

Read also: Pet owners in France urged to microchip animals 
Read also: What is I-CAD? France’s pet database explained 

“When I received it, I thought it was a joke,” said Céline. “It was written half in French, half in Portuguese.”

With the help of a friend who speaks Portuguese, she was able to understand the email and contact the vet. He explained that a woman near Ponte de Lima (in the Norte region) had found a dog in a field next door to her, and had taken it to the vet.

“He then emailed all the French vets that he could find,” she said.

Read also: Reader's tip on pet passport after cat issues boarding UK-France ferry 

Ponte de Lima is a town in northern Portugal, around 40 km from the border with Spain. It is also more than 1,700 km away from Villar-Saint-Pancrace - and no explanation has been found of how the dog got there.

Now, Céline is on her way to Ponte de Lima to pick up her errant pooch. “I thought she was dead [so] this is extraordinary,” she said. “It’s a crazy story!”

Microchip for safety

Pet owners in France are urged to microchip their animals, as it can help - as in Joy’s case - lost, stolen, and stray animals to be reunited with their owners. It also makes it easier for authorities to track unregulated breeders, collect animal population data, and attribute health test results correctly.

In France, cats and dogs can be identified with a microchip, a tattoo, or both forms of identification.

Microchips are the most common form of identification to be offered by vets in France today, and are the only form of ID accepted if you wish to travel with your pet.

Pet identification microchips are around the size of a grain of rice, and are inserted under the skin of an animal in the neck or between the shoulder blades. Each microchip contains a code with 15 numbers that can be identified by an electric reader.

Microchips are biocompatible, non-magnetic, non-electric, and do not affect the health of animals.

In France, microchips must be inserted by a registered vet. The procedure costs around €40-€70 depending on the veterinary practice owners choose to use.

More information on microchipping in France, and the I-CAD pet identification database, is available on the official website Identifier-mon-animal.fr.