The vacation to Mexico for Paula Waters and her family was supposed to be fun.
Instead, they spent much of their time there posting information about their dog, Winston, after he disappeared from where he was boarded.
Mrs. Waters sat on her leather sofa Tuesday and clutched a poster of the family's 4-year-old shih tzu, which was boarded May 17 at the Hideaway Small Animal Clinic at Farm-to-Market Road 849 and Interstate 20.
"Today is really the first day that I can talk about this without crying all the way through," she said.
Mrs. Waters recalled the moment she learned that her dog had gotten loose from the outdoor kennels and disappeared.
"How could this happen, and why did the clinic wait four hours to call us to tell us our dog was missing?" she asked.
Surveillance video from a nearby convenience store showed Winston running in the parking lot about 8 a.m. May 17.
The family, still in town finishing up last-minute details before their Sunday flight to Mexico, said they were not told about Winston being loose until 11:30 a.m. on that Saturday.
"Had the clinic called me, I might have seen him, because I stopped at the same store about the same time,” she said. “I just wasn't looking for my dog. I thought he was safe inside the clinic.”
The family looked all day Saturday but had to leave for their trip, which was prepaid.
But it was not a fun trip.
"It was very miserable, doing nothing but posting on various pet sites in East Texas, trying to find our dog," she said.
Clinic owner and veterinarian Jason Beard said he is sorry the dog came up missing, but added sometimes dogs just get away, and over the past 15 years, he believes about five dogs have gone missing from his clinic.
He knows the Waters family is upset, and he said he is trying to accommodate them.
“We try to offer them everything we can,” he said. “Obviously the most important thing is to try and find the pet. I wish I could say that is an easy thing to do, but if the pet doesn't want to be found, that is not an easy thing to do.”
In the first few hours of Winston's disappearance, a phone call to the clinic placed a shih tzu with a clinic rabies tag in south Tyler.
Two of Beard's employees traveled 30 minutes to retrieve the animal, only to learn it was not Winston and lived only a few doors away.
"Hindsight, yeah, if we would've said, ‘Hey what’s the tag number on that dog?’ But what's the chances? And it was a patient of ours," he said.
Beard said he has walked through the nearby woods looking for Winston, called local veterinarians to alert them and put it on Facebook.
Beard was unsure how the dog escaped, but new security measures could be in the works.
"This is a bad situation for all of us, for the Waters, for us,” he said. “Hopefully it's not for Winston. We all hope that someone’s picked him up and he's in someone's home right now. We just don't know that right now.”
Mrs. Waters said her family hopes someone will see the story and will return Winston to his family.
"He is our family,” she said. “We want him back where he belongs.”
If you have any information about Winston's whereabouts please call the Waters at 903-360-4000 or 903-360-7020. the family is offering a reward of an undisclosed amount for his safe return.
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