TEARS were shed followed by a warm and frantic embrace when Lisa Gallagher stepped through the door of her Omagh home on Wednesday.
Three years ago the Gallagher family lost their five-year-old Collie Flo. Now unbelievably she was back in their arms after turning up ten miles away in Newtownstewart.
Gaunt, skinny and frightened when found, the beloved family pet was quickly returning to her old self last week, basking in the love and affection being heaped on her by the Gallaghers.
Flo had gone missing from their home in Gortrush Drive over Halloween 2011.
Lisa did all the usual things heartbroken pet owners do when a much loved dog goes missing. They took to social media, put up posters and took out ads on radio and in newspapers, but to no avail.
“We had resigned ourselves to the fact that either somebody had taken her or, or she had been run over,” she disclosed.
It was a bolt from the blue then, when Lisa spotted a photograph taken of a Collie dog on Facebook 11 days ago. Pictured in the area of the former Nestle factory, the dog appeared to be a stray.
“I thought ‘I know that dog!’,” said Lisa.
The photo had been posted by long-time Grovehill Animal Shelter volunteer Janice Porter.
“Janice had seen her down at the Nestlé site the previous Saturday. She had tried to get close to her, but she was just too scared.”
Now working in Belfast, Lisa took two days off work to return home in the hope of tracing Flo.
Searches of the old factory and local housing estate yielded eye witness accounts of the Collie, but the dog was not to be found.
‘LIKE SEEING A GHOST’
But then they hit a breakthrough. Lisa’s cousin Paul Moss, who lives in Newtownstewart, spotted the discussion on Facebook.
He had just spotted Collie in the town and immediately called the Gallaghers.
“My father James and I got into the car and headed for Newtown.”
They searched the local streets and alley ways, before a dog was spotted in the distance.
“We couldn’t get her. My cousin and a friend had gone the other way to meet her, but she ran into a field.”
Further attempts were made over the next few days, but Lisa had to return to work in Belfast.
Meanwhile her brother-in-law’s mother Julie Snaith had kept up the search for Flo.
Two days later she was sitting at her desk in Belfast when her phone blurted out a text message from her sister.
Julie had been reversing her car when Flo appeared in the rear-view mirror.
“She got out called her and Flo came over, lay down and let her put the lead on.”
‘I was crying’
Lisa came home the following night and couldn’t hide the emotion.
“I was crying. I came in the door and she came over and sniffed me for a second and then gave me her paw and licked me.
“She was great, you would never know she was gone,” said Lisa. “I thought she would be strange, but not at all.
“A girl in a shop in Newtownstewart said they called her the ghost dog, because she only came out at night. She was so scared, she waited until night-time to try and get food.”
What happened to Flo in the last three years remains a mystery to the Gallaghers.
“I don’t know how we’ll ever find out,” said Lisa. “Unless she learns to talk!”