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August 21, 2003

Deaf dog reunited with family

From: Philadelphia Inquirer, PA - Aug 21, 2003

Elton went missing for 11 days from his Buckingham Township home.

By Amie Parnes
Inquirer Suburban Staff

Due to a production error, this story was not complete in Wednesday's Bucks County edition.

And all along, Elton was lounging in a shady spot by the pool.

The disappearance of the 3-year-old Australian shepherd triggered an 11-day search. Whistling was useless. Calling his name, pointless. Elton, fluffy, furred and friendly, is deaf.

But Tuesday morning, after more than a dozen sightings and close calls around the Solebury area, the caretaker of a 40-acre estate caught Elton taking an afternoon snooze.

He called Ann Ross, who had spent the last week distributing flyers and talking to residents with her husband, Tom, and their 13-year-old daughter, Katie - Elton's family who live in Buckingham Township. Katie Ross taught the dog sign language and signed him up for agility classes.

"Your dog is here," the man told them.

The family was at the property in less than 10 minutes.

With an open jar of peanut butter in one hand and a Frisbee in the other, Ann Ross approached Elton, head on. Elton saw her coming and started to run. Ross threw the Frisbee in front of her. And the dog remembered.

"Once he realized it was me, he was as excited as a dog can be," she said.

"His butt was wiggling," Katie Ross said, laughing. "It was so cute."

The 50-pound dog escaped from the Grooming Den, a Solebury kennel, on Aug. 9, while the Ross family was on an eight-day bicycle trip.

Since then, Elton, a mix of white, black and gray, was seen numerous times walking north of New Hope. The family received calls from residents saying they had seen him wandering by the Delaware River and near the Solebury School. Others said they saw him close to Aquetong Road. But he was too quick for anyone to catch him.

Elton's adventure ended Tuesday at the estate about a mile south of the kennel.

He is a little skinnier and a little dirtier.

"At least he's OK," Katie Ross said. "He still looks healthy."

On Tuesday afternoon, the family allowed Elton to lick the peanut butter jar clean, since it is his favorite food. They also gave him a big bone and other doggie treats.

"He's been through so much," Katie Ross said. "He lived alone for so many days."

It could have been a lot worse, Ann Ross joked.

"He made this 40-acre estate his home," she said. "He has great taste."

© 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.