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Service dog missing for over 3 years reunited with family in time for the holidays

Michigan couple Steve and Debra Mejeur received a very special Christmas surprise this year. The pair said they were reunited with their beloved black Lab mix, Lola, who went missing over three years ago. 

In October 2017, the couple and then 5-year-old Lola were visiting a friend in Elk Grove Village, Illinois — about three hours from their home in Kalamazoo — when their world turned upside down. Somehow, the pup escaped from the fenced-in chain-link backyard of their friend's home, Debra told CBS News.

Lola, who Debra said had never run away before, was more than just a pet to the couple. She was also Debra's service dog. Debra told CBS News she has epilepsy with grand mal seizures, and said Lola was her seizure response dog to help her after the seizures would occur.

"I went through so many different emotions when I found out [Lola was missing]," Debra told CBS News in an email. "I immediately started walking around the neighborhood and yelling out her name."

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Debra Mejeur and her pup Lola pose for a photo.  Steve and Debra Mejeur

The couple tried desperately to find Lola after she went missing, and stayed in Illinois for the night to search for her. Debra said she joined every Facebook group she could find in the community in an attempt to locate the pup. 

They had to go home the next day, but Debra said she hopped on a Greyhound bus the day after and headed back to Illinois. She said she stayed at a friend's home for an entire week to search for Lola, recruiting volunteers to help with the effort.

The couple spent about a month looking for her, making the three-hour trip from their home every weekend. Debra said she was constantly communicating with the volunteers on the ground and posted in the Facebook groups for two years to try to get any leads, but came up empty-handed. 

So, she was shocked when she received a message on December 3 stating Lola had been found, advising her to contact the Dupage County Animal Control in Illinois. 

"I immediately called the shelter and asked 'By chance, do you have a female black lab named Lola there?' The lady on the phone quickly responded with 'Are you Debra?' I started shaking and crying," Debra said. "I couldn't stay still. I was pacing back and forth the whole time. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions. I was in disbelief and shock because it's been 3 years. I was relieved that she was finally safe."

Omg. I wasn't expecting this! 3 years later and we get our little girl back!!!

Posted by Debra Dinstett-Mejeur on Thursday, December 3, 2020

And it turns out that while Lola was lost, she certainly hadn't been alone.

A couple who live about 10 miles away from where Lola disappeared had been feeding her outside for two and a half years, Debra said. But Lola never allowed them to get close enough to capture her before she would run into the nearby woods. Finally, on December 3 of this year, they were able to catch her and brought her to the shelter. 

Luckily, Lola had been microchipped and the county was able to track the Mejeur's down after scanning her chip. Lola was reunited with her family just two days later. 

"It took her a little time to recognize me," Debra explained. "When she finally came up to me, she did a small sniff, licked my forehead and that's when she knew. Her tail started wagging and she turned into an excited dog!  She heard my husband laughing from about 20-30 feet behind us and ran right to him without any hesitation."

The sweet reunion was captured on video, showing Lola dressed for the occasion with a massive red bow. 

Posted by Debra Dinstett-Mejeur on Saturday, December 5, 2020

Debra said Lola's personality hasn't changed at all, adding she even remembers her commands. "It's like she's never been gone," she said. 

But the years outside did have a physical impact on Lola, who is now 8. She lost 10 pounds, was diagnosed with Lyme disease and has some dental issues. But Debra said she's just glad she found her way back to them. 

"I don't think its really hit us that she's here yet but we are just over the moon and forever grateful to the couple that looked after her," Debra said. "They are now a part of our lives forever."

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