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1 year later, a happy tail

In late 2005, tiny pup Havana disappeared. An unknown microchip brings her home again.

Published February 2, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Debra Langlo's dog, a Coton De Tulear named Havana, had been missing for 15 months. Then Langlo got a call this week; Havana had shown up about 5 miles away.

HUDSON - Havana was a 5-pound wisp of a thing, a happy young dancer that sat pretty and played dead. Then one autumn afternoon, minutes after her bath, she disappeared from the back porch.

Debra Langlo put Havana's face on fliers, described her in classified newspaper ads that ran for months. Missing: Tiny white puppy, a rare toy breed known as the Coton De Tulear.

"I cried for six months," said Langlo, 50.

Six months, then a year. With a heavy heart, Langlo put away Havana's photographs. Her husband bought her a new dog named Kayla, who got Havana's old squeaky toys. But Langlo never broke the habit of looking in the "found" section of the classified ads, just in case.

Then this week, more than a year after Havana disappeared, Langlo got a phone call.

Less than 5 miles away, on Hudson Avenue, a stranger named Debbie D'Elia was holding a white dog that her 16-year-old daughter, Danielle, had found in the driveway Saturday night. I think it might be yours, she said.

The secret to finding Havana, after all this time, was in Havana herself: A $40 microchip inserted between her shoulder blades back when she was at the kennel. Langlo never knew Havana had it.

D'Elia had noticed that the little dog looked recently groomed. "It'd just been shaved," she said, "except for the poofy tail."

So D'Elia decided to visit local groomers to see if they recognized the little dog. Her first stop was the nearby Hudson veterinarian, Companion Animal Hospital, where office manager Helen Fast decided to scan the animal to see if it had a microchip.

"Lo and behold," said Fast, "this number pops up."

After a few calls to kennels in Missouri and Illinois where Havana lived as a newborn puppy, they traced the dog to Langlo, whose husband paid nearly $2,000 for the pup and had her flown into Tampa International Airport. She was a wedding present.

"A wedding present, and my new child," said Langlo, whose son is grown.

D'Elia drove Havana to Langlo's house, where the owner was waiting by the door in tears.

"She jumped in my arms!" Langlo said of Havana.

So where could Havana have been for 15 months? The dog had obviously been living with someone; the long-haired dog had just been shaven. Other than fleas, she appeared in good health.

"I keep looking at her," Langlo said, "and saying, 'I wish you could tell me where you've been.'"

Havana has changed since Langlo last saw her. She's bigger, by about 10 pounds. And, Langlo said, she seems to have forgotten some of their old games.

"I used to go 'bang, bang,' and she'd play dead," Langlo said. "She remembered 'bang, bang' a little, but then she sat right back up."

But she's finding her place again in Hudson beach. She's nosed Chucky the cat, whom Havana knew when she was a puppy. She's getting to know Kayla, and the pair now have matching hot pink beds.

Kayla has been a little jealous of the homecoming. As the conversation focused on Havana Thursday, Kayla urinated on the carpet. Langlo bent over to clean it up, and both dogs hovered nearby, watching.

"It'll just take some time," Langlo sang to Kayla, who started to perk up. "Some time." Havana started dancing, as if she knew all about time.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at 727 869-6247 or

Fast Facts:



Veterinarians use a needle to insert a rice grain-sized microchip embedded with an identification number into a pet, says Companion Animal Hospital manager Helen Fast. The microchips cost between $35 and $40. "We advocate them," Fast said. Scanners are used to detect the microchip information. The microchip companies maintain a database to trace the identification number to the pet's owner. It's important for pet owners to register change of address or phone numbers , Fast said.

[Last modified February 2, 2007, 05:34:13]

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