KINGSVILLE, TEXAS -- A Harrisburg native now residing in Kingsville, Texas, is fighting for the return of his family's dog after what he says was a series of serious missteps by animal welfare organizations.
Brian Buchanan, known to many in Harrisburg by his nickname "Buck," is a U.S. Border Patrol agent in south Texas. He's a dog handler, and after his canine partner "Endy" was retired several years ago, Buchanan and his family adopted the Belgian Malinois.
Endy has enjoyed a life of ease since, until the new year, Buchanan said. On New Year's Eve, when some neighbors fired off some firecrackers, Endy disappeared.
"That is one thing about that particular breed. They don't like loud noises like firecrackers, thunderclaps or gunshots," Buchanan said.
The Buchanan family combed the neighborhood and made calls to the city's animal control department, where he was told his dog had not been located.
However, Buchanan found out later a neighbor living about a mile away found Endy and called the city's animal control.
Because of the similarity in appearance of the Belgian Malinois to the German shepherd, Endy apparently was identified as such, Buchanan said.
After more days of searching and calling, he found Endy's picture on the Facebook page for the Kingsville Animal Advocates organization.
"It was him, there was no doubt," Buchanan said. "People ask me how I knew, but I could tell it was him just like I can tell my own boys. No doubt."
When he contacted that animal organization about getting his dog back, though, he was in for a shock. The group said Buchanan was mistaken, and that the dog in the photo was not his. That animal had been in the group's possession since Dec. 2, he was told.
That wasn't the only shock. Because the group claimed to have had the dog more than 30 days, it had been transferred to the American Belgian Malinois Rescue, a dog rescue group devoted to that breed. He said he was told the dog now was in Wisconsin.
Repeated inquiries from both organizations resulted in responses telling him he was wrong, he said.Buchanan said at no point was Endy checked for an ID microchip. All Border Patrol dogs are chipped.
"They said this wasn't my dog, that this dog didn't have a chip and so on," he said. "I knew they hadn't checked for one. "
A friend put Buchanan in contact with Richard Geraci of the Retired Police Canine Foundation, who has joined Buchanan in fighting for the return of Endy.
Geraci said the animal welfare groups were not very forthcoming with information, continuing to claim the dog was not Endy, citing the early December date the dog was found, according to the paperwork.
However, a veterinarian examining the dog found another vital clue: root canals.
"This vet looked at the dog and saw he had root canals. Border Patrol is one of the few agencies that does that," Geraci said. "This dog had $10,000 worth of dental work."
Meanwhile, Buchanan said he submitted all available paperwork and the microchip ID number to AMBR to prove the dog was Endy and that Buchanan was the owner.
It did not seem to matter, Geraci said.
"All of a sudden, they quit claiming this wasn't the dog, but said they weren't giving him up because he was overweight and possibly had heartworms," Geraci said. "They were suggesting his living situation was possibly an abusive one, and said they weren't returning the dog to that 'situation.'"
When contacted by the Harrisburg Register/Eldorado Journal, the organization's national chairwoman, Marcia Tokson, said the organization was planning to release a statement about the situation.
"Thank you for reaching out to us. We are currently working on a statement and should be releasing something within the next 24-72 hours," Tokson said in an email Wednesday.
Buchanan disputed any notion that Endy is overweight, saying he merely has filled out as a mature onetime working dog that now is retired.
"These dogs work, and they expend a lot of energy," Buchanan said. "They are similar to a professional athlete, in that while they are working, they are in excellent shape. Once they've been retired, they don't expend as much energy. In fact, we keep him on a special lower-calorie diet for older dogs so that he doesn't get overweight."
And, he resents accusations that he is a neglectful owner.
"I don't neglect Endy. He's not just a dog. He's a part of our family," Buchanan said.
Meanwhile, Geraci said he remains committed to getting Endy back to the Buchanans.
"I promised Brian we'd get his dog back, and I made a pledge that our organization will take care of his medical bills for the rest of his life. Those aren't promises I make lightly," Geraci said. "If I have to fly to Wisconsin myself, get Endy and fly him down to Texas so he can be reunited with his family, then I'm ready."