By Ashley Rader
Flowing tears and wagging tails marked the reunion of Kimberly Clark and her beloved seven-month-old golden retriever Hokie on Thursday afternoon at the Elizabethton Carter County Animal Shelter.
The STAR reported the story of Clark and Hokie Thursday. Hokie got away from his family on Tuesday, June 12, while taking part in a scouting trip for fishing spots with his owner. The dog managed to get out of his leash, but that same day Hokie was brought to the shelter where he stayed until he was adopted on Saturday, June 16.
The individual who adopted Hokie chose to have him neutered so he remained at the shelter until Tuesday, June 19, so he could be transported to the veterinarian for his surgery.
During this time, Clark and the rest of her family were searching for Hokie in the Watauga community where he had been lost. A resident informed the family about the local animal shelter and suggested they check there. They made it to the shelter about an hour after it had closed on Saturday, but Clark saw Hokie in one of the outdoor kennels. When the family contacted the shelter on Monday, they were told the dog had already been adopted and they could not reclaim him.
Shelter staff contacted the new owner and told him of the situation but he decided to keep the dog instead of letting the family take him home on Monday. The family contacted Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey and asked for his assistance. He too contacted the new owner and received the same answer that the new owner wanted to keep the dog. The family offered to replace Hokie with another puppy, to reimburse the adoption fee and neutering fee. The family also offered a reward and agreed to make a donation in the other individual’s name to the shelter if they could have Hokie back.
After the story of Hokie and his families was reported Thursday, the new owner made the decision to return the dog to the shelter and turned him over for his original family to reclaim.
“He had a dog that looked just like Hokie,” explained shelter manager Wendy Mathes. “He had been looking for a new dog and he chose him. He wasn’t a mean man and he wasn’t trying to withhold the dog from the family. He did not do anything with the intention to hurt anyone.”
Shelter Manager April Jones said that the adopter chose not to take the family’s offer and to just return the dog. She added that he felt he had been portrayed as a villain or as an evil person in some of the news reports about the adoption. She said he did receive a refund for the adoption.
Clark and her daughter, Mirandy White, were contacted by Mayor Humphrey around 1:30 p.m. Thursday and were told they could come to the shelter to pick up Hokie. Prior to Clark’s arrival at the shelter, Hokie lounged in the lobby enjoying the air conditioning and greeting visitors. When he caught sight of Clark exiting her car to come get him, his tail started to wag enthusiastically and he wiggled and jumped to be able to get to her.
Clark, along with White and grandson Brayden White, greeted Hokie with hugs and kisses. The reunited group settled into the yard of the shelter as Hokie gave everyone puppy kisses and ran back and forth from person to person. Clark stroked his fur and told him she loved him and promised him a trip in the swimming pool when he got home.
“I thank everyone for their support,” Clark said as she hugged Hokie. “I was so overwhelmed when I was told I could come get my dog. I am so blessed to have him back and it was amazing the amount of support we received.”
White stated the family did not have hard feelings toward the person who adopted Hokie and just wanted to have their dog returned to them. She said she and her mother intended to stay involved with the animal shelter. She said she knew the shelter was in need of extra funds and she planned to help with fundraising efforts. She added she also planned to become involved with the committees that oversee the animal shelter so that the policies regarding the length of time found animals are held can be changed.
“We want what happens to be in the best interest of the animal,” White said. “We believe returning Hokie to his family was what was best for him. We don’t want this to happen to another family.”