By Gav Ross
WHEN local real estate agent Callan Nation received a phone call from a shire ranger last week telling him his little dog was on the loose, he was understandably doubtful. After all, his beloved Jack Russell, Finch, ran away more than four years ago. Cal said the call, received less than an hour after the Melbourne Cup had been run last Tuesday, was “a bit of a shock”. Finch was spotted loitering around Wonthaggi’s BP service station on McKenzie Street. A customer pointed out the dog to a station attendant, who in turn phoned up the council. “The ranger called and said ‘we’ve got Finch’, and I thought ‘how could he know his name’?” Cal recalls. “Then I realised his microchip must have been scanned.” It all sounded too good to be true as Cal raced from his North Wonthaggi home towards the petrol station. “I didn’t get my hopes up in case it wasn’t him,” Cal admits. Cal arrived with his heart pounding and spotted his old friend in a cage sitting in the back of the ranger’s vehicle. The moment he locked eyes with his old companion was something Cal finds difficult to put into words. “I just felt relief….overwhelming relief,” he says. Finch was wary at first, but Cal explained that as soon as the pair sat back in the car together it was like the four-and-a-half long years had dissolved. And Cal’s not afraid to admit that the emotion of the moment was all too much. “Once he started jumping all over me and licking me in the car I just lost it,” he says. Amid the tears of happiness, however, was a hint of concern. Finch, who Cal admits was always “a bit of a runt”, looked much thinner than he remembered. “He was pretty dirty and looked a bit mangy,” he says. After giving Finch a quick bath at home, Cal took his pet over to his parents’ house for a surprise visit. “I hid him behind my back as I went into the place and then showed them – ‘look who it is’. “Mum almost passed out.” “I think she has always felt pretty guilty about him because he ran away from their house while Jaci (Cal’s wife) and I were holidaying in Bali.” Finch escaped from Kerry and Garry Nation’s yard at their Broome Crescent home in late April, 2008, sparking a massive search around town. The effort included lost dog notices and even a feature article in The Sentinel-Times as the Nation family busied themselves by dropping fliers into letterboxes and getting the word out to as many members of the community as possible. The Jack Russell had escaped with another terrier – Taz – and while the latter wandered home again, Finch disappeared completely. Although he had accepted the fact that Finch was probably gone from his life, Cal says he never gave up hope. “He was always in the back of my mind,” he says. “Whenever someone mentioned him I’d say ‘you never know what can happen’.” Finch will be getting a full veterinary examination this week but, overall, Cal says he appears happy and healthy after chowing down on some dog food and settling back into his old routine. The scruffy nine year-old was also reunited with another old buddy – Marli, the golden retriever. “They knew each other for a few years before Finch took off,” Cal explains. “Marli was a bit cautious at first but they’re best mates again now.” Cal and his family would like to thank the good Samaritan who alerted the BP attendant to Finch’s presence last week and Bass Coast Shire Council for their assistance. As for where Finch has been living for the past four-and-a-half years, well, that remains a mystery, at least for the time being. The only evidence of who the interim owner could have been is the worn old collar Finch was found wearing; a collar with no identification tag. A Bass Coast Shire spokesperson said the miraculous case of Finch highlights the importance of microchipping – a simple procedure involving the insertion of a small computer chip under a pet’s skin that can be read by a scanner. “Microchipping can literally save your pet’s life,” the spokesperson said. “Each year tens of thousands of impounded pets in Victoria cannot be identified. “This means that many animal shelters are forced to euthanise lost pets because they can’t be reunited with their owners.” Discounted microchipping will be offered at council’s Pet Expo event, scheduled to take place in Wonthaggi next March.