Family urges pet safety after losing service dog

FERGUSON, Missouri (KMOV) — A boom of thunder can scare a dog, but fireworks seem to be the real fear. A Ferguson family is happy after they were reunited with their beloved service dog ran away during Fourth of July fireworks.

Jamie Key says her family’s life was upended when their dog, 8-year-old RJ, ran off on the Fourth of July.

“A piece of you is missing. It destroyed our family,” said Key.

Key’s daughter was shooting off fireworks with friends outside, while RJ was on the porch.

“Three days went by, nothing,” said Key.

He was not just a part of the family, but also a vital companion to her 6-year-old, who has Autism.

“He eats French fries with him, they sleep together, you’d think he was a little baby human the way they sleep together in the bed. She hasn’t been able to eat or sleep. I haven’t. My son he hasn’t been able to,” said Key.

“I know in my neighborhood there’s still fireworks going off every night. So, the best thing you can do is keep your pet inside. You may not even know your dog has a fear of fireworks,” said Shana Cook, Special Events Manager for the Humane Society of Missouri.

The Humane Society of Missouri and Care STL say they have seen an uptick in animal intakes following the long holiday weekend.

For families who’ve lost their dog since the weekend, Cook says the best first step is utilizing shelters, the STL Lost Pets website or social media to get the word out.

“Especially if you have a neighborhood Facebook group or Nextdoor, because chances are that animal hasn’t gone very far,” said Cook.

After days of searching, Key finally went old school with fliers throughout her neighborhood. Hours after News 4 first spoke with Key, a Good Samaritan brought RJ home.

“The lady met me at the Ferguson police station and gave me my baby. She was so sweet. She wouldn’t take anything,” said Key.

Key knows this beautiful reunion that could have ended a lot differently.

“When people bring a dog in as a stray and that dog doesn’t have a chip, we’re really sort of at the mercy of those people coming to us to find the dog,” said Cook.

Key now stresses that other families take greater steps to protect their pets, especially following this holiday.

“My dog’s not chipped so I will be doing that as soon as I can,” she said. “You just never know what can happen so always be prepared. Treat them like your kids.”