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Lost for four days, including during the snowstorm, Toby is home at last

The German shepherd went missing Saturday after bolting from a veterinary clinic.

After being lost for four days, Toby, a German shepherd, was reunited with his owner, Nelly Roa of Albany Park.
After being lost for four days, Toby, a German shepherd, was reunited with his owner, Nelly Roa of Albany Park.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A tear trickled from Toby’s eye, and it was almost possible to believe that his ordeal — four nights outside during one of the worst snowstorms in years — had all been too much for him.

But then he flopped down on the floor like a punctured souffle and dozed off. Perhaps he was just bored.

A few feet away, Toby’s owner, Nelly Roa, gushed about the police officers who helped to finally bring the lost 2-year-old German shepherd home Wednesday afternoon.

“I am Toby’s mother,” Roa began, speaking to reporters at the Chicago Police Department’s 14th District station in Humboldt Park.

Toby’s ordeal began Saturday morning when he hurt his eye in Roa’s Albany Park backyard. Roa, 29, took her dog to Medvet Chicago in the 3300 block of North California Avenue. Roa went home. When the vet’s office called a little later, it wasn’t to tell her the dog was ready to be picked up.

“They gave me a call, telling me, ‘We’re sorry, we lost your dog,’” Roa said. “I’m like, ‘What do you mean, you lost my dog?’”

Somehow, the dog had slipped out of the facility and run away.

Nelly Roa kneels next to her dog, Toby, at the 14th District police station.
Nelly Roa kneels next to her dog, Toby, at the 14th District police station.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Sarah Berger, a spokeswoman for Medvet, which has 32 facilities nationwide, said it was the first pet escape she was aware of in her three years at the company. Somehow Toby fled through a double set of doors designed to prevent just such an escape. Berger said Medvet has been in contact with the door manufacturer and that the clinic is working to adjust the door settings.

“We are deeply sorry that this has happened,” Berger said. “It was an unfortunate series of events not previously experienced by our hospital. We are extremely grateful to the community for showing their support.”

That support included the posting of paper fliers, as well as a Facebook page devoted to finding Toby that generated hundreds upon hundreds of comments and tips.

Roa said she searched the area near the vet clinic and beyond until 11 p.m. Saturday. She woke up at 6 a.m. the next day. Snow pummeled the city.

“I was terrified,” Roa said.

Family from Indiana arrived to help. Roa learned that a German shepherd matching Toby’s black-and-tan description had been spotted in Humboldt Park. So the search switched to that neighborhood.

Roa cut up a pair of her pajamas and one of her favorite shirts, sprinkling the little pieces at street corners hoping Toby would be drawn to them. Lots of people called to say they’d seen Toby.

Chicago police officers had been looking out for Toby, too, and one of them, Officer Rick Podgorny, spotted the shepherd while on his way home while talking to his wife on a cellphone.

“I said, ‘I gotta give you a call back. Toby just ran by,’” Podgorny said.

Podgorny flagged down another officer, Dan Kolodziejski.

“I’m amazed he didn’t get struck by a vehicle [Wednesday],” Kolodziejski said.

Police, Roa and her helpers finally cornered Toby at Division Street and Artesian Avenue on Wednesday afternoon. He was scared but otherwise in good shape, Roa said.

“Then he came to me — a little scared — and then I hugged him, and I haven’t let him go,” Roa said.

Needless to say, Toby has been spoiled since his return home.

“I actually slept on the floor with him,” Roa said. “He likes to sleep on the bed with me, but he didn’t want to. He was very skittish.”

Police Officer Daniel Kolodziejski pets Toby during a news conference Thursday about the efforts to find the 2-year-old German shepherd.
Police Officer Daniel Kolodziejski pets Toby during a news conference Thursday about the efforts to find the 2-year-old German shepherd.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times