Southern California Family's Three Year Search For Two Missing Dogs Ends For One in Elk Grove

September 5, 2014 | A Southern California family's search for one of two dogs that went missing three years ago, recently ended whe...

September 5, 2014 |

A Southern California family's search for one of two dogs that went missing three years ago, recently ended when one of them was located in Elk Grove.

Locating River, a male purebred Shi Tzu, turned out to be bittersweet though, as the family learned of his discovery from an Elk Grove veterinarian who was treating the almost five-year old dog for a traumatic head injury.

The story of River and Libby, a female Shi Tzu Maltese mix who is currently 7-years old, starts in November of 2011 when the Tomlinson family of Azusa, California went on vacation. During the course of their cruise, the Tomlinson's heard from a family member caregiver that both pets had escaped the yard.

River (l) and Lilly disappeared from Azusa,
Calif. in November, 2011. River was recently
located in Elk Grove. 
Even though both pets had tags with phone numbers and implanted locating chips, there was no trace of either. The Tomlinson’s' then began an extensive search to locate their beloved dogs.

"We updated our Facebook account and our friends and family created fliers, they began circulating them in the Highland Park, Eagle Rock area the following day," Natalie Tomlinson said. "We checked all animal shelters, humane societies and scanned Craigslist to see if the dogs were listed for sale."

About two weeks later these efforts seemed to pay off when Tomlinson received a call from a woman that said she had purchased Libby from a man on the street in Los Angeles for $100. Tomlinson said she would happily reimburse the caller and agreed to meet at an area shopping center.

The woman and Libby never showed up. In spite of this setback and their on-going efforts to locate them that included a TV news report, there were no solid leads until last month.

Finally, the family's efforts paid off in August when they received a call that River was located in Elk Grove. The Tomlinson's received a call from the VCA Elk Grove Animal Hospital on Elk Grove Boulevard that River, who they identified by the implanted chip, had been anonymously turned in for care.

Locating River turned out to be bittersweet for the family though as the veterinarian said his coat was severely matted and was suffering from traumatic head injury.

"The doctor informed me that River had head trauma and it was best to put him to sleep, I asked if they could put the phone to his ear and they agreed," Tomlinson said. "I was able to tell River that we loved him so much, we were always looking for him and to not be afraid, we will be together one day."

As for the person who turned in River, Tomlinson said the veterinarian's office could not reveal their name, but would contact them to express the family's thanks for seeking treatment. When asked if she thought the person who turned River had caused the injury or was acting as a Good Samaritan, Tomlinson said she was unsure, but was nonetheless grateful.

"I would like to thank them and let them know that the dog they took to the veterinary office was loved and lost from his family for close to three years," Tomlinson said. "Their act of kindness is very much appreciated and they helped bring closure to us. It's difficult for us to understand why the Good Samaritan would not want to call. We have wondered if this person had River all along but could not afford health care and ended up surrendering him as a stray because he was in pain."

Even though the discovery of River did not end the way they hoped, the Tomlinson's nonetheless hold on to thought that Libby might also be located. Since River was found in Elk Grove, and even though they realize it is a long shot, the family believes there is a chance Libby could be in the area.

"Finding River is bittersweet, he has been returned to our family, maybe not the way we intended but nevertheless he is home now," she added.

Anyone who may have information about Libby, can email the Tomlinson's findriverandlibby @

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