A disabled Army veteran and his dog were finally reunited after a shelter reportedly refused to return the canine to his owner.
Andrew Astorga, who served in Afghanistan for nine months, found that his dog, Smokey, had disappeared from his San Antonio area home around late October, according to Fox San Antonio.
"He's like my shadow," Astorga told the news station. "I don't go anywhere without him."
Astorga, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), said that Smokey wakes him up when he’s having nightmares, although the dog is not a trained service animal. During the period in which he was missing, the Army veteran struggled to sleep.
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During the week of Nov. 16, a good Samaritan located the animal and turned him into a rescue group called “In Dog We Trust.”
"At first I was overjoyed,” Astorga said. “Thank God my dog was found and he wasn't hurt.”
Unfortunately, some technical difficulties impeded what would have otherwise been a joyous reunion.
An error reportedly prevented the information on Smokey’s microchip from updating, and the phone number on the dog’s tags had been disconnected.
Barbara Carpenter, Astorga’s mother, gave the rescue center some photos and adoption papers to prove they were able to claim the dog. However, the center allegedly told her that since her son’s name was on the documents instead of hers, it was not enough proof.
"Upset and I'm angered that somebody could do this,” Carpenter said. “This is like a child that is lost.”
The rescue group said that information such as a veterinarian’s bill was needed in order to claim the animal.
Fortunately, Smokey was eventually returned to Astorga, according to a follow-up article by Fox 29.
"I can't thank the people, everybody that was involved, with bringing Smokey home, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," Astorga told Fox 29.
Others noticed how happy both the veteran and the dog were upon reuniting after spending several weeks apart.
Laurie Gawelko with Service Dog Express said of the reunion, "You could easily tell from his reaction, to the dog's reaction, the body language, the dog, everything, that this is where he needed to be."