A True “Kodak” Moment: Dog and Owner Reunited After A Year Apart

July 1, 2020

Kodak with Maxwell and Lloyd

Kodak is happy to be reunited with Maxwell and Lloyd.

May 28, 2020, was Derrick Maxwell’s 31st birthday, and when he checked his email that morning, he was thrilled by one subject line in particular: “KODAK has been found!” 

Almost a year earlier, on June 12, Derrick, who goes by Maxwell, had adopted a stocky, 61 lb. Staffordshire Terrier-mix named Kodak from Indianapolis Animal Care Services in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kodak was originally found in an abandoned house, locked in a crate for several days. 

Sadly, while Maxwell was at work one day, a neighbor who was caring for Kodak let him out and Kodak ran off. 

Maxwell put up flyers and enlisted help from family members, neighbors and a local vet clinic, but to no avail.

“Maybe he ran off looking for me,” Maxwell says. “I was heartbroken.”

Maxwell couldn’t find Kodak before he moved to Elk Grove, California—nearly, 2,200 miles away.

Fast forward to Maxwell’s birthday when HomeAgain, a national pet recovery database, alerted him via email that Kodak was at the Kokomo Humane Society, an hour north of Indianapolis. Kodak had been identified by a microchip implanted and registered at the time of his adoption. 

Kodak with Eddie Dietzen of KHS

Kodak hanging out with Eddie Dietzen, Outreach Coordinator for KHS.

“I was overwhelmed and grateful,” Maxwell said. “It was the best birthday gift ever.”

But getting Kodak from Kokomo to Elk Grove was going to be a challenge, especially during a nationwide pandemic.

Kodak’s Challenging Move

Nicole Martin, Director of Business Development for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, routinely works with HomeAgain to reunite animals with their owners. 

On June 8, as Nicole proceeded to make travel arrangements for Kodak to get to California, she encountered a series of roadblocks.

“COVID-19 was the first wall I hit,” she explains. “I knew transporting animals from state to state was going to be tricky, especially now.”

For some airlines, breed restrictions are another obstacle.

Nicole forged ahead, buoyed by Maxwell’s enthusiasm.

“His commitment kept the fire stoked,” Nicole says. “From the very start, Maxwell was eager to be reunited with Kodak and was head-over-heels happy that he’d been found.”

Kodak in his kennel at KHS

Kodak in a kennel during a rest stop on his journey.

Kokomo Humane Steps Up

At the Kokomo Humane Society (KHS), where Kodak had come in as a stray, staff was thrilled to learn his owner had been identified and a reunion was underway.

“It makes us feel really good,” says Eddie Dietzen, Outreach Coordinator for KHS, an open admission shelter that took in more than 3,000 animals in 2019. “We’ll use Kodak’s story to stress the importance of keeping a pet’s microchip information up to date. At our shelter, whether people adopt or reclaim pets, microchipping is mandatory.”

KHS staff took Kodak to a local veterinarian for a check-up and health certificate that deemed him safe for travel. Kodak even got extra walks from staff.

“Normally we wouldn’t have the resources to get a lost pet from here to California, but because the ASPCA and HomeAgain came forward to help, we’d do whatever it took to get Kodak home,” says Eddie. “We’re so happy to be part of this.”

“There’s nothing greater than reuniting a lost pet with its family,” says Nicole, who cites Kodak’s case as her most memorable ever. “This was a big deal for me.” 

A Picture-Perfect Reunion

On Wednesday, June 24, Maxwell finally had his “Kodak” moment.

The day before, Karen Ricci, Animal Care Specialist at Kokomo Humane, drove Kodak to Vandalia, Illinois, where she met ASPCA Manager of Relocation Emily Atencio and driver Amy Gregory. Emily and Amy drove Kodak to the ASPCA’s waystation in Overland Park, Kansas, and Wednesday morning, Pet Rescue Pilots, a non-profit, completed Kodak’s journey to Los Angeles County by air.

Kodak in Karen Ricci's care

Kodak getting a lift from Karen Ricci, Animal Care Specialist at KHS.

Kodak with Emily Atencio of the ASPCA

[Left] Kodak enjoying some love from Emily Atencio, ASPCA Manager of Relocation; [Right] Kodak crated ready for his flight.

Maxwell, a student at Paul Mitchell Sacramento, and his partner, Lloyd Martin, a police sergeant, drove from Elk Grove, south of Sacramento, to Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Los Angeles County, where they were met by Lance Hunter, West Coast Director of Relocation at the ASPCA; Therese Holmes, Manager of Relocation; and Captain Julian Javor of Pet Rescue Pilots. 

Finally—a year and 12 days after they were separated — Maxwell and Kodak were reunited.

“Do you remember me? Did you miss me? I sure missed you!” Maxwell exclaimed excitedly as Kodak approached him inside the airport lobby, tail wagging non-stop. Kodak then fell into Maxwell’s lap.

“Seeing Kodak’s tail whip in circles when he saw Maxwell made me and everyone else just melt with joy,” says Lance. 

Kodak and Maxwell

Kodak happy to see Maxwell again.

“Every Day Should be ‘Chip Your Pet’ Day”

Kodak’s reunion occurred coincidentally just before National ID Your Pet Day on July 1, an annual reminder for pet parents to make sure their pets’ identification information is up to date. Microchips have proven to be the most reliable system for the recovery of lost or stray companion animals. 

“Every day should be chip your pet day,” says Sandra Hunter, Manager of Professional Support & Account Management at HomeAgain, which has reunited more than 2.7 million lost pets with their families over the past 13 years. “Microchips are a permanent form of ID and, when enrolled in a lost pet recovery database, greatly increase the odds of a lost pet being reunited with its family.”

Maxwell and Lloyd are slowly integrating Kodak into his new pet-friendly family, which includes Bear, a black Chihuahua; Balthazar, a German Short-Haired Pointer; Miss Lily, a cat; a bearded dragon named Bootz; and a chameleon, Nelius.

“I can’t wait to get back that connection we had,” says Maxwell. “I want to rekindle that moment.”

Maxwell and Lloyd meeting Kodak after his flight

Maxwell and Lloyd greeting Kodak after his flight.