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Published: Friday, 10/9/2009

Lost pooch home after anxious week


A lost dog became found money for a woman whose story seemed as fuzzy as the white pup itself.

She and two companions wouldn't give their names, but they reunited the pet with its frantic owner on Wednesday - ending a weeklong search that blanketed downtown Cleveland - and collected a $1,000 cash reward.

"I think that's why they brought him," said Kelly Durkota as she cuddled Maverick, 5, her Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. But their motive didn't matter to her. "I don't think I've ever been this happy," she said.

Her joy was matched only by the relief of her boyfriend, Mike Frate, who lost the dog Sept. 30 while Ms. Durkota was out of town. Mr. Frate took the dog to work with him and briefly let him outside.

Maverick disappeared. The search for him expanded with 800 handbills posted around downtown, plus the reward.

Ms. Durkota said she got a call early Wednesday from a woman who said she knew who might have Maverick. The woman called back later, claiming she'd just bought the pooch for $150 from someone who picked him up on Payne Avenue, and asking for the reward.

Ms. Durkota and Mr. Frate set up a meeting, where Ms. Durkota's stepfather works. The caller arrived with another woman and a man, said they didn't want to get into trouble, took the reward, and handed over Maverick, who was missing his identification collar.

"He seemed cared for," Ms. Durkota said. "I'm a wreck."

"I'm so thankful for everybody in Cleveland," she said, because so many people aided the search after seeing the handbills.

"That's what we'll be doing [tomorrow]," her mother, Debbie Riddell, said. "Taking all the posters down."

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