Lost dog belonging to daughter of Joe Namath found in St. Peters - WFLA News Channel 8

Lost dog belonging to daughter of Joe Namath found in St. Petersburg

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Tula's owner Jessica cut off her matted hair after she returned home. Photo courtesy Jessica Namath Tula's owner Jessica cut off her matted hair after she returned home. Photo courtesy Jessica Namath
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) - The holidays will be a bit brighter for a Jupiter, FL woman who lost her dog five years ago, thanks to a determined animal-lover who found the woman’s pooch on the other side of the state in St. Petersburg.

Michael Cecere, 42, was out running errands early Wednesday afternoon when a small, brown scruffy dog ran into the road at 49th St. and 30th Ave. Cecere says the chocolate-brown Shih Tzu mix looked confused and scared. He didn’t want it to get hit, so he got out of his car and picked it up.

“I can’t not stop for dogs,” said the St. Petersburg resident, who says he has a big heart when it comes to lost animals.

Cecere spent the next hour-and-a-half wandering through the neighborhood, knocking on doors trying to find the dog’s owner. “Nobody knew this dog,” he said.

So, Cecere took the dog to his veterinarian, who discovered that the dog had a microchip embedded underneath its skin.

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The phone numbers associated with the chip were no longer working numbers. But, Cecere did get the name of the person associated with the dog’s microchip.

He went home and Googled the woman’s name “Jessica Namath” and discovered she lives on the other side of the state in Jupiter. Cecere called and asked if she had lost her dog.

Cecere says Namath told him that her dog vanished about five years ago.

Namath is from a family of dog lovers. Between her mother, herself, her siblings and her famous father, NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath, there are 12 dogs in the family.

“At first, I didn’t think she realized it was that dog. She thought it was dead,” said Cecere.

So, Cecere sent her a photo of the dog and Namath said it was her missing pooch.

“It was amazing,” he said, excitedly.

An Emotional Reunion

Since they lived on opposite sides of Florida, Cecere and Namath decided to meet midway in Yeehaw Junction on Thursday, so he could give Namath her long-lost dog. Cecere said the reunion between Namath and her dog was touching.

“The dog recognized her,” he said. “The look on her face was priceless. It was like it was her missing kid.”

Namath told WFLA.com that it was surprising and amazing that her 6-year-old dog “Tula” finally made it back to her after five long years.

“It was not the phone call I was expecting to get,” she said of the call she received from Cecere in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Namath says she is lucky that an animal lover found Tula and was determined to return her.

“All the stars aligned,” she said. “Anybody who loves animals knows what it’s like to miss one.”

The Day Tula Disappeared

Namath says Tula vanished during a family gathering at her home which was on the intracoastal waterway in Jupiter. “She literally disappeared.”

Soon after Tula went missing, people in Namath’s tight-knit neighborhood help search for her. Some used kayaks to comb the waterway.

Namath posted flyers, offered a $2,000 reward and even consulted three different psychics, who all told her they thought Tula was alive. But, Tula never turned up.

Namath thinks that her lifelong concern for animals helped bring Tula back to her. “I have rescued and found and returned so many animals in my life. I felt it was my karma.”

Now that Tula is back at home, Namath wants to stress the importance of micro-chipping pets. It’s something she thinks every pet owner should do because it is easy, inexpensive and can help reunite owners with their pets, regardless of how much time has passed.

“It’s reassuring to know there can be happy endings.”

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Reported by Chip Osowski and Sunde Farquhar

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