By Tianna Winters

In 2006, a three-year-old Shih Tzu named Oliver went missing on Halloween night. His family searched everywhere for him. They posted signs all over town, went door to door, then checked into every animal shelter and rescue. They did everything they could do to find their Oliver but returned home every night with a broken heart. Oliver was microchipped so they hoped that somebody, anybody would scan him and they would eventually be reunited.

Oliver never came home.

Oliver’s mom, Mikah Leihan refused to give up. Every move and new phone number, she updated the information linked to Oliver’s microchip. Others said he was lost, or worse but Mom still hoped her little boy would be returned to her arms one day.

One day, Leihan received the phone call that she had always hoped for. On Nov. 19, 2015, nine years after he went missing, Oliver had been surrendered to a local animal shelter. If nobody claimed him, they told her he would be euthanized within 48 hours.

Mom rushed over to meet him but nobody could prepare her for his current condition. Oliver is now 12-years-old and barely recognizable. He was blind, mostly deaf, and had a terrible skin condition.

The few teeth he had were infected, causing foam to run from his mouth. His foot was bleeding due to a toenail that had been ripped out and a new one growing in. His skin condition is said to have been caused by the lack of baths and is believed to have been left outside most of his life in the Vegas heat. The cataracts that Oliver developed were hindering his ability to see.

Oliver on his way home from the shelter.

Dr. Christopher Roberts of Craig Road Animal Hospital is Oliver’s doctor. After bandaging his foot and giving him a thorough check up, Dr. Roberts found a severe heart murmur and his blood work showed signs of liver disease. But the most heartbreaking reality from Oliver’s long stay away from home is his seemingly inability to show any emotion. The sweet pup that his mother remembers is gone and it seems as if Oliver has given up on life. His mother promised to love and care for Oliver since day one, and she will not give up now. “He was returned to me for a reason,” Leihan said of his condition. “It is a big relief to have him home. He is exactly where he should be.”

Due to the severity of his heart murmur, Oliver is unable to undergo any surgeries to pull his teeth or fix his cataracts. “It’s just too risky,” Dr. Roberts said. “But he’s a fighter and he deserves a fighting chance.”

In the few weeks he’s been home, Oliver has been showered with much needed affection and care which mom says is the main reason for Oliver’s comeback. It took some time, but Leihan has her good natured, baby boy back. He perks up when he hears his name, recognizes mama’s voice, and even completed his first walk this past week. A stark contrast to the dog Leihan picked up from the shelter a few weeks ago.

All cleaned up! Amazing what a little TLC can do.

Oliver will need to see a specialist for his heart murmur for the rest of his life. He will also have to stay on medication for this time as well. “We just take it day by day,” Leihan said. “I just want him comfortable, happy, and home.”

Dr. Roberts believes that Oliver was able to receive this second chance due to his microchip. “This is just one of hundreds of stories as to why a microchip is so important,” Dr. Roberts said. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in a study consisting of 7,700 in stray shelters, microchipped dogs had a 52 percent return rate compared to those without it at 20 percent. As for cats, 38 percent with the chip were reunited over the 2 percent returned without it.

It is also important to update your contact information accordingly as Oliver’s family did. The same AVMA study showed that pets that were microchipped and not returned to their family was due to incorrect owner information.

There is nothing worse than losing a pet, and microchipping is one of the simplest and cheapest ways of giving your pet a chance of coming home.

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