Four years later, dog lost and feared dead is back

Friday, June 15, 2012 | 9:47 a.m. CDT; updated 2:16 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 15, 2012

BARNHART — When Tessa the terrier mix went missing four years ago, her family figured coyotes had gotten her.

It turned out she just wandered off. On Thursday, Tessa came home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the mixed-breed pooch went missing in 2008, leaving Sophie Roorda of the St. Louis-area town of Barnhart, who was 7 at the time, wondering what became of her pet.

A family in Fenton, a few miles from Barnhart, found the dog a few weeks ago and took her to an animal hospital. Staffers found a microchip with the owner's contact information.

Sophie couldn't believe her eyes when her dad, Jeff Roorda, brought the dog through the front door Thursday night.

"Is that Tessa?" Sophie asked.

The reunion comes a month after another traumatic event for the now 11-year-old girl. Her cat, Jayda, vanished. Jazzie, the Shih Tzu that Sophie's parents bought to replace Tessa, led Sophie into the woods near their home, to Jayda's remains. A conservation agent later told the family that a coyote den had been found near their property.

It was at about that same time that a boy in Fenton spotted Tessa running with a Great Dane. About a week later, he saw her again, alone and looking thin. He and his family caught the dog and took her to the Webster Groves Animal Hospital.

The staff found the microchip implanted between her shoulder blades, said hospital administrator Angel Venegoni.

Nancy Roorda, Sophie's mother, checked the phone messages at her beauty shop and heard a woman say she had Tessa at the animal hospital. She thought it had to be a mistake. It wasn't.

Jeff Roorda picked up the dog Thursday morning and kept her with him at work. He is the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers' Association.

"She came right to me when I called her name," he said. "She seemed pretty happy to see me."

But at home, Tessa at first didn't seem to remember Sophie. Jazzie wasn't too tickled, either, getting in the way of Sophie or anyone else Tessa tried to approach.

But after Jeff Roorda removed Jazzie from the room, Sophie sat on the floor, snapped her fingers and whistled at Tessa, who slowly approached her, and rolled over by her lap.

"I think she needs a bath and a haircut," Sophie told her dad. She then called a friend to tell her about being reunited with her long lost friend.

Meanwhile, Tessa climbed to the arm of the family's couch, a perch that had always been her favorite.

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