Rex Finally Comes Home, and That's Something to Howl About

updated 02/22/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/22/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

This story is dedicated to those who haven't had a good cry since Lassie came home. A wandering bluetick coonhound, missing for almost three years, has finally returned to his Brattleboro, Vt., home. And it's hard to say who is more surprised: Emilie and Arthur Thomas, who'd given up hope of seeing their beloved pet again, or Rex—let's call him the wonder dog.

Emilie, 33, discovered Rex's mysterious disappearance in April 1985 when she came home from her job as an accountant. Lying next to the dog-house were a collar and chain, but no Rex. "We searched along all the back roads for weeks, but there wasn't a trace of him," says Arthur, 42, who is an excavator. "We kind of gave up after that, but it wasn't easy."

The Thomases didn't pick up the first scent until a few weeks ago, when a neighbor called to say that the local paper's "dog of the week" picture bore a remarkable resemblance to Rex. Emilie checked with the dog warden, and sure enough, Rex, 9, was at the pound. The tearful reunion was held a few hours later. "He walked in, immediately went into the living room and put his head on the pillow like he'd never left," says Emilie.

The Thomases have only one clue to Rex's whereabouts during his Old Yeller odyssey. A few days after he returned, they received a call from a man in Bennington, Vt., who'd taken Rex in for a few weeks in 1985 after seeing a van dump the dog on the side of a highway. The Good Samaritan had three coonhounds himself and couldn't keep Rex, so he gave him to a friend, who passed him on to another friend. There the trail ends. "I wish Rex could tell us where he's been and how long he's been trying to get back home," says Arthur. "But we're just lucky to get him back. You see this kind of stuff in the movies sometimes, but not much in real life."

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