A West Virginia woman had an unexpected prolonged stay in London after her dog jumped from her vehicle and ran away on Friday.

But with the help of some local residents, Bandit, the chocolate chihuahua, is back with his owner, Tammy Johnson, after being missing for four days.

Johnson said she and her boyfriend Ron had stopped at the London Speedway off Ky. 192 on Friday afternoon to get gas and went inside the store, leaving their friend and Bandit in the vehicle. But while they were inside, their friend heard the gas pump click and got out to remove the nozzle.

Unfortunately, that's when Bandit also exited the vehicle and ran through the parking lot and into the weedy area behind Comfort Suites Inn.

"My friend tried to get him and four or five other people tried to chase him, but he's afraid of people so he ran away," Johnson said. "He only comes to me. I know if I had called out to him, he would have come back."

And that is exactly what happened on Monday evening when London resident Vicki Blanton and Johnson went on another excursion in hopes of finding Bandit.

Johnson said she got the call from Travis Howard, who works at Martin's Peterbilt. Howard said he had found a dog near the business and described him to Johnson.

"I saw him and couldn't do anything but cry," she said. "He just jumped in my arms."

The dog had incurred a slight injury to his leg during the time he was lost, but Blanton said he would fully recover. 

For Johnson, finding her long-time pet and companion was a Godsend.

"I've raised him from a pup," she said. "I've had him for six years. He's afraid of storms, he shakes all over. He doesn't like people and I'm afraid he would grieve himself to death if we hadn't found him." 

Johnson said she was en route home to Beckley, West Virginia when they stopped in London on Friday afternoon. The couple was returning from Georgia, where Johnson had gone before a judge to gain custody of her adopted son's children. 

"The judge gave me custody of the two kids - one is 6 and one is 8 - and said they would extradite them to West Virginia to me," she said. "I was going home to get my house ready for them when Bandit ran away."

Johnson credits the help she received from Blanton and another London woman who were out searching for Bandit. 

"There are so many good people here," she said. "I'm so thankful for their help in getting my baby back."

  

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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UPDATE: The dog has been found and the story will be updated.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A West Virginia woman had an unexpected prolonged stay in London after her long-time chihuahua jumped from her vehicle and ran away on Friday.

Now Tammy Johnson and her friend Ron are staying in the area near where the dog, Bandit, was last seen around 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Johnson said she and her boyfriend had stopped at the London Speedway off Ky. 192 to get gas and went inside the store, leaving their friend and Bandit in the vehicle. But while they were inside, their friend heard the gas pump click and got out to remove the nozzle.

Unfortunately, that's when Bandit also exited the vehicle and ran through the parking lot and into the weedy area behind Comfort Suite Inn.

"My friend tried to get him and four or five other people tried to chase him, but he's afraid of people so he ran away," Johnson said. "He only comes to me. I know if I had called out to him, he would have come back."

Johnson said she is heartbroken over the lost dog.

"I've raised him from a pup," she said. "I've had him for six years. He's afraid of storms, he shakes all over. He doesn't like people and I'm afraid he will grieve himself to death if I can't find him."

Johnson said she has stayed in London since then, anxiously hoping that her dog will be returned safely.

"I'm offering a reward for whoever brings him back to me," she said.

Johnson said she was en route home to Beckley, West Virginia when they stopped in London.

Johnson said she and Ron have searched the area for Bandit, stopping at businesses along the Ky. 192 route and even going to the apartment and mobile home complex off Ky. 1006.

"I put a poster of him up by the mailboxes in hopes someone would see him and return him to me," Johnson said.

She's also had some help from a couple of London ladies.

"Vicki Blanton and another lady have been so great," she said. "They've been out asking people if they've seen my dog. There are some very good people here."

Johnson said she is devastated at the loss of her pet.

"We've been through a lot together," she said. "I can't imagine life without him. I just hope if someone sees him, they will bring him back to me. He and I would both be grieving. We're going to stay here for a few more days in hopes that we find him."

Anyone with information on Bandit can contact Johnson at (681) 318-0630.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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