Jax is one of those dogs everybody loves.
He’s cuddly, cute, a portable purebred Yorkshire terrier with a personality bigger than his body. He’s something of a wag, that Jax. He’s friendly. Maybe too friendly, his sociability leading to his happy wanderer ways.
In Elk City, Oklahoma, a small town where he lived with his human, Brian Walton, that wasn’t a problem.
“He’s crafty,” Walton said. “But he never goes far. Everybody in town knows him and loves him and knows to call me.”
Even the town pound, where Jax landed three times in the past nine months, knew to call Walton to pick up his boy.
Somehow, inexplicably, the 2-year-old pup did go far, found in Albuquerque, some 433 miles from home, last June. This time, Walton contends, no one knew to call him – not the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department, where the dog was taken, nor PetLink, the company that holds Jax’s microchip information. As a result, he said, Jax was wrongly allowed to be adopted.
It broke his heart.
“Jax is like my child,” Walton said from his home in Elk City. “And this feels like a kidnapping.”
But documents provided by the Animal Welfare Department indicate that Walton was contacted by phone and letter via the information provided through the microchip, but that he was an FTR – fail to respond. Documents also indicate that PetLink sent seven emails from July 4 to July 9 to Walton and called four times. There was no response to any of those messages.
That’s odd for a man who says that, aside from the occasional social visits, he and Jax had been inseparable since the pup was 8 weeks old. Walton even took him to job sites for his appliance repair business.
Walton’s Facebook and TikTok pages are filled with photos and videos of Jax that he posts like a proud father.
Jax, he said, changed his life, made him a better person, a good thing because he admits he isn’t proud of things he’s done in his past.
“I love that dog unconditionally. We have this bond. I’ve wanted a Yorkie because my mother had Yorkies before she passed away, and Jax reminds me of her. I’m looking at his toys right now,” he said, his voice cracking and trailing off.
On the night of June 26, Walton said he and Jax came home after work and Jax wandered over to the spot in the tall grass where he always did his business. Just like that, Jax was gone.
“He was nowhere to be seen,” Walton said. “It was just wild.”
Jax had been missing for a week when, on the Fourth of July, he was found near Fourth and Griegos NW in Albuquerque and taken to the city shelter.
The fireworks involving Walton and Animal Welfare, PetLink and the Albuquerque resident who adopted the little dog were about to begin.
“The Animal Welfare Department receives approximately 9,000 stray animals each year into the shelters,” Desiree Cawley, marketing manager of the Animal Welfare Department, said in a statement. “When an owner does not reply, the pet is made available for adoption after a holding period. In this case, Mr. Walton did not respond to multiple attempts by AWD and the microchip company to contact him.”
But where had Walton been? Why had he not responded?
Turns out Walton’s past had caught up with him, briefly.
Court records indicate that in 2016, he was arrested for possessing a power washer he should have known was stolen. His case was diverted to drug court, from which he graduated successfully in 2018.
But, on July 1, three days before Jax was found in Albuquerque, court records indicate he was arrested on an old warrant for missing the last hearings in his case, which he says he wasn’t aware of. He was jailed until July 15.
Jax was adopted July 14 by a local woman and her family, 10 days after Jax was impounded.
As soon as Walton learned what had happened, he began making calls, and writing to PetLink and Animal Welfare, but was repeatedly told that he was simply too late.
“I’ve been hung up on, talked to like a straight hoodlum, and misled into thinking you had me and Jax in your best interest,” he responded in one email to PetLink. “I’ve been taken advantage of and my best friend is gone.”
In desperation, Walton filed a request to open Jax’s adoption records, and obtained the name and contact information for the new owner. He found her on Facebook, wrote an impassioned note explaining the situation and begging to have Jax back, promising to buy her a dog of her choice in return.
It’s unclear if she ever read the message.
He started posting his sad dog tale on Facebook, amassing a throng of supporters from California to Spain. He dropped information about the new owner on Facebook that provided some of those supporters with enough to figure out her identity – and they used it.
Walton later deleted much of that information and called on his supporters to back off. But the damage was done.
Cawley said the woman was bombarded with angry messages left at work, home, with friends. She locked her social media, disconnected her phone and was unable to be reached for this column.
“She’s fearful,” Cawley said.
Walton is fearful that he has lost his best friend.
Still, he is determined to continue to try to get Jax back, even if he has to go to court. But he hopes he doesn’t have to. He hopes the new owner will see his story, his plea and let Jax come back to him.
“Jax is my dog,” he said. “I’m not trying to be mean or start a fight, but I will fight. I have to do whatever I can do. What else can I do?”
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, email@example.com, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.