LARGO — Elizabeth Morris was sure she would never see her pet again.
Zoe, a 6-year-old Doberman, disappeared from her home a month ago. She and one of the family's other dogs broke through the backyard fence and ran off. The other dog returned, but Zoe, who likes to run, did not.
Morris, 36, and her husband, a state trooper, put up fliers, checked with animal shelters, drove around their New Port Richey neighborhood and even posted a message on the Internet.
After weeks passed, they started to lose hope.
Wednesday, Morris got a call from a family that lives a few subdivisions away.
They had seen one of the fliers and recognized the photo as the emaciated and dehydrated dog that had wandered into their yard on Christmas. The family took the dog to an emergency clinic in Largo, and it was now at the SPCA Tampa Bay shelter.
But there was a problem. Zoe couldn't be released until a $1,000 vet bill was paid. The Morrises didn't have the money.
"The whole thing was so unexpected. I would have to surrender her ... because I can't afford that," said Morris, a speech therapist who has a 12-week-old baby and a 6-year-old daughter. "It's very difficult at this time. Everything that comes in basically goes out."
Enter Seminole City Council member Dan Hester, a former SPCA Tampa Bay board member, who saw their story and decided to donate $1,000 to get Zoe home.
"I was touched by their story," he said. "I don't know who these people are, but I certainly understand the roller coaster they must be going through."
The family was thrilled when they found out. But Zoe still has a long road ahead of her. The dog, which used to weigh about 60 to 70 pounds, is currently at 35.
"We all understand it's tough economic times," said Megan Trethewey, a SPCA spokeswoman. "Zoe needs to go home to be with her family. It's about reuniting them."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.