TAMPA — It took an Army. Brady's Army.
Christie Pennell was ready to give up and head back to Bermuda without best friend Brady, her now-famous dog who chewed through a kennel at Tampa International Airport and bolted across the tarmac two weeks ago.
She had a flight booked for Thursday, but one of the volunteers searching for Brady begged her to stay in Tampa.
e_SDLqPlease, Christie. Don't leave yet," Pennell recalled the head of Lost Pet Professionals Karin TarQwyn telling her on Wednesday. "I feel it."
Pennel was feeling hopeless. Despite dozens of volunteers and a massive social media network, no one could find the 4-year-old boxer mix.
"It's been a nightmare I couldn't wait to wake up from," Pennell said.
But she listened to the plea. Brady's Army — the name given to the volunteers passing out fliers and selflessly searching for the dog — wouldn't let the family lose hope.
Pennell's nightmare finally ended on Thursday when she got a call from Tampa International Airport. Brady was found in one of the humane traps Hillsborough County Animal Services had set since her escape on Oct. 11, when she was supposed to be shipped to her family's new home in Bermuda by Delta Air Lines.
Pennell couldn't believe it. She raced to TIA to reunite with the dog she and her husband, William Gideon, first took home at 6 weeks old. The couple lived with Brady in Tampa before her husband landed a job at a Bermuda resort.
Brady was in a large cage, 17 pounds thinner and covered in bug bites and ticks when she was reunited with Pennell. The dedicated dog mom climbed into the crate and the dog tried to lick her face.
Brady's mouth, however, was mangled — a causality of her escape. It will take several surgeries to repair, but otherwise veterinarians at a Thursday afternoon news conference said the dog should make a full recovery.
She was taken to BluePearl veterinarian hospital in Tampa, where doctors examined her and gave her medicine for pain. Dr. Caroline Crider said veterinarians took X-rays of her skull and did an oral exam to prepare for surgery.
Brady has multiple fractures to her jaw, exposing the roots of some of her teeth, Crider said. The vet said it was possible the injuries were caused by biting out of the kennel, which was left a bloody mess after Brady ran off the tarmac and into a nearby wooded area.
Shortly after Brady's disappearance, Pennell and her husband told the Tampa Bay Times they were troubled by the amount of time their dog must have been left alone, or ignored, to be able to gnaw through the metal door of the kennel. They expected more, they said, having paid $2,400 to transport her to Bermuda. The dog was familiar with her kennel, too, and had never tried to break out of it before then.
But on Thursday, Pennell declined to comment about Delta and what happened leading up to the dog's escape. The airline's statement to the Times said it was happy the dog was reunited with her family.
The airport had coordinated with Animal Services to set up humane traps with cat food to lure Brady to safety. At 7:45 a.m. Thursday, Roger Mills with Animal Services said he got a call that a brown dog was trapped. It was Brady. Mills suspected she never left the airport's wooded area.
"She did good," he said. "She's a survivor."
Contact Sara DiNatale at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @sara_dinatale.