Originally Published: November 18, 2011 9:55 p.m.
CHINO VALLEY - Kalani Kalaikai's dog, Domino, has been ensnared in a legal battle that has him stuck in California, but now he could be coming home-with some luck and a little help.
How this happened is quite a story.
Kalaikai, 64, adopted Domino 10 years ago. Domino is a pit bull that he said was "a runt," and the breeder, believing Domino was unsuitable for fighting, was going to have him euthanized. Kalaikai adopted the 8-week-old white puppy instead, naming him for the black spots he had at the time.
For a decade, the pair lived together happily, with Kalaikai, a disabled veteran, training him and Domino providing companionship.
In late September, someone, Kalaikai claims, opened the heavy gate to the yard where Domino lived, and took him. Kalaikai had gone out of town and a friend was watching his dog. When the friend discovered Domino was missing, he put up flyers and checked local veterinarians' offices to no avail.
Kalaikai returned home 10 days later. A friend called to say he thought he'd seen Domino at Cottonwood's Adopt for Life Center animal shelter.
Cottonwood is a long way from Chino Valley, but, since Kalaikai had had Domino fitted with a tracking microchip back in 2007, he figured it would be a simple matter to find out if the dog was there, so he made a phone call.
No, he was told. No white dogs had been brought in that week, and certainly, none with his tracking microchip, said Kalaikai.
On Nov. 4, Kalaikai received an email from the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CCSPCA) shelter in Fresno, Calif., saying they were holding a dog with a microchip registered to him.
It turned out that Domino had, in fact, been in the Cottonwood shelter, was held for 10 days per policy, then put up for adoption.
"They messed up," Kalaikai said. "The chip is in my dog"
Sierra Neblina, executive director of the Adopt for Life Center, said the mix-up was caused by a problem no one expected.
"The dog came to our shelter, and we scanned it with our scanner. But we didn't know that if you don't have a universal scanner, it won't pick up every chip," she said, and the brand they had would not read Domino's chip.
Neblina said they put in a rush order for the proper scanner and received it this week. "Every shelter should have a universal chip scanner, which we didn't," she said.
Meanwhile, the man who adopted the dog had taken him to California.
"I don't know if he was taking my dog to Fresno to fight or what," Kalaikai said.
But the man who had adopted Domino was arrested in California and jailed. Domino went to the CCSPCA shelter.
Before Kalaikai could arrange to have Domino picked up, the CCSPCA shelter called and told him the adoptive owner was unwilling to let him go. A court would have to decide the matter, they said.
"Why should I have to wait? I am the legal dog owner," said Kalaikai.
Neblina took over the fight.
"We felt horrible about the situation," she said. "CCSPCA has been not responsive, and was not returning my phone calls. They have stonewalled me."
She said she finally managed to contact the adoptive owner personally on Friday. "He just wanted to know the original owner was a responsible dog owner," and once reassured, he agreed to turn over Domino.
The Daily Courier on Friday placed a call to Amanda Silvas at the CCSPCA, who had contacted Kalaikai. Silvas said she knew "nothing" about the situation, and that her supervisor - the only person who did know - was off for the day.
As for how the dog ended up in Cottonwood, Neblina said she believes Domino was stolen. "We are 60 miles away (from Chino Valley), and we received him the next day. There's just no way he ran that far - he was put in a car and driven," then dumped, she said. They investigated the woman who turned him in, but she was not responsible for stealing Domino and had simply found him.
Now the problem is getting Domino back to Arizona. Kalaikai had transportation from Fresno set up, but the people who were to make the drive bailed out on him. Kalaikai lives on a fixed income and can't get to Fresno and back.
"We are trying to arrange transportation," said Neblina, but they need help. Anyone willing to donate their time and gas to bring Domino home can call the Adopt for Life Center at 928-634-7387.