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Dog rescued from L.A. River is reclaimed by owner

January 28, 2010 |  4:28 pm

Vernondog3

Vernon the mystery dog is mysterious no longer: The German shepherd mix, whose dramatic rescue last week from the flooded L.A. River was carried live on many TV news stations, has been reclaimed by his owner.

The dog had been taken to the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority shelter in Downey after his rescue, and animal control officers had been unable to locate his owner because he wasn't wearing ID tags and hadn't been microchipped. Officers called him Vernon after the city in which he was rescued.

Turns out, Vernon's name is really Spikey, and he's owned by an elderly woman who lives in Maywood. According to the family friend who went to claim him Tuesday, the dog's owner speaks only Spanish and, since the rescue didn't receive as much attention on Spanish-language TV, she wasn't aware that her dog had become a media sensation until a friend alerted her several days later.

Animal control officers visited Spikey's home and talked with both his owner and some of her neighbors. They discovered that the woman's other dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Polo, had been found wandering on the street the day after Spikey was rescued from the river.

Polo was impounded by animal control but will be released back to the owner after her backyard is cleaned up, our sister blog L.A. Now reports. As for how the dogs came to be wandering loose in the first place, the woman suspects that her grandchildren inadvertently left a gate open.

When a familiar person arrived at the SEAACA shelter, "Vernon just went crazy, his tail flapping," the organization's director of operations, Aaron Reyes, told L.A. Now. "We see it all the time: Gosh, he really knows this guy."

Because Spikey bit the firefighter who pulled him from the river, he will remain under quarantine until next Tuesday. But the firefighter, Joe St. Georges, says he has no hard feelings toward the dog. "He's cold, he's wet, he's scared, and then here's this stranger jumping on his back for all intents and purposes, and he did what dogs do," he told the Associated Press after his release from County USC Medical Center, where he was taken for treatment for a bite wound to his thumb.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Photo: Senior animal care technician Stephanie Webster takes care of Vernon/Spikey in his quarantine cage at SEAACA on Jan. 25.  Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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