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SEATTLE - A pet is dead after a dog walker made an error.
The owners of Bandit, a 4-year-old Lab-border collie mix, said he vanished after a dog walker they found through the app Wag! didn’t follow their instructions and didn’t use a harness when taking the dog out for a walk.
Bandit's owners, Michelle Morrissey and Kelsey Burke, were in Illinois for Thanksgiving.
“There’s instructions you give your wag walker and it’s there: 'He always needs his harness for his walk,'” Morrissey said.
They said they got a call on Saturday evening. The dog walker hadn't used the harness, and Bandit was gone.
“Essentially, as soon as they got outside, he pulled back to the apartment and slipped out of his leash,” Morrissey said.
She and Burke immediately cut their trip short and flew back to Seattle.
KIRO-TV tagged along with the owners Monday morning as they posted and handed out flyers in Olympic Sculpture Park.
“Take it somewhere. Hang it. If you see him, we’d love to hear from you,” Morrissey said as she handed a flyer to someone walking a dog.
Just a few hours later, she and Burke found out someone had discovered Bandit’s body. The owners say they believe Bandit was hit by a car, sometime between Saturday night and Monday.
“It’s not the way we wanted this story to end, and we really wanted to bring him home and just (are) sad that we can’t,” Burke said.
“To know we were so close and we couldn’t find him is hard,” Burke said.
Now Burke and Morrissey are remembering Bandit.
“He had this spot on the couch that was his spot, and I just loved turning the corner and seeing him and his smile. He just had the biggest smile,” Burke said through tears.
Wag! said a dog getting loose on a walk is “extremely rare” and sent KIRO-TV the following statement:
"We are terribly sorry to inform you that Bandit has unfortunately passed away. Bandit was found in (Olympic Sculpture Park) this afternoon, and we are in close contact with the owners. Wag! had gone to extraordinary lengths to bring Bandit home. We are heartbroken by this outcome. The walker has been removed from our platform pending an investigation. Our thoughts are with Bandit's owners at this difficult time."
Bandit’s owners say they’ve used the app before and this is the first time they’ve had a problem.
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time it’s fine. This 1 percent it’s not. (Bandit’s) not coming home tonight and we just want to make sure people weigh that flexibility with the risk,” Burke said.
Burke and Morrissey said they’ve both walked for Wag! as dog walkers and urge all dog walkers to pay attention to the instructions left by dog owners, saying it could help prevent another accident.
As for what Wag! did to help find Bandit after he ran away, the company said: “Wag! activated a search party of numerous people to look for Bandit from the moment he escaped; printed and distributed hundreds of flyers, printed and hung two large banners and activated a Pet Amber Alert as well as PawBoost. It deployed a special dedicated tip line for sightings and stayed in constant contact with the dog’s owners, as sightings came in.”