Justin Sailer, who is blind and deaf, stands with his dog, Duke, at his home in Marysville on Sept. 21. Duke was found and taken in by the Everett Animal Shelter, and is home after shelter officials lowered the cost of the reclaiming fee to $50. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Justin Sailer, who is blind and deaf, stands with his dog, Duke, at his home in Marysville on Sept. 21. Duke was found and taken in by the Everett Animal Shelter, and is home after shelter officials lowered the cost of the reclaiming fee to $50. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Comfort dog Duke is back where he belongs in Marysville

Justin Sailer, who is blind and deaf, had to wait a week to get his escape-artist canine back.

MARYSVILLE — Lisa Sailer spent an entire week trying reunite her son with his dog.

She was able to do so Sept. 15.

The chocolate Labrador-pitbull mix, Duke, got away from their Marysville home Sept. 10 and reportedly was taken to the Everett Animal Shelter after someone found him.

Sailer said Duke is a companion animal for her son, Justin, 29, who is blind, deaf and mentally disabled. Justin lives with his mom and volunteers a few hours a week at a local food bank with a job coach. He’s been doing that for about six years. They also got Duke in 2011. He’s not a service dog, but has been a comfort to Justin, Sailer said.

When she contacted the shelter to get Duke back, she was told it would cost $225 to $250. The Everett Animal Shelter contracts with cities to provide shelter services, and fees for reclaiming a lost pet are to cover costs such as boarding and veterinary expenses, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

This isn’t the first time Duke has gotten loose and been taken to the shelter. Last time, Sailer paid the fee, she said, because it was her or her husband’s error that let him get out.

This time, though, it was Justin’s mistake. He apparently opened the front door of the house while his mom was getting ready for work, and he wouldn’t have understood that Duke might escape, she said. Friends, including a local businesswoman and the Arc of Snohomish County, worked to help Sailer get the dog home.

“Justin is amazing. He’s just amazing,” Sailer said. “But he gets … in a destructive emotional place when Duke’s not home.”

A post on the Facebook group Lost Dogs of Snohomish County describes finding Duke with a broken tooth and limping. Sailer was told by workers at the shelter that Duke needs medical attention. She takes him to a veterinarian for regular care and is aware that he has a benign tumor and a protruding tooth, among other problems, she said.

The shelter director spoke with Sailer and was satisfied a plan was in place for the dog’s care, Pembroke said. The shelter reduced the fee to $50, microchipped Duke, and promised to send him home with medicine, she said.

Now, Sailer is determined to create a resource for families like hers who find themselves facing a fee to reclaim a companion animal. She’s certain it could happen to others, and she and a close friend are working to set up some kind of fund to assist them when it does. It’ll take time, but they hope to establish a nonprofit.

“I’m blessed that the shelter did what they did, but it took a week,” Sailer said. “There needs to be something there … I’m not done with this yet.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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