Against all odds, a beloved member of a Malden family is back home, after almost four months missing. Udon, a 10-year-old Maltese who disappeared from his ownersâ fenced-in backyard in June, turned up on Oct. 14, and is now back with the people who never gave up on getting him back.
“I couldnât believe my eyes,” said owner Ming Tseng, who received a picture of Udon and a message that he was safe in Weymouth. “I knew it was him. The way that he looked in the picture, his expression, I knew. I sent it to my family, they were like, âThatâs Udon.â I sent it to my friend, he was like, âEven I know thatâs Udon.â”
Where Udon was all that time remains a mystery. Tseng says the man who contacted her, and eventually made good on his promise to return Udon, claimed to have found him far from home some time ago, and only recently learned an identical dog was missing in Malden.
“What he said was maybe a month ago he found him in downtown Boston,” said Tseng, who doesnât think Udon could have made it so far of survived so long on his own. “I 100-percent believe that he was picked up by someone, ever since the first day.”
Tseng never once gave up on finding Udon, plastering the neighborhoods in Malden and Melrose around her house with missing posters, making the rounds at the Victorian Fair in Melrose, and spreading the word online in every venue she could think of.
“Iâm just a stubborn person, Iâm persistent, I knew that if I gave up thereâs no other chance, I wonât get him back,” she said.
Well-meaning friends urged her to move on, pointing to possible fates like starving or being eaten by coyotes, but Tseng saw no point in that kind of speculation, not viewing it as constructive.
“What goes through my mind is, âWhatâs the benefit of you making these suggestions to me?â” she said. “âI donât need your two cents.â”
A few strangers responded to her public anxiety with malice.
“There were a few really small prank calls from kids that just had nothing better to do,” Tseng said. “But there was a man who called and said heâd run over my dog and he wanted compensation for his wheels.”
It proved an eventful first case for Jenny Rose Scacca, the Melrose native who just started volunteering with Missing Dogs Massachusetts, the nonprofit that worked with Tseng to spread the word and solicit information about Udon.
“So many people assumed he was eaten by a coyote, or that this whole thing was a joke,” said Scacca. “She even got kid prank callers who said they had her dog, it was awful. There was even a period where flyers were being continuously ripped down from Forest Street in Malden. We did a stakeout to see who it was. A lot went into these past three months.”
Whatever the details of Udonâs odyssey, it wasnât the first time in his life heâs had to deal with challenges. Tseng adopted him from a relative who didnât have the time or resources to care for him, leaving him alone in the basement most of the time, and necessitating the removal of half his teeth and other treatment. This latest ordeal left its marks as well.
“Heâs gotten skinnier, he had matted fur, but nothing time wonât fix,” said Tseng, adding that Udonâs attitude was never in doubt. “Heâs a sturdy little guy. The day I saw him and the guy put him down on the floor, he ran to me and my sister. When we brought him home, he fell right back into it.”
The familyâs other two dogs welcomed their friend back in suitable style. Since then, Udon has resumed his former routine.
“Their tails were wagging out of control,” said Tseng. “Itâs like he never left.”