Family, Dog Reunited : Hobo's Story: Happy Ending

Times Staff Writer

It's a cornball little heart-tugging story:

Kids lose loving dog, kids pray for his return, endless complications arise and, at last, kids and dog are joyously reunited.

It's "Lassie Come Home" revisited. But it's real, not fiction--the dog's name is Hobo, the kids names are Gabriel and Anna Yensen and the reunion took place Friday morning in Downey amid a great gleeful din of canine yelping and yipping and childish shouts and screeches of delight. Hobo is 5, Gabriel is 4 and Anna is 7.

"Gabriel," said Joy Yensen, the children's mother, "prayed every night. 'God watch over Hobo.' "

The story goes like this: Joy Yensen of Alhambra was walking Hobo near her home at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 31. when, for reasons known only to the dog, he ran away.

The great complication was that Hobo was naked--only a red bandanna and a bit of metal that read: "Dog Tag 175, Parksville."

So when Donna and Charles Purnell of South Pasadena found the handsome mixed-breed Golden Retriever on New Year's Day, they had no idea who the dog belonged to, or where in the world he might live.

Looked for Owner

Believing the dog may have got away from someone at the Rose Parade in neighboring Pasadena, the Purnells walked for blocks along the then-deserted parade route looking for the amiable dog's owner. No luck.

After four days the Purnells decided they couldn't keep the dog (they called him Gypsy) any longer. So they turned him over to local authorities, who sent him to the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control's shelter in Downey.

With his outgoing way and good manners, the retriever instantly won the affection of everyone at the shelter. Because of the Rose Parade angle, he was given the (temporary) name Rosebud.

The plot turns and detective work that ensued would take longer to explain than "Lassie Come Home" took to film. Suffice to say, the news media got wind of the story, which flashed around the world.

Tag Provides Clue

It turned out that "Dog Tag 175" was issued in Parksville on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. Officials there said the dog's name was Hobo and belonged to 11-year-old Danielle Cohen.

But the Cohen family had moved to Orange County, and because their new apartment was too small, they had given Hobo to the Yensens about four weeks before he disappeared.

On Thursday night, a friend of Joy Yensen's called to say that she had recognized Hobo from his doggish grin on the television tube. Yensen called the Downey shelter and . . .

At 9:30 a.m. Friday the Yensens came to claim Hobo, aka Gypsy, aka Rosebud.

The reunion was spectacular--and cornball and heart-tugging. The kids hugging and kissing the dog, the dog slurping them back, wiggling and wagging.

The kids gave interviews, their mother thanked everyone. A certificate of appreciation was given to the Purnells.

In the background, behind a steel mesh fence, scores of other stray dogs yelped in excitement and/or anger, while Hobo frolicked for the kids and the news cameras.

Among them were three mixed Golden Retrievers similar to Hobo--in fact, attendants said, they were friends of Hobo.

'They're Mad'

Hobo went over to them once to nuzzle them through the fence. The three behind the fence bars barked, but they didn't sound happy.

"They're mad," shelter attendant Cindy Hernandez said, "because he's going home and they're staying here."

In fact, the three may be doomed.

"These three," Hernandez said, "are beautiful, wonderful dogs. Maybe somebody will take them . . . but they stand about a 50-50 chance. If nobody claims them within two weeks, we probably will have to put them to sleep."

But the happy Hobo was the main show, and even a few of the hardened reporters sort of choked up as they watched Hobo and the kids. Hobo did a lot of tricks and kissed nearly everyone in sight. Mostly, of course, he kissed Anna and Gabriel. The children liked that fine, but they didn't seem to care too much for probing questions from the reporters.

"Did you cry when Hobo got lost?" one old newshound asked.

"No," Anna said. "But Gabriel did."

The truth-seeker turned to Gabriel: "Did you cry when Hobo got lost?"

"No," Gabriel replied.

"Anna says you did," said the journalist, doggedly.

"Anna" said Gabriel, "lies."

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