Double trouble for the owner of a dog lost in Echo Park *

Flyers with the words “LOST DOG” and “DOG FOUND” are perhaps as common a sight in Echo Park as ExP gang tagging. Many of those flyers are photocopied at E.R. Copies, the Sunset Boulevard print shop where owner Carlos Vela has seen distraught dog owners spend as much as $150 on notices seeking the return of their furry loved ones. Last month, Vela was making another batch of lost dog flyers, but these notices were for his family’s own wayward puppy, Deleno, a white terrier mix that wandered out the shop door sometime on April 8 and has not been seen since.* It was the family’s first dog and its disappearance has given Vela a first-hand insight into the ups-and-downs his Echo Park customers have experienced searching for their lost pets.

On Friday, Vela found himself standing in the parking lot of the nearby Walgreens looking for the person who had called saying he had Deleno. It turned out the dog was not Deleno (pictured top left). But the young man – who brought a dog in his pick up truck – said he couldn’t keep the Deleno look-alike (pictured top right). “My mom does not want another dog,” he told Vela. “He kept insisting to ‘just take it,'” Vela recalled. ” I felt sorry for the little dog. I said ‘ok.’ He didn’t listen to me twice. We shook hands and he took off.” That’s how Vela ended up with a dog that was not his and a dog that was still missing.

Deleno’s name is a variation of Delano, the California farm town where Vela’s two daughters – Carla, 16 and Rebecca, 12 – fell in love with their aunt’s new puppy during a visit earlier this year. “So, she gave him to us,” said Vela, who lives in Boyle Heights. “It was their first dog. He was barely six to seven months.” Only two months later, Deleno went missing, leaving Vela’s daughters in tears and prompting a so-far fruitless search on the streets of Echo Park and online, where the family scours the city’s Find a Lost Pet website every day to look at photos of dogs turned into the shelters. The family has received only two calls from their flyers, including another false alarm that sent Vela rushing over to the Brite Spot cafe to find another dog that wasn’t Deleno.

Deleno is thinner and his fur whiter than the dog in the Walgreens parking lot. The guy who had brought the dog said he found this terrier mix near Belmont High. The man drove off in his pick up truck, never bothering to ask Vela about a reward for Deleno. Vela returned to his shop with the new dog and considered what to do. The new dog was sweet but Vela didn’t want his girls to become too attached to it, and Vela assumed the dog’s owners were also looking for the animal. He considered printing and distributing a set of “DOG FOUND” flyers with his phone number but thought that might be confusing since the same number was printed on the “LOST DOG” notices for Deleno. After conferring with the Echo Park Animal Alliance, Vela on Saturday drove the nameless dog to the North Central Animal Shelter in Lincoln Heights, where he was told the dog would be put up for adoption. If no one claims it by Thursday, Vela would be contacted and offered to keep the dog (I.D. No. 41111555)

Vela does not know what he will do if he gets that call. It would be hard to replace Deleno.

“He was very cute, very playful … very well behaved,” Vela said. “He made us happy.”

* Update @ 1:47 PM: Vela reports that Deleno was returned this morning! A family living in Chinatown who saw one of Vela’s flyers spotted Deleno near the Evans school at Sunset Boulevard and Figueroa Street. The dog was wearing a different collar. A young girl dropped off Deleno this morning at E.R. Copies. Another owner will have to adopt the dog Vela took to the shelter on Saturday.

“Everybody is happy,” said Vela, on his way to take Deleno to the dog groomer. “He stinks.”

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