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TROTWOOD, Ohio – A dog feared lost but reunited with his family in Trotwood, Ohio nearly five months after they were separated by a Memorial Day tornado received the county’s No. 1 dog license for 2020.

The tornado tore apart Semico and Anthony Harden’s house in the Westbrooke Village neighborhood and ripped apart the fence surrounding their backyard, where they had last seen Duke, their cane corso, before the storm.

“We don’t know if he actually ran off or if the storm carried him off,” said Semico Harden. “But he wasn’t there.”

Duke and two other dogs were presented with the first three tags of 2020 by Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith at an event Wednesday to promote the sale of dog licenses.

Sorely missed

The Harden family searched day after day, month after month for Duke, who is 2 1/2. With their home nearly destroyed, the family moved to a rental house in Vandalia, making the search for Duke more complicated.

Duke was sorely missed by the Hardens, their 17-year-old son and infant daughter, Semico Harden said.

“He’s a family dog. He’s really, really friendly. He’s extremely good with children,” she said. “Although he’s really, really big and mighty, he’s completely harmless. He’s just a lovable dog. He’s a big teddy bear.”

The family posted Duke’s picture online and put flyers on posts around town and in businesses.

“We plastered signs all over the place trying to find him,” Harden said.

Calls came in of potential sightings: Duke was possibly spotted along Main Street, seen roaming along Germantown Street and living in the woods near Shiloh Springs and Olive Road.

When it wasn’t raining, Anthony Harden searched and left food at the reported sites.

“I really hunted him down,” he said.

Another caller saw Duke’s picture up at a laundromat. It looked like the same dog he had seen earlier, also in the woods near Shiloh Springs and Olive Road.

Harden raced out to investigate. It was the second tip reporting the same location.

“I saw some paw prints,” he said. “I knew it was my dog from the prints.”

He retrieved a T-shirt and a pair of shoes from home and set them out at the woods’ edge.

“The next morning Duke was laying right there at the T-shirt and the shoes,” Harden said. “He just ran and jumped on me. Like he was happy.”

It was Oct. 18, 2019.

“He was only, like, five minutes away from our home, but he was missing for four and a half months,” Semico Harden said.

Anthony Harden said Duke shed some of his 150 pounds through the ordeal and possibly sustained an injury to his hind left leg.

“He lost a little weight. He had a limp that he didn’t have before. Maybe during the tornado something might have hit him,” Harden said. “You can’t tell when he’s running.”

The family was out of their home until just before Christmas. Earlier this week, a new fence went up for Duke and his companion, Duchess.

Duke was unlicensed, said his owners. Though it’s unclear if a tag would have brought Duke home quicker, the Hardens say it might have greatly improved the odds.

“Getting tagged like that is extremely important,” Semico Harden said. “Had he had a tag and collar we probably would have gotten him back a lot sooner than we did.”