TAMPA - Olive, an Italian greyhound Catahoula mix, walked into Malio's Prime Steakhouse on Saturday night, presumably to get out of the pounding rain. A formal engagement party was under way at the downtown restaurant and the hungry 6-year-old stray was shooed away into the storm several times. But she kept coming back and one party guest took notice. Janine Mattson went outside in the rain and found Olive along Ashley Drive. The events that followed would end an 11-month search for the dog, which began when she leaped a 6-foot backyard fence at her owner's Seminole Heights home.
"I didn't want the dog to run out into the street to get hit," Mattson said. "She seemed more like a lost dog than a stray dog." Mattson brought Olive back to Malio's patio area where she and the restaurant staff gave her some food. Mattson called her friend Russ Maynard, who lived a few miles away from downtown. A couple hours later, Maynard arrived and took the dog home for the night. The next day, he had the dog checked for a microchip. A short time later, Olive was reunited with her owners, Kristine Bush and William Ownley. "I knew it was her," said Bush, 34, a hair salon owner. "I couldn't believe. I still can't believe it." Olive's odyssey began on July 4, while Bush and Ownley were on vacation. "My sister and her husband were staying with the dogs," Bush said. A "very agile" Olive ran to the front of the yard, where she was spooked by another dog out for a walk. "She's so fast, I mean, they knew within 10 minutes she was gone," Bush said. Bush said her sister began searching immediately. Posters went up. Olive's information was sent to shelters, veterinarians, rescue groups and online sites. "We spent like three months driving the streets just shouting her name," Bush said. A week after Olive took off, Bush and Ownley took in another dog they saw during several visits to an animal shelter. The new pet, which had a broken pelvis, joined two other dogs they have had since they began living together 10 years ago, she said. But they never stopped searching for Olive. There had been a few sightings over the months of Olive heading down Hillsborough Avenue near Bush's home. Once, a neighbor got Olive into her house before the dog was frightened away by hissing cats. But, "I had kind of resolved myself, since we're almost on a year," she said. "I was starting to feel it wasn't going to happen." And it almost didn't, had it not been for the diligence of Maynard. He took the stray to the Humane Society, but no microchip could be located. "While it was definitely emaciated, it acted like it was somebody's pet," Maynard said of the dog, who he named "Cammy" for its camouflage gray coat with spots. Maynard decided to take the dog in permanently, and went to buy supplies and arrange shots at Banfield Pet Hospital at the PetSmart at 1540 N. Dale Mabry Highway. Often, microchips migrate from the neck after animals lose weight, Bush said. Olive dropped about 20 pounds on the streets - she was about 40 pounds before running away. Banfield checked Olive again for a microchip. "And they found it, and that's when they called us," Bush said. Aside from the weight loss, Olive was in relatively good shape, with a few scratches and broken toenails. Olive recognized her owners during Sunday's reunion, Bush said. "She gave us both a big hug. She'll stand up and put her arms on our shoulders." Tribune intern Andrea Carroz contributed to this story.