updated 2/27/2007 1:44:41 PM ET 2007-02-27T18:44:41

Chipper, a 3-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, wasn't looking so chipper after 45 days on the lam.

His owner, Jim Butler, said the dog is normally a good listener but took off on a walk on Dec. 12. Looking the worse for wear, he returned home Jan. 29, to the disbelief of his family.

"It's the darndest thing," Butler said.

Butler said Chipper normally walked attached to a 10-foot leash. Occasionally, the family would let the dog run free because he would come back when called.

"Something distracted him, though, and he booked it," he said.

Butler said he didn't think the dog would go far, especially since he was pulling a small plastic sled attached to his collar by a length of cord. But after several hours of searching, Butler knew the situation was bad.

"We put up flyers at the pounds and veterinary clinics. We ran adds on Dog Gone News and in the newspapers. We did all the usual things," he said.

No sign of peripatetic pooch
Days turned to weeks and still there was no sign of Chipper. The family feared for the dog's well-being, but never gave up hope.

"We never got rid of his bowl and cushion," Butler said.

When Chipper returned home, he still had his collar and tags on. He was missing the sled.

"His hair was falling out in places and when he left he weighed 49 pounds, but was only 27 when he returned. He was a bag of bones," Butler said.

They began giving Chipper water and small amounts of puppy food to help start the recovery process. Butler said they weren't sure he would make it through that first night, but in the morning Chipper he was back to his old routine.

"He loves fetching the paper and he brought it up that first day back," he said.

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