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Dog found a year after wreck that killed her owner

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Stella the Shetland Sheepdog, stands next to Jeannine Michalec at PAWS. Stella has been missing since a wreck on the Eglin reservation killed one of her owners more than a year ago

FORT WALTON BEACH — A dog missing since a wreck on the Eglin reservation killed her owner more than a year ago has been reunited with her family.

When Jonathan Seaton’s Jeep overturned while he was trail riding Jan. 21, 2012, his fiancée, Jeannine Michalec, was thrown free.

She remembers waking up and seeing their puppy, a sheltie named Stella, running into the woods. She got up to help Jon and never saw the dog again.

“Jon had told me that we shouldn’t take her with us,” she said. “I felt we didn’t spend enough time with her. I insisted we take her.”

Family, friends, law officers and animal control workers searched for the young sheltie for weeks afterward.

Late last week, she was dropped off at the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society by someone who found her wandering in Ocean City. Michalec had since moved to Pensacola but drove over for the reunion.

“It’s absolutely surreal,” she said of seeing Stella again. “I’m in shock.”

Her daughter was a toddler when Jon was killed and Stella was lost. She would cry for Stella whenever she heard a dog bark, her mom recalls.

The two were reunited Friday night.

Stella is underweight, has fleas and has tested positive for heartworm, PAWS workers told Michalec. Scrub-A-Pup in Mary Esther gave her a free bath and grooming on Friday.

PAWS workers gave Michalec a big bag of puppy chow and told her to get some weight back on Stella to prepare her for heartworm treatment.

“I’m glad I have her back so I can nurse her back to health,” Michalec said. “She is the only thing that experienced the car accident with me. It’s sort of like a merger with the new life that I’ve created after (Jon’s) death and the previous life.

“It’s really strange.”