Jennifer Jensen found out last week that Bentley the Chihuahua actually belonged to someone else.
Bentley, whose original name was Champ, was reunited on Thursday with the Ghuane family, who owns the small Save Mart store at Hutchins Street and Kettleman Lane.
“I never thought we would get him back,” said Max Ghuane, who runs Save Mart with his parents, Piara and Gurdev Ghuane.
Champ, a fixture at the small grocery store, greeted customers and became an unofficial store mascot. He disappeared on June 30 after walking out the front door at the busy intersection. For more than three months, the family didn’t know whether or not Champ was even alive.
“He’s like a baby,” Gurdev Ghuane said shortly after Champ’s disappearance.
Jensen, who lives with her mother in Lodi and her father in Stockton, was frequently in tears over losing Champ, who turned 2 on July 16.
It all changed last Wednesday, when Max Ghuane was buying food at Panera Bread in southwest Lodi. Three people believed to be in their late teens recognized Ghuane from News-Sentinel reports about Champ and said they knew where the dog was.
One of the teens phoned Ghuane’s younger brother, Mikey, and arranged a meeting on Sargent Road, Max said. The next day, Jensen, 20, came to the store at about 4 p.m. and delivered Champ to their owners.
“My daughter is very upset over losing the dog,” Jensen’s father, Robert Jensen, said in an email. “I then had my wife drive to the store in Lodi and offer $2,000 for Bentley, but it was obvious that Champ was very much a part of the family and was not for sale.
“Obviously, we understand completely their love for Champ,” Robert Jensen said. “It was painful for us all, but Jennifer did the right thing in returning Champ to his family.”
The night before returning Champ, Jennifer Jensen spent the night with her parents, but never mentioned she found out who the owner was and was going to take him back to the store.
“I feel she wanted to give us one last night with Bentley before taking him to his real family,” Robert Jensen said.
Champ felt right at home during a visit to the store on Monday afternoon, though he was shaking occasionally.
The Ghuanes learned their lesson and plan to keep Champ at the family home so he doesn’t get away again.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.