Dog goes missing after entering obedience training program, family says: 'Emotional roller coaster'

The Blomqvist family got their Australian Shepherd, Elliott, when he was just a puppy. They love him fiercely.

"That is our family member," said Roger Blomqvist.

"He’s irreplaceable," added his daughter, Bella. "That’s my little brother."

He is three and a half now. They signed him up for a three-week, $5,000 obedience training program with K-9 Training Academy, an Orlando company recommended to them by their veterinarian.

The program started on April 12, and the trainers were supposed to give updates each Friday.

When the family didn’t get their regular update from the trainer on May 3, they got worried. Later that evening, Bella got a text from Elliot’s trainer saying he had an update. 

"It’s not the best news," the text said.

"My heart was racing," Bella said. "I felt terrible, horrible."


The trainer said Elliott had tried to attack his handler. The handler dropped the leash, and Elliott ran off.

"I was just wanting to cry and scream," Bella recalled.

The family rushed over. They started searching around, calling out Elliott’s name, going to shelters, stopping in stores, and asking anyone who would listen if they had seen the dog. The trainer said Elliott had just run off that morning, so they thought he couldn’t have made it that far.

The family found posts the trainer made on Paw Boost and Nextdoor asking for help finding Elliott. But that was on April 28, five days before K-9 Training Academy told the family they’d lost him.


Elliott is now back home safe (Courtesy: Blomqvist family)

"Why on earth didn't you contact us as owners?" Roger challenged in an interview on May 6. 

"We would have been here, and we had a chance to recover, and because as time goes by, it's more critical."

They also saw posts saying the training facility had briefly lost and then found Elliott on April 24.

FOX 35 News asked the owner and director of K-9 Training Academy, Richard Lherrison, about all this.

"Unfortunately, sometimes you make mistakes to learn from it and never to repeat them," said Lherrison.

He says the trouble with dogs is that they do things you wouldn’t expect. They might be calm and comfortable one moment, then agitated and stressed the next. That lines up with what the Blomqvist family said about Elliott, who they say was mostly a very good dog but had lunged out and bitten people twice, which necessitated his training. 

Lherrison explained that the yard at the K-9 Training Academy is contained, and the building is obviously contained, but there’s an unenclosed space between the two. He says Elliott was in that open space when he broke free.

"We've got one flaw. And that dog showed us that flaw."

So why wouldn’t the trainer tell the owners? And worse, why lie about the timeline when he did finally fess up?

"It was a bad judgment on their part," said Lherrison. "We've since learned that you should just tell the truth."

The family went out searching for Elliott on their own. They put up fliers, posted them online, stopped at shelters, asked people in stores for help, and walked around calling out his name.

They finally found him on Sunday evening by a culvert just down the road from the training facility. However, they said the pup is ten pounds lighter; he’s healing up from a fever and now has horrible separation anxiety.

They wonder what life would have been like if they had known he was missing and had been able to find him sooner.

"We don't want anyone to experience what we have gone through," Roger Blomqvist said. "It was the most traumatic, emotional roller coaster we have ever experienced."

The family says no one from the K-9 Training Academy has reached out to them to apologize or ask how Elliott is doing. The family is still hoping for a more thorough explanation of how this happened.

The building does have cameras, but the owner told FOX 35 they didn’t catch the escape.