Gone all that time and never checked on his house? Maybe the neighbors thought he'd died, gone into a home and the state had taken it over, or he had abandoned it.
My neighbor suggested that I go to Florida for knee surgery.
The photos at the end of the article show strong evidence of dilapidation. The vet was not keeping his property up. Anyone expecting a several months-long absence from home needs to get a friend to check on the premises every now and then. That is just good common sense. I'm guessing this guy was something of a loner and perhaps not on good terms with his neighbors.