JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's a reunion nearly nine months and 900 miles in the making.
Sammy the Shih Tzu had to travel across the country, but he is finally back in his owner's arms.
For 11 years, Sammy was Anne Heimburger's "primary pooch." He helped her get through some dark times.
"I was on chemo, and he laid beside me the whole seven or eight months," said Heimburger.
A day hasn't passed she hasn't thought of Sammy, since the day he ran out the front door after a relative left it open. That was last November.
"I was afraid I was never going to see him again," said Heimburger.
Heimburger got in touch with Karen Hayt, who runs the Lost Pets of Jacksonville Facebook group.
She posted several times over the past eight months so the 36,000 members could keep an eye out for Sammy.
"She said I'll bring Sammy home to you," said Heimburger. "We just thought he was in the area. I had no idea he was so far away."
A few weeks ago, Sammy was surrendered to a vet because of an eye condition. That vet was 874 miles away in New Jersey.
Hayt says a woman visiting family in Jacksonville picked him up and brought him back home to her family in the Garden State.
A pet rescue transport got him to Palatka, while Hayt did the honors of driving the final stretch.
"He is probably our best story because he was that far away from home, microchipped, which is important for every animal to be microchipped," said Hayt.
Hayt says when she started the Facebook group, only about one in 10 dogs they recovered was microchipped. Now, she says that number has climbed to 60% or so.
"If your pet's stolen, that's the only way you can prove the pets yours, too," said Hayt.
It certainly made the difference for Sammy and Heimburger.
"I thought I was going to pass out from sheer joy," said Heimburger. "She brought him home to me like she said she was going to do."
Now that he's back home, Sammy is looking forward to his first Pupperoni, and a much warmer winter this year.