Max the Maltese is headed home to Florida after the small dog vanished several months ago and finally turned up 1,200 miles away — in Chicago.
Owner Richard Gonzalez of West Palm Beach, Fla., said Max went missing from his daughter's yard in Brandon, Fla. She had brought Max to her home for a few weeks to visit with her own dogs.
Gonzalez reported the disappearance as a pet theft.
"Even if he ran away, he wasn't going to get far. It's a subdivision," Gonzalez said. "Somebody's going to grab him."
Max was located recently in Chicago, where animal control workers identified him thanks to an implanted microchip.
Gonzalez's efforts to get the dog back were complicated by his hours on a new job and financial pressures, so he contacted the Northcentral Maltese Rescue organization headed by Mary Palmer of Racine.
Palmer had a volunteer pick Max up from a Chicago shelter and bring him to Racine.
She trimmed layers of matted fur Wednesday and took the dog to veterinarian Brian Ray, who gave Max the clean bill of health required for an airplane trip.
Palmer plans to put Max on a flight Saturday.
Other volunteers will take Max from the airport to Gonzalez, who was thrilled to learn from Palmer that his dog will soon return, even though no one knows how he got so far from home.
"I was ready to ask her, 'Can you put him on the phone?"' Gonzalez said.