TAMPA, Florida – A golden retriever missing from his family since a 2004 hurricane destroyed a backyard fence resurfaced this week near Chicago.
The five-member Baines family of South Tampa had finally given up the search this summer. They thought their pet was deceased.
No one knows how the dog, "Sam-I-Am," traveled the hundreds of miles and turned up as a stray at a shelter in McHenry County, Illinois, this week. Shelter workers said they do not think he walked because there was no damage to his paws.
"He has wanderlust," Debra Quackenbush, spokeswoman for the McHenry County Health Department, told the St. Petersburg Times. "We've never seen a story like this. It was just meant to be."
Someone found Sam, now 5 years old, wandering around Woodstock, Illinois, Quackenbush said. The rescuer kept Sam for five days. No one claimed him, and he was taken to the county's shelter.
When Sam was younger, a microchip was inserted between his shoulder blades. The chip, which costs $30 to $40 to insert, allows shelters and medical workers to scan and identify pets.
Because of the chip, the family knew it had the right dog.
On Thursday, Alice Baines took the day off and flew to Chicago to bring Sam home.
When they were reunited, Sam stepped on her feet and then sat on them, just like always, and still answered to Sam, Baines said.
After a few delays, Baines and Sam arrived home in Tampa
"He's home, that's all that matters," she said. "I think he's happy. He's not hurting for a meal. Whoever took good care of him: Thank you."