Many people aren’t lucky enough to fly first class—let alone a dog. But one very lucky Louisiana terrier was reunited with his family after four years on the road thanks to a free fare from United.
Sam, a 10-year-old Yorkshire terrier, disappeared during the summer of 2011. His owners, the Lambert family of New Orleans, were heartbroken. But on April 14 they received a call that their dog had been found in Cedar Rapids, Iowa— almost 1,000 miles from home.
“Somebody had to take it to Iowa. It had the microchip in it,” Thomas Lambert explained to ABC News when asked it the dog could have been stolen. “We were waiting to hear around here if someone found him. They would have called us. After four years, you kind of give up hope."
Sam was ultimately found at an animal shelter in Iowa, but it remains unclear where he was before.
"The Yorkie was in fair condition, but was straggly and weighed only 5 1/2 pounds," according to a statement released from the city of Cedar Rapids. "Despite the dog’s condition, Animal Care and Control staff was able to determine that the Yorkie had a microchip."
But the Lamberts had a problem: they couldn’t afford to fly the dog home. They raised over $250 via a GoFundMe page but it still wasn’t enough. That’s when United Airlines stepped in and paid for Sam and a animal service worker to fly one-way fare back to Louisiana—in the first class --a ticket that starts around $500.
"When he [Sam] saw her [Lambert’s daughter], I swear he recognized her and went straight for her. When I talked to him, he started licking me in the face," Lambert told ABC News.
When Sam arrived at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Wednesday, he and his newly reunited family were welcomed by United with balloons and soft drinks to celebrate the happy homecoming. The money raised by the Lamberts to fund Sam’s return trip home will now go toward his medical care.
“This just makes all of us feel really, really happy that we can make this miracle come true for this family and their little dog," Diane Webber, Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control program manager, said in a statement. "Sam was found during Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week, and all of us taking care of this dog and finding a way to reunite him with his family really bonded us together in a special way.”
Just one more reason to microchip your pets.