In early April, Cleveland Police picked up a large, yellowish stray dog. The kennel City Dogs Cleveland took the animal in and found a microchip during an exam. Workers there called the listed number but were in for almost as much of a surprise as the owner was.
Michael Joy, who at one point was a recruiter for the U.S. Army, was the dog’s owner. The animal’s name was Sam, and he was very much loved — and missed.
But he’d been missing for over four years.
When Joy lived in Fort Benning, Georgia, Sam got out and disappeared sometime in 2016. He was just 4 months old at the time, according to Inside Edition.
“I told my wife, ‘Hey, I’m gonna find this dog,'” Joy said, according to WKYC-TV. “I never stopped … I even still follow the shelters’ pages just in case he would’ve shown up.”
Joy and his family had since moved to Tennessee and gone on with their lives, but Joy never forgot Sam.
On April 2, he got a call from an unrecognized number. He almost didn’t answer, but then he did.
“I get this phone call and I’m like, Cleveland? I’m not gonna answer this! ‘Cause normally I don’t answer numbers I don’t remember,” he told WKYC.
“Ah, cool, let me answer this and see what’s going on. She said, ‘Hi, is this Mr. Joy?’ I said, ‘yeah …’ She said, ‘We have your dog!’ And I’m looking at my dogs and I’m like, ‘No you don’t. All four of my dogs are here!’ She goes, ‘We have Sam.’
“In the back of my mind, I’m going, ‘This can’t be the same Sam! This is Ohio! This is, like, almost to Michigan!’ So I’m like, ‘Can you describe him for me?’ And she said, ‘He’s a lighter-haired dog.’ And I’m like, ‘Where are you and when can I pick him up?'”
He told his wife, who immediately responded, “Oh, we’re going to Ohio!”
Joy had a hard time sleeping the night before his eight-hour drive from Clarksville, Tennessee, to Cleveland, but he was looking forward to a reunion with his old friend.
“I was like, man,” Joy said. “This is going to be one of the best moments of my life, you know, besides my kids, getting married and retiring from the Army.”
Joy was concerned that Sam might not recognize him because it had been years and his appearance had changed, but a video shared by the kennel shows that Sam was excited to see the couple, even if he didn’t know who they were right away.
Get tissues ready for this one…Sam was dropped off by police who found him. Kennel staff scanned & found a #microchip then contacted the number on file. Turns out, Sam was missing for 4 YEARS, from Georgia! His owner drove 8hrs to get Sam in an emotional #reunion.☺️#happyending pic.twitter.com/kGtaeN4iX1
— City Dogs Cleveland (@CityDogsCLE) April 15, 2021
“But as we get up there and I’m waiting for them to pull Sam out, you can just see the anticipation in my face,” Joy told WKYC. “I was like a kid on Christmas. As soon as he turned that corner, I was like, ‘Oh my God. That is him.’
“And as I’m petting him, you can see as you watch the video that the shelter released, you can see my wife and my daughter crying. And I was like, ‘Oh man, I am so happy.’ And yeah, he didn’t recognize me at first, but it’s been (nearly) five years. I have a beard and long hair now.
“I don’t smile a lot, but you can see, I can’t stop smiling. I love Sam. Sam is my best friend. And most dogs are better than humans, in my opinion.”
Sam seems to have remembered his former owner and now rarely leaves Joy’s side. Joy said the two are inseparable.
After this amazing return home, Joy is ramping up his recommendation of microchipping your pet. He already was a big supporter, but with Sam back in his life because of the decision to have him chipped when he got neutered, Joy is encouraging everyone who can to follow suit.
“No matter what animal you have — cat, dog, if you could microchip your raccoon, microchip your raccoon,” he said. “Because there’s nothing like having your dog come back to you. Your pet. Part of your family.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.