Pooch returns home after 5 years

July 15, 2008 8:52:21 AM PDT
A Queens family has been reunited with a runaway dog after five years.Rocco, a beagle, escaped by digging under a backyard gate in 2003. After he disappeared into the streets, Jorge and Cristina Villacis told their heartbroken daughter, then 5-year-old Natalie, that she would probably never see her puppy again, according to the New York Post.

But after being found in a Georgia shelter more than 800 miles away, the pooch was reunited with his family last weekend.

The dog reportedly has a chip in his back that helped him get back to Natalie, now 11.

"When my mom told me they found Rocco, I cried hysterically, just like I did when they told me he was lost," Natalie told The Post. "I felt like I was in a dream, like my head was spinning."

Rocco was dropped off as a stray at the Liberty County Animal Control in Hinseville on July 5, supervisor Randy Durrence told the newspaper.

Durrence reportedly traced Rocco to Queens after scanning the identity microchip.

Though the family later brought a poodle mix named Bonita into the home, the Post reports, Natalie said she never stopped wondering what happened to her old pup, where he went and if he ended up in a good home.

"Every time I would see a dog on the street, I would say to my mom, 'Maybe Rocco will come back,'" Natalie told the newspaper. "She would say that he probably isn't going to come back. I would say, 'I know, but maybe he will.'"

Durrence says the shelter reunites many families with their pets but "it's unheard of" after so many years.