A missing Shih Tzu from Jacksonville, Florida, was reunited with his owner after the dog was found in New Jersey.
Sammy went missing from Heimburger's home sometime in November 2021 when he ran out of Heimburger's front door, which was accidentally left open by a relative, according to First Coast News. Posts on the Lost Pets of Jacksonville Facebook group from Hayt and Heimburger indicate they first started searching for the dog on Nov. 18, 2021.
"I was afraid I was never going to see him again," Heimburger, who also said the dog comforted her through chemotherapy, told First Coast News.
Heimburger and Hayt utilized Hayt's lost pet Facebook group, which boasts over 38,500 members, to increase awareness about the missing pet, according to First Coast News. Unfortunately, these efforts to find Sammy, who is 13, according to a Facebook post from Hayt, went nowhere.
"She said I'll bring Sammy home to you," Heimburger told First Coast News. "We just thought he was in the area. I had no idea he was so far away."
According to an update in the Facebook group from Hayt on Monday, Sammy was recently brought to Mansfield Veterinary Hospital in Columbus, New Jersey, due to an eye infection. When veterinarians scanned him, they found a microchip identifying him as Heimburger's pet. They contacted Sammy's owner, who told First Coast News that she did not realize her dog had traveled so far after he went missing.
"Apparently someone was visiting Jacksonville and took him home with them," Hayt wrote in the Facebook group on Monday. She added that a nonprofit called S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue Inc. offered to drive Sammy.
The nonprofit drove Sammy from New Jersey to Palatka, Florida, where Hayt then picked up the dog and brought him to Jacksonville for his reunion with Heimburger, according to First Coast News.
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"[Sammy] is probably our best story because he was that far away from home, microchipped, which is important for every animal to be microchipped," Hayt told First Coast News of her Facebook group, which she created in March 2013.
It's unclear why whoever took Sammy from New Jersey to Florida did not attempt to identify the dog for several months. Mansfield Veterinary Hospital did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Tuesday concerning who brought the dog to the veterinarian.
Hayt reminded First Coast News that microchipping is one of the easiest ways to increase your chances of reuniting with a missing pet. Hayt told the news outlet that when she started the lost pets Facebook group, only about 10 percent of dogs they helped find were microchipped, but the number has risen to nearly 60 percent in the years since.