Santa Clarita resident Joyce Culberhouse received a Christmas miracle Wednesday: It was a call she had been waiting almost four years to receive.
“We did anything you could think of to bring her home,” Culberhouse said. “She is our baby, We never stopped looking. We did everything.”
After more than a seven-hour drive from spending the holidays in Arizona, Joyce and her husband Randy held their furry baby, Shawnee, in their arms for the first time in 44 months.
“We didn’t know if it was true until we had her in our arms,” Culberhouse said. “It is really her.”
Tears streamed down Culberhouse’s face as Shawnee, a white and tan Shih Tzu, was placed into her arms, with her tail wagging and giving her owner endless kisses.
“I missed her so much,” she said in the video of the reunion.
Shawnee was stolen in April 2015 from the Culberhouse’s former home in Castaic.
“We hired pet detectives, search dogs,” Culberhouse said. “They tracked (the dog’s smell) to the the on ramp (at Hasley Canyon Road).”
Determined to get their dog back, they plastered posters and fliers everywhere they could, and even hung a banner across Interstate 5, she said. “For the last 44 months I’ve kept the craigslist listing up to date.”
They frequently checked with the pet microchip company, posted all over social media and mailed letters to shelters.
“We knew it would be a big fight trying to get her back,” Culberhouse said.
Then, a man and his dog found Shawnee on Christmas Eve, walking the streets alone.
“He brought her home, and with everything closed for the holiday, he and his Shih Tzu shared Christmas with Shawnee, even putting a red collar on her,” Culberhouse said.
The man took her to the Roxford Vet Clinic in Sylmar where they found the microchip and contacted the microchip company, which in turn contacted Culberhouse.
“We have dealt with prank calls. We were so hesitant,” she said. “We burst into tears. They knew our name.”
Within minutes, she was calling the vet clinic, who thought the dog had only been gone a few days.
“We were in a total state of shock,” said Tania Hernandez, a vet assistant at the clinic. “I can’t believe they were going through that.”
Culberhouse told the clinic her dog had been lost for 44 months and she asked if they were sure it was her dog, Shawnee.
“I leaned down and called Shawnee her name, and she looked up,” Hernandez said.
The Culberhouses immediately packed up to head back home from Arizona where they were visiting family for the holidays. “We wouldn’t make it there by the time they closed,” Culberhouse said.
Hernandez offered to take Shawnee home, giving the Culberhouses a chance to pick her up as soon as they got back in town.
“During the drive home, she texted us photos of Shawnee and reassured us (she) was fine,” Culberhouse said. “We’ll never know where she was these past 44 months or what she went through, but she’s home now, safe and loved.”
Shawnee was welcomed home Wednesday, almost exactly nine years after she was brought home as a puppy in December 2009.
“I saw her and had to have her,” Culberhouse said about Shawnee as a puppy. “She is doing all the things she used to do.”
“Everybody came to tears. It was one of those Christmas miracles only movies write about,” Hernandez said. “The joyest tearful reunion on the planet. It was absolutely amazing. Christmas miracles really do come true.”
The Culberhouse family is settling back into their routine, and are thankful for Shawnee’s microchip that brought her back home, she said. “If you ever find yourself in our shoes, please never give up, never lose faith. And microchip your pets.”