United Airlines Foots The Bill To Fly Dog Missing For Four Years Back To Family

It’s not every day you see a dog flying first class – for free – on an airplane. But that’s exactly what passengers on a flight from Iowa to Louisiana witnessed Wednesday, as United Airlines footed the bill to reunite a dog with his family after going missing four years ago.

ABC News reports (warning: link video autoplays) that United pulled out all the stops when it came to reuniting Sam, a Yorkshire terrier, with his family in Louisiana.

The ordeal began in 2011, when the family says Sam went through a hole in their backyard fence into the surrounding wooded area. The family tried everything they could to find the dog, but had no luck.

That is until this April when an animal control officer in Cedar Rapids, IA, spotted the pup and brought him to a local shelter.

“The Yorkie was in fair condition, but was straggly and weighed only 5 1/2 pounds,” according to the press release 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.”

After scanning the microchip, the shelter contacted the family, who had all but given up hope on finding their furry friend.

“We were waiting to hear around here if someone found him,” the family’s mom says. “They would have called us. After four years, you kind of give up hope.”

Because the family couldn’t afford to bring Sam home themselves, they set up a fundraising page and raised more than $250. But after hearing the story, United Airlines stepped in and paid for the dog’s return trip in first class with an animal worker.

Upon landing at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Wednesday, the dog and his newly reunited family were welcomed with balloon and refreshments provided by the airline.

ABC News reports that the individuals who initially donated for the dogs transport have agreed to allow the family to put the funds toward caring for Sam.

Dog Found in Iowa Returned to Louisiana Owner After Missing Nearly 4 Years [ABC News]