SALT LAKE CITY — It's been eight months since Sharalyn Cooper has seen Fadidle, her 2-year-old miniature pinscher, but on Saturday, she held the tiny animal, with its "bat ears" quivering, to her chest and cried.
The two were reunited at the Salt Lake International Airport after the dog turned up in San Diego.
"It's wonderful," she said, smiling though her eyes were full of tears.
The slight creature ran off from Cooper's Roy home last October. Cooper said that wasn't unusual. Most often, she'd find Fadidle running around with some neighborhood kids down the street, but this time her 1-year-old puppy was gone.
"We had a hard time," Cooper said. "She's our baby. It was pretty tough."
After a couple of months of scouring the neighborhood, posting fliers and diligently checking animal shelters in Davis and Weber counties, Cooper all but gave up hope.
Then, seven months after the dog disappeared, a call came from the San Diego Humane Society letting them now they had found Fadidle.
"I bawled and thanked them an awful lot," Cooper said. "I couldn't believe it. We done so much to get her back and hadn't found her."
Athena Davis, an employee at the humane society said the dog was brought to them by a "Good Samaritan" and was at first believed to be a stray. They placed the animal on a stray hold, but then discovered she had been implanted with a microchip that linked her to Cooper.
But the dog then had to go on ringworm watch, delaying her return until Saturday.
"I just want to see my dog," Cooper said anxiously in the airport. Then came Davis riding down the escalator, a small red kennel in hand and Cooper, her daughter, Darien, and Darin Watkins ran to greet the animal with hugs and tears.
She's the best little girl," Davis told them, noting that their pet had held up well, even amid the stress of the airport and having to ride underneath the airplane. "She did so good. She was very quiet and very patient."
Davis said she only found out two days ago that she would be accompanying the animal back to its home.
"I'm just so excited we were able to do it and make it happen," she said. "It's one of the more unusual things I've done, but I enjoyed it."
Davis said that the microchip made all the difference and recommended that everyone with a pet get one. In this case, it led to the "happy ending."
"We see a lot of different things," Davis said. "When it works out this way, it's really touching."
The family thanked Davis and those in San Diego for bringing Fadidle home. Sharalyn Cooper noted that the animal looked skinnier than when she had left, but was nevertheless happy to see Fadidle had survived the ordeal — even if a little unexpectedly.
"We were really surprised," she said. "She's just a little tiny thing. We're just happy they found her. It was definitely a long wait."
The family members joked that Fadidle was "'Homeward Bound' in real life" and had even visited a place they had yet to see.
"She's lucky," Darien Cooper said. "She got on a plane before I even did!"
They wondered about what may have happened in the eight long months the dog was gone. It's their belief that she was stolen.
"I'd love to hear what she has to say about this whole thing," Sharalyn Cooper said.
But as Fadidle rested her head on Sharalyn Cooper's shoulder, her shaking finally stopped until she sat in Cooper's arms — still and content.
"She always used to do this," Cooper said.
"She knows who her mom is," Watkins added.