George, a black shepherd-lab mix with a white chest and brindle paws, slipped his leash and took off during a walk with a dog sitter on Christmas 2015 in Atlanta.
Owners Julianne Green and Matt Furniss were informed of the news while visiting New York for the holidays. Devastated, they cut their trip short so they could begin searching.
Nearly 17 months later, they can finally stop.
A microchip company called the couple last week to tell them George had been picked up in Atlanta’s Oakland City neighborhood — about six miles from their Reynoldstown neighborhood — and was scanned in at Fulton County Animal Services.
They raced to the shelter. Green was expecting George to be sick, injured or aggressive. But then they saw him.
“He came right up to us and was so lovey and happy,” she said Tuesday. “And it was like he wasn’t gone for one and a half years.”
Green and Furniss were thrilled, but so were hundreds of others.
George had gained a following since the couple posted about his disappearance on Nextdoor in December 2015. Many missing-animal posts are on the online forum, but George was a special case. Neighbors helped put up flyers, checked in and posted any time there was a suspected sighting.
Eventually, the sightings slowed. A naysayer on Nextdoor said the dog couldn’t have survived the winter and advised people to stop posting about him. The couple donated George’s belongings, but remained hopeful.
Green thinks people became invested in George’s story because he went missing on Christmas and because he kept darting between neighborhoods. Despite the occasional sightings, the then-2-year-old dog was skittish and didn’t recognize his name being called.
The couple — who adopted George from the Humane Society in Atlanta after a bad flood hit South Carolina — had only owned him for two months.
When Green shared the news that George had been found to Nextdoor, the post got more than 230 “thanks” and more than 100 comments in less than a week.
Since his return, the couple has since found out their dog is heartworm positive, and have started a GoFundMe to raise money for George’s treatment. Over $1,000 has been raised toward its $3,000 goal.
“He has become a local celebrity,” the fundraising page says. “Chances are when we meet a new neighbor, they have already heard a piece of his journey.”
The couple said they’re “eternally grateful” for the neighborhood’s support.
Any extra funds from the campaign will be donated to Fulton County Animal Services in George’s name.