Four years later, Tucson family reunited with stolen dog

Tucson family reunited with stolen dog four years later

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - If home is where the heart is, this heart and home were broken and missing a loving family piece.

Ever since her Yorkshire Terrier named Harley was reported stolen four years ago, Barbara Milburn had no idea how she could ever love another puppy again. She had owned Harley since just after she was born until the day she was stolen during a home break-in when the dog was about three years old.

“We put signs, flyers. I thought the worst,” Milburn said during a FaceTime call with Tucson News Now from her new home in Mississippi. “I cried. It was horrible. It’s like losing a child. All our animals are like our children. But nothing. She never surfaced.”

Her daughter, Samantha Sandoval, still lives in Tucson. She remembers the heartache of her mother each year, as she posted her missing dog’s picture on social media to mark the agonizing anniversary.

“I just didn’t want to see it. She was so sad, every year,” Sandoval said.

So imagine their feelings, all these years later, to get the flabbergasting phone call they received on Friday, December 21.

On the other end of the line was Pima Animal Care Center. According to PACC staff, volunteer Charly Van Den Burgh found the Yorkshire Terrier running in the road. Van Den Burgh picked her up, brought her to the shelter to scan for a microchip, and made the crucial connection.

“I was stunned. I even had to ask her to describe her for me. Because I just couldn’t register it,” Milburn said.

Sandoval heard the heartwarming news from her mother.

“When she called me, her voice, oh my god. She was like, 'Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? I’m like, ‘Who? Who is missing that we forgot?’” Sandoval said. “It’s not that we forgot, it’s just you kind of have to move on. There was no closure for it.”

Sandoval went to pick up Harley at Pima Animal Care Center with heroic feelings of holiday joy.

Nikki Reck, a Pima Animal Care Center spokesperson, touted the technological success story.

“Microchips are so important, but even more important is registering the chip to a phone number that won’t be changing. The family in this case had moved away but kept the same number so we were able to track them down. We were so happy to be able to make their holidays a bit brighter!” she said in a statement to Tucson News Now.

Microchipping is included in Pima Animal Care Center’s adoption fee.

Thanks to the registration, a happy ending and reunion is forthcoming when mom comes home for the holidays. It’ll be a journey to become a full, loving family once more and recover that loving family piece.

“I’m coming home to pick her up. I can’t get there fast enough. I’ve already got a plane ticket,” Milburn said. “I’ll definitely be there and I cannot wait. Cannot wait.”

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