Woman Reunites With Lost Dog 11 Years After He Went Missing

“I honestly feel like he knows that he’s back home.”

Facebook has long been a way to reconnect and find lost friends and old flames — but for one woman, it helped to heal a broken heart after 11 years.

Iris Candelaria wasn’t looking for a dog, but when she met Bebe in 2006, she knew he had come into her life for a reason. “I instantly fell in love with him. He was just so little and looked like a stuffed teddy bear,” Candelaria told The Dodo. “I thought, ‘You know what? I think it’s time for us to get a dog.’”

Iris Candelaria

From the moment they saw him, Candelaria’s daughters welcomed the Maltese-Yorkie mix with excitement.

"I was going through a depression when I got him and he made everything better for me and my girls," Candelaria said.

Iris Candelaria

Bebe quickly became another member of the family, following Candelaria and her daughters around the house like a second shadow, always at their heels, eager for affection. “If I sat down, he’d jump into my lap, and if I was lying down, he would be next to me,” Candelaria said. “He had to be constantly close to me.”

The family couldn’t imagine their lives without him, so they decided to bring Bebe to a veterinarian to be microchipped. With the extra assurance, they knew that no matter what happened, they would always be able to find him.

A year and a half later, Bebe went out to play in the fenced-in yard, and, suddenly, he was gone.

Iris Candelaria

Candelaria covered the neighborhood in lost dog flyers, rang all the local shelters and waited by the phone. But despite her efforts, no word came. “It was really discouraging and overwhelming,” she said.

As the days passed, Candelaria’s stress grew. She started fearing the worst and worried that, without the love of a family, Bebe wouldn’t survive long. She hoped that if somebody did find him, they would take good care of him.

Years went by and, while the heartbreak hadn’t healed entirely, Candelaria decided it was time to move on and adopt another dog. She welcomed two pit bulls into the home, Sir Fatty and Mia, then made yet more room when she found a stray terrier mix wandering the streets, and named him Croissant.

Iris Candelaria

Still, every now and then, Candelaria would find herself online, checking to see if a small Maltese mix had been found. One day, she logged onto her computer and saw an unread message.

“I got a message on Facebook asking if I had ever owned a Maltese-Yorkie mix,” Candelaria said. “They had scanned [the microchip of] a dog who came into the veterinary clinic in really bad shape and had come up with my information. I was like, ‘This is crazy, I can’t believe this is happening.’”

The clinic sent Candelaria a photo of the dog, and though over a decade had passed, she knew. “He was sedated, and they had had to cut off all his matted hair, but I knew it was him,” Candelaria said. “It was the same little face.”

Iris Candelaria

Bebe had suffered neglect and braved the elements, leaving him with a badly wounded paw and only a few remaining teeth.

The vets hesitantly asked if she wanted him back. “I was like, ‘Of course I want my dog back! Why wouldn’t I want my dog back?’”

After Bebe spent two days healing in the clinic, Candelaria and her daughter drove to meet him — still in disbelief. “I was so nervous because I didn’t think he’d remember me,” Candelaria said, “but we had this special way of talking to him, so I hoped that when he heard us, he’d remember.”

Iris Candelaria

As soon as a vet tech put Bebe in Candelaria’s arms, he snuggled right into her chest, licking her face and the tears that filled her eyes.

Iris Candelaria

“I gave up hope for a long time,” Candelaria said. “And it opened my eyes that sometimes miracles do happen. Anything is possible.”

It’s been less than a week since the emotional reunion, but other than the cumbersome cone Bebe has to wear while he heals and a few “little old man quirks,” noted Candelaria, it’s like no time has passed.

Iris Candelaria

He comes when he’s called, and travels with his mom into work every day, sitting in a special box where he can keep an eye on her and feel safe.

Iris Candelaria

“It feels like he never left. He’s still exactly the way I remember him,” Candelaria added. “Everywhere I go he follows me — even when I go to the bathroom, he scratches at the door wanting to come in.”

Bebe’s new dog siblings have accepted him, too, and “everyone’s like a big happy family,” she said.

Iris Candelaria

“Despite what he’s been through, he’s still really gentle and sweet,” Candelaria said. “I honestly feel like he knows that he’s back home.”

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