Millions of dogs and cats get lost every year, and sadly, many of them never make it back home. Sometimes, though, a miracle happens, and a pet owner and their furry friend get reunited even after years apart.

In 2016, a man named Michael Joy was living in Georgia and working as an Army recruiter. One day, three of his dogs got out, and while two of them came back, one didn’t. The lost dog, Sam, was only four months old at the time, and Michael never gave up hope on finding him. He called the local shelters and followed them on social media hoping for a happy update, but Sam still didn’t return.

Despite his best efforts, Michael was unable to locate Sam, and unfortunately, he and his family ended up having to move to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, due to his job. Now living in a different state, it seemed that Michael would never be reunited with his beloved pup.

Nearly five years later, though, Michael received a call that would change his — and Sam’s — lives forever.

On April 2, 2021, Michael received a call from Cleveland. To his utter shock, it was from someone claiming to have Sam! “In the back of my mind I’m going, ‘This can’t be the same Sam! This is Ohio! This is, like, almost to Michigan!’” Michael told WTSP. “So I’m like, ‘Can you describe him for me?’ And she said, ‘He’s a lighter-haired dog.’ And I’m like ‘Where are you and when can I pick him up?’”

While it’s unclear how Sam made it from Georgia to Cleveland, what Michael does know is that the Cleveland police found his dog and scanned him for a microchip, which is how they found Michael’s information. So the veteran drove all the way from Kentucky to Ohio with his family to bring his dog home after over four long years.

“I was like, man. This is going to be one of the best moments of my life, you know, besides my kids, getting married and retiring from the Army,” he told WTSP.

Michael was hopeful that Sam would recognize him, but also acknowledged that a lot had changed in the time they’d been apart. Michael now sports long hair and a long beard, whereas when he worked for the Army, he had short hair and was clean-shaven. Plus, Sam was just a puppy at the time he was lost; he hadn’t spent a ton of time with his “dad,” and it had been years since they’d seen each other.

Still, the reunion between Michael and Sam was everything a pet owner could hope for, and the duo are now safe at home with an incredible story that Michael hopes will convince more pet owners to get their animals microchipped.

You can watch the beautiful reunion below:

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