Reuniting with a lost dog

Best Friends in New York works collaboratively with city shelters, local animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area. As part of this work, Best Friends has a national lifesaving concept space and pet adoption center in SoHo, hosts adoption and fundraising events, and runs a foster program in partnership with Animal Care Centers of New York City. Together, we will Save Them All.

Samantha Rivera was looking at adoptable dogs on the Best Friends in New York website one evening when she saw a dog named River with eyes that made her heart skip a beat. They were an unusual shade of brown, just like her puppy Rose’s eyes that she gazed into every day before Rose got lost months ago.

As Samantha looked closer at River, she made note of her beautiful coat and a smile — also just like Rose. And that’s when her heart skipped another beat. Could this be the young dog she’d been missing since she slipped through an open door and got away?

With excitement mixed with a touch of disbelief, Samantha emailed the adoption center to find out if River was her dog. She listed all of Rose’s telltale traits (among them a scar on her hind leg) and sent them photos of Rose.

When the center confirmed River had the same scar and shared many more of Rose’s attributes, Samantha knew there was just one thing left for her to do — go to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in SoHo and find out for sure.

Runaway dog remembers her family

As Samantha made her way to the adoption center, she prepared herself for the possible disappointment that River wasn’t her long-lost puppy. But then she saw River, who began wagging her tail feverishly as Samantha approached her, like she was seeing her missing family member for the first time in months — because she was.

As for Samantha? She’d know those eyes anywhere. It was Rose.

A beautiful reunion, months in the making

When Samantha hugged Rose for the first time after their reunion, she cried. But unlike the tears that fell after Rose went missing, these were tears of joy and relief. And she wasn’t alone.

“The whole center staff, volunteers and visitors gathered around for the reunion and there was not a dry eye in the house,” says Sandie Samuels, pet adoption center manager. “She was a mischievous puppy at the center, always trying to grab the leash on her walks. I’m convinced she was trying to tell us she knew the way home if we would only let her take the lead.”

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Samantha Rivera getting a kiss from Rose the dog

How a young dog got away

Between kisses from Rose, Samantha explained to everyone at the center how her dog got lost in the first place. She and her husband, David, had just adopted Rose and one day decided to take their new puppy on an outing to the garage where David worked.

They left the door open slightly to let in air and light, thinking it was too small an opening for Rose to slip out, but they were wrong. When Samantha noticed Rose was gone, it had only been a few minutes. She searched the streets, reported the puppy missing and posted fliers.

Months went by without any news and Samantha couldn’t shake her worry. And since Rose had yet to be microchipped, that only added weight to her already heavy heart.

Eventually, she and David decided to look for another dog to adopt. Little did they know their search would lead them to Rose. At some point, Rose ended up at Animal Care Centers of NYC, and from there she was brought to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center. Because she hadn’t been adopted, she was still there when Samantha looked.

A woman wearing a Best Friends T-shirt walking River the dog along with Samantha Rivera

Microchipping a dog

Samantha says she was a little nervous when she first saw Rose again. “I wondered if she thought I left her,” she says. But Rose had only tail wags and kisses for Samantha.

Now, Rose is safe at home, and she’s microchipped. They picked up right where they left off, and Samantha’s just happy to have her dog back. “It’s just as it was before,” says Samantha. “She remembered everything we did together.”

Rose the dog in a bed with a Save Them All toy

Samantha and David have taken extra steps to make sure Rose never wanders off again. Now when they bring her to the garage, they hold her leash at all times. “Our family is back together,” says Samantha. “We feel whole again, and we want to stay that way.”

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Samantha Rivera sitting on some steps with her dog Rose

Photos by Shannon Kirkman and courtesy of Samantha Rivera