This is a dog's tale of epic proportions.
Eighteen months after losing their beloved family pet Reckless when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the US, a New Jersey family decided it was time to look for a new dog.
But when they went to pick one up from the local animal shelter who did they find? Reckless.
The terrier-pit bull mix had escaped from the James' backyard during the storm in October 2012.
Chuck James said the family searched for the brown-and-white dog for months before finally giving up hope.
"We reported him missing and called the shelters periodically, just hoping they had him," James said Saturday. "We always kept our hopes up, but eventually it's time to move on."
James said they had planned in recent weeks to get a new dog as a 10th birthday surprise for their eldest daughter, Ally.
But when the family of five went to the Monmouth County SPCA to adopt a new animal, James and his wife approached the first cage and saw a familiar face inside.
"He jumped 3 feet in the air. He immediately recognized us. And then the tears came - there wasn't a dry eye in the place," James told CNN.
"He was a little bigger than I remembered because they had fed him well," James joked.
"But then he was laying on my wife's feet, and I knew it was him. ... I was in disbelief. I know this dog is meant to be with our family."
When SPCA officials asked if they could prove the animal was their dog, a friend sent over a picture showing the family with their dog before Sandy hit the Jersey shore.
"We're all so happy to have him back," James said.
"Thank God for no-kill shelters because every time they kill an animal, it's somebody's friend who might be lost. Thank God they didn't put him down because this would have been a different story."
SPCA officials say Reckless was picked up as a stray and has now been microchipped.
The family is living in a hotel while their storm-damaged Keansburg home is repaired. This weekend, the Jameses went on a camping trip with Reckless to celebrate the dog's return.
- with AP
- Fairfax Media