Dog missing from Georgia since 2017 found 500 miles away in West Virginia

The owner says she was overcome with emotion after getting the call she'd been waiting years for. (Source: WSAZ)
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 10:58 AM CDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/Gray News) – A dog that went missing in 2017 from the Atlanta area was found alive last week in West Virginia, nearly 500 miles away from home.

The pit bull, named Chief, disappeared from its owner’s house when he was just over 1 year old.

His owner, Tara Hillis, said the dog either jumped her fence or dug underneath it and got out.

Weeks turned into months and then years with no sign of it.

“I honestly thought I’d never see him again,” Hillis said. “Initially, I thought maybe someone took him to try to breed him, but he’s fixed. So many years go by, you just really miss him.”

A few people said they found Chief on Saturday, wandering alone at East Lynn Lake in Wayne County, West Virginia – that’s nearly a seven-hour drive from its home.

They took the pit bull to the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Shelter.

Workers at the shelter were able to find Hillis’s contact information, thanks to a microchip she had put in Chief.

Hillis said she was overwhelmed with emotion when the shelter called her.

“I can’t believe this,” Hillis said. “This is insane. Every time I’d talk about that day, I’d get chill bumps.”

Rachel Boone, the canine behavior specialist at the shelter, said Chief is healthy and friendly.

“He’s just a big baby,” Boone said.

Hillis said she expects she’ll become very emotional when she gets to hold her dog again, and she’s praying it remembers her.

Hillis said they’re still ironing out the details of how Chief will get back home. She said someone from the shelter has offered to drive halfway there to her friend’s house, which might happen this week.

“If I think about my dog missing that long, it makes me want to cry,” Boone said. “I already want to cry for her.”