Imperial Beach, California - In 2007, when devastating wildfires ripped through San Diego County, John Hartman and his family were left without a home. But the fires took more than replaceable items; they also separated the family from their dog, Buddy.

But a $10 microchip, implanted in Buddy two years before the fires, is now responsible for reuniting the family—nearly seven years after he went missing.

Hartman said someone found Buddy soon after the fires and took him to a vet. But the dog quickly escaped and the family thought they had lost Buddy for good.

Since then, Hartman and his wife moved to Oklahoma. But on a recent trip to San Diego to visit their son, they got one very surprise call from the County’s Department of Animal Services.  After seven years, Buddy had been found. Someone who reported finding the black lab loose in Imperial Beach dropped off the dog at the County’s Gaines Street Animal Shelter on March 28. Staff scanned the dog for the microchip and matched it up to Hartman.

“We’ve reunited animals from across the country and even the world with their owners, but seven years is one of the longest time periods we were able to reunite a pet and its owner,” said Dan DeSousa, deputy director of Animal Services. “The story could have had a tragic ending when the dog was lost during the wildfires, but the happy ending of this dog being reunited with its owner after moving from out of state can’t be beat.”

On April 1, Hartman and his wife picked up 10-year-old Buddy and they left San Diego to head back to Oklahoma with their long-lost pet.

The microchip made it all happen.

“This story only re-emphasizes the importance of microchipping pets,” DeSousa said. “While a dog license is required by law, a collar or tag can easily be lost and that is why we encourage people to microchip.”

Get your pet microchipped by the Department of Animal Services at their shelters on any Thursday from 1-3 p.m. The device is no bigger than a grain of rice and requires no battery or anesthesia to implant. Who knows? The next successful reunion story could be yours!