EATONTOWN, N.J. — Chuck and Elicia James thought they had lost their dog Reckless forever after the friendly brown-and-white terrier-pitbull mix got loose 18 months ago during Superstorm Sandy.
But on Thursday, they received an unexpected surprise when they went to the Monmouth County SPCA to adopt a new dog; they found their old friend.
"Literally when we opened the double doors, the first cage we walk up to I thought, 'That looks like Reckless,' " Chuck James said. "He was a little heavier and it's been a little while, but then my wife saw the scar on his head and immediately we start tearing up. We found our dog."
The James family – Chuck and Elicia and their children, Alexandra, Kelsey and Liam – were living in Keansburg when Sandy damaged their home during the night of Oct. 29-30, 2012. Chuck James said the fence in the yard was mangled during the storm and the dog got out.
"We had a collar on the dog, but it got caught on the fence and came off," James said.
The family searched for months for Reckless but eventually gave up.
A couple of weeks ago, Alexandra James turned 10 and the family decided it was time to get a new dog. On Thursday, they went to the Monmouth Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Eatontown and met with an adoption specialist to look at different dogs. Once inside, they recognized Reckless.
They showed the adoption specialist pictures of the family with the dog to prove it really was theirs, and they were able to take Reckless back home.
"We were all ecstatic and he made it clear that he was home and we were home," Chuck James said.
"I'm just glad that he's home," Elicia James said. "The kids are happy and this whole thing has been an amazing experience."
They ended up paying a $180 adoption fee. Chuck James said he had no problem with that.
"They took care of the dog, microchiped him, he saw vets regularly and they sheltered him," James said.
Liz Wise, development and marketing director at the Monmouth County SPCA, said something like this is very rare.
"It's not very often we're able to reunite them with their owners in the way that this happened," Wise said. "It also shows the importance of microchiping your pets, because had he been microchiped, we would've been able to reunite him with his family sooner."
Wise said the dog was found as a stray last October by the Monmouth County SPCA.
"It's a wonderful story and a very happy ending for the family," Wise said. "It's something that really warmed our hearts."