WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — He has always been a source of comfort and part of the family. But Sparky, the dog, escaped through an unlocked fence and was missing for nearly a year.
Flipping through an old scrapbook, you can see that Sparky is in almost every picture. He's a small dog with a big personality, and Lisa Raulerson's side has been him for the past 16 years.
"My husband passed away 11 years ago, and he was with us through all that, so he's been a big part of our family," Raulerson said.
He's gone on family vacations to Georgia and North Carolina, but a piece of Lisa went missing.
"Before we noticed it, he was gone," Raulerson said.
Last October, Raulerson was living in a cottage in West Palm Beach. She said it was a rainy day, and she accidentally left the gate open. That is when Sparky snuck out without anybody realizing it.
"We looked for a week or two just straight looking for him," Raulerson said.
Lisa and her daughter made missing flyers, and they offered a reward. But Sparky was 15 at the time, partially deaf, and hope faded after a few weeks.
"We pretty much figured he passed away," Raulerson said. "It was sad because he was part of us, and we talked about him every day."
But after 331 days, nearly a year later, Lisa saw a post on Facebook last week from Sunshine State Westie Rescue.
"I didn't even start scrolling. There was a picture of a dog that looked like Sparky," Raulerson said.
We're told Sparky was picked up as a stray, and the rescue pulled him out of the shelter before being euthanized. His hair was matted and dirty, but this face spoke to Lisa, and after nearly 11 months, they were reunited.
"I feel like a void in my heart was filled, I really do. I never thought I'd see him again, but here he is. I wish he could talk," Raulerson said.
Lisa picked Sparky up last weekend, and he is now back home in West Palm Beach.
Ryan Hughes at WPTV first reported this story.