Becky Thomas and Fred Dutra had given up hope that they would find the dog they lost last May.
However, on Jan. 22, Thomas, Dutra and their border collie Fiona were reunited after Fiona apparently roamed vineyards near Thornton for eight months.
"I was a big, blubbering idiot when we found her," Thomas said.
The couple had spent May 12 in Rio Vista, and they stopped at Peltier and Thornton roads on the way home to meet up with a friend's boyfriend, who was driving south from Sacramento. Fiona quietly jumped out of the car.
However, Thomas and Dutra had no idea that Fiona was gone until they arrived at their home on Peltier Road east of Highway 99.
They freaked out.
"Our animals are our kids," Thomas said. "That's what we refer to them as — our kids."
Dutra drove right back to Thornton and Peltier roads, but it was dark by then and he couldn't find Fiona.
The next steps were to check with the Lodi Animal Shelter, ask neighbors along Peltier Road near Interstate 5, and pass out flyers.
Meanwhile, many people in the western Peltier Road area saw a dog matching Fiona's description, but she appeared scared and unapproachable.
A woman named Stephanie saw Fiona at Ray and Kile roads on Jan. 12, but this time Fiona came close enough for Stephanie to read her dog collar. It gave Fred Dutra's name, but the phone number listed was no longer in service. Stephanie looked up other Dutras in the phone book and found one. She called that number, and he told Fred Dutra about Stephanie.
Thomas phoned Stephanie immediately and then went to her residence. Fiona wasn't there, but Stephanie took a picture and posted it on the People Assisting Lodi Shelter's website. That's when Thomas knew that Fiona was still alive and had not been killed by coyotes.
Fast-forward to Jan. 22. A woman who lives on Davis Road between Woodbridge and Peltier roads called Thomas and told her she had seen the dog two hours prior.
Dutra was out of town on business at the time, but Thomas drove out there.
"I called Fiona's name, and she came right up behind me," she said. "She jumped right into my car. She wanted to go home."
Reflecting on losing Fiona, Thomas said, "I wonder what she did for eight months. I don't know if she ran with the coyotes or not, or if she dodged them. I wish she could talk and tell us."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.