A 7-year-old Siberian Husky who was taken from her owner's New Mexico residence five years ago and ended up in Riverside, California, will be heading home for a happy reunion with the family that had given her up for dead.
According to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services, "Azula" was abducted from her Albuquerque-area property in 2013 and was located last month in a Riverside neighborhood.
Agency spokesman John Welsh said the canine was wandering aimlessly when she was picked up by a good Samaritan, who dropped her at the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley.
The 65-pound Husky, who outwardly appears to be in good health, had been microchipped, and that data was scanned by shelter employees, leading to the identification of the dog's owner -- Jezus Vigil.
"Mr. Vigil said he was thrilled when he was told his dog was alive," Welsh said. "However, he said he was amazed to learn his pet somehow ended up in the Golden State."
The man said Azula was stolen from her pen, leaving the family bereft and fearing the worst.
Shelter employees tapped a special projects fund -- not department revenue -- to which they contribute to arrange for Azula to be returned home via an airline flight Thursday out of Ontario International Airport, according to Welsh. He noted that the Vigil family "made a large donation" to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to match the employees' gift of returning the dog.
Azula was scheduled to depart Ontario about 12:45 p.m. and arrive at Albuquerque International Airport about 8:30 p.m., Welsh said.