Dog owner reunited with her pet after 4 years and 940-mile journey

Posted at 10:06 PM, Apr 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-29 22:46:40-04

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- United Airlines flew a lost dog home Wednesday in first class for free -- four years after he went missing.

The Lambert family didn't think they would ever see Sam, a Yorkshire Terrier, after he disappeared from their yard in Louisiana.

But he was found by an animal control officer in in Cedar Rapids, Iowa earlier this month.

He was straggly and weighed less than six pounds. Luckily, staff at the shelter were able to use the microchip he had to identify the Lambert family as the owners.

Danielle Lambert said she was "shocked" when she got the call.

"I first thought that there was no way it could be Sam. He'd been missing for four years," she told CNNMoney.

Sam was a birthday gift for her daughter Karisa when she turned 10 years old. Now she's 15.

The Yorkie was nursed back to health at the shelter until he was fit to fly home. He landed in New Orleans on a Unite flight at 11:16 a.m.

"This just makes all of us feel really, really happy that we can make this miracle come true for this family and their little dog," said Diane Webber, a manager at the Cedar Rapids shelter.

No one knows how Sam got to Iowa, which is nearly 1,000 miles away.

"We have no clue," said Lambert. "I guess that's the piece we'll never know."