Dog missing before Superstorm Sandy reunites with family

When the Cruz family was informed on April 1st that their dog was coming home, they thought it was a cruel prank. (Photo credit: West Windsor Police Department)

In the days before Superstorm Sandy — the destructive hurricane that caused death and devastation in the Northeastern United States in late 2012 — Hillsborough Township, New Jersey residents Miguel, Myra, and 12-year-old Sebastian Cruz were on a frantic search.

The Cruz family’s 4-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, Wesley, had gone missing, and as the storm inched ever closer to their home, they knew they’d need to find him — and fast.

Through the raging storm and for weeks afterwards, the family hoped for the best, but there was no sign of Wesley’s whereabouts. Finally, Miguel Cruz felt he had to prepare his son for the worst.

Sebastian and Wesley were always inseparable, ever since the loyal Lab was only 8-weeks-old. Wesley had been a birthday present for Sebastian, who lives with mild autism. To learn that his beloved best friend might not have survived the hurricane was a devastating blow to the young boy. But still, deep down, the Cruzes stayed hopeful that Wesley would one day come home.

“When you’re a dog person, the dog is part of the family. It’s a family member that’s gone. So, you never give up hope,” Miguel explains.

Then, April 1, the Cruz family got the call they’d been waiting for these 17 months — Wesley was alive and well.

“The phone rings and it’s the West Windsor PD,” Miguel remembers.

Because that call came on April 1 — April Fools Day — the Cruzes first thought it was a cruel prank. But as the details started to emerge, they soon realized it was anything but a joke. Wesley was finally coming home.

“We were jumping up with joy,” Miguel says of his family’s reaction to the good news.

“We were thinking that he passed, he may have been struck and, you know, we hoped that if he is alive that someone is taking care of him,” Miguel tells CBS Philadelphia.

As it turns out, Wesley was found fairly close to home. Authorities 30 miles from the Cruzes’ responded to a call about a stray dog. But it turned out the dog wasn’t a stray at all — a quick scan of a microchip revealed that the dog was Wesley Cruz, and that he’d been lost for nearly a year and a half.

That evening, Miguel, Myra, and Sebastian reunited with Wesley in the lobby of the West Windsor Police Department.

“When we first saw him, he was excited but he’s always happy to see everyone,” Miguel tells ABC News of Wesley. “The next morning at home, when we came downstairs, he was just ecstatic to see us.”

Wesley is pretty much the same sweet dog he’s always been, though he’s 25 pounds heavier. Miguel says Wesley is settling right back in to his old routines at home.

“He sleeps in his regular spots and you can tell he recognizes the smells,” he explains. “He’s happy to be home because he’s back to how he was before he was lost.”

Sources: ABC News, CBS Philadelphia

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