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Family stunned by familiar face in SPCA cage

If fate exists, the reunion of a mixed-breed dog with its family on Thursday after the dog went missing during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 is warmly testimonial.

Chuck James told Associated Press his family looked everywhere in the neighborhood for Reckless, their brown-and-white terrier mix, after the killer storm hit. Each time the Jameses and their three children came home empty-handed and heartbroken.

As weeks turned in the months, the family eventually lost hope and decided it was time to fill the void left by Reckless.

"We reported him missing and called the shelters periodically, just hoping they had him," James said Saturday. "We always kept our hopes up, but eventually it's time to move on."

The family wound up at Monmouth County SPCA on Thursday hoping to find a new family pet to replace Reckless. The visit to SPCA for a new pet was also a birthday surprise for 10-year-old daughter Ally.

For animal lovers it’s easy to understand the family’s quest. While dogs are not people, they can be equally comforting and unlike people, they only require loving care, an occasional treat and maybe cable television to watch Animal Planet.

Imagine the initial shock and the ensuing blanket of warm affection as the family of five recognized the mug behind the first cage they came to at the SPCA facility.

"He was a little bigger than I remembered because they had fed him well," James joked. "But then he lay on my wife's feet, and I knew it was him. ... I was in disbelief. I know this dog is meant to be with our family."

Of course, the SPCA folks had to check things out; that’s their job. Officials asked if the family could prove the animal was their dog. The inquiry was quickly settled after a friend sent over a picture showing the family with their dog before Sandy hit the Jersey shore.

"We're all so happy to have him back," James said. "Thank God for no-kill shelters because every time they kill an animal, it's somebody's friend who might be lost. Thank God they didn't put him down because this would have been a different story."

Reckless was picked up as a stray but thanks to the SPCA, now sports a microchip. The family is living in a temporary arrangement while their storm-damaged Keansburg home is repaired.

The Jameses went on a camping trip this weekend with Reckless to celebrate his belated return.