Sophia Hanson let her two huge dogs, Laila and Blake, out into the yard in 2009. When she returned a short time later, the dogs had disappeared.
Hanson and her husband saw an ad on Craigslist after a year of searching. Someone in San Antonio, Texas, not far from their area, was selling a pit bull for $500 that looked suspiciously like Blake.
“We went in pretending like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to buy a dog.’ We had our money ready,” Hanson said. “When we went back there and confirmed it was him, they had him on the biggest chain that I’d ever seen.”
“He was pretty messed up for a while,” Hanson added. “That whole rehabilitation was a process, but now he’s the biggest teddy bear.”
Seeing Blake’s condition, Hanson feared the worse for her beautiful Laila. Nonetheless, Hanson continued to check the local shelters for years, expecting to see her face again. But Hanson didn’t know that Laila had a guardian angel looking out for her.
Janice Rackley first spotted Laila in a field in 2018, the dog was just skin and bones. She had clearly been alone for quite some time, unwanted and uncared for. Rackley knew she had to do something.
Rackley drove out to the field every day, hauling big jugs of water and food. At first, the dog was so afraid that she would flee in the opposite way when she saw Rackley coming — but Rackley finally won her confidence.
“I think it was about six months in when she finally started coming closer and closer, and she finally let me pet her,” Rackley said. “So I thought, ‘Maybe I could grab a leash since she’s letting me pet her, and I can get the leash on while I’m feeding her.’ But whenever she would see this leash she would take off running.”
As New Year’s Eve approached and the weather turned cold, Rackley felt like it could be her final opportunity to save the dog, so she decided to do something rash.
“I just picked her up, threw her over my shoulder and I walked her 40 feet through this field to get her to my car,” Rackley said. “She was actually very calm when I picked her up, she was so sweet about it.”
Laila refused to leave Rackley’s house for a month. Rackley discovered the stray dog’s history held more mysteries than she had previously assumed as her personality began to shine through.
“It took her a while to come around, but once she did, she was the sweetest dog,” Rackley said. “She knew how to sit, she knew how to shake, she knew how to lay down. I was like, ‘Man, somebody really put some time into her. Someone has to be missing her.’”
Rackley had Laila scanned by animal control and, sure enough, she had a microchip.
It was just another normal night for Hanson and her husband. “My husband and I were just walking around the house, turning lights off and making sure puppies were in bed,” Hanson said. “Just before we turned our light off, we got a call. My husband was like, ‘What?! Can you repeat that?’ And he put it on speaker phone and we were like, ‘No freakin’ way.’”
Hanson couldn’t wait another minute to see Laila after eight years, so she got in the car. Everyone there was affected by the poignant reunion when Rackley led Laila outdoors and she saw her mother.
“She just responded to me right away, like, ‘Is that you?’” Hanson said. “And then, oh my God, everyone was crying and it was a mess.”
Though Laila had changed in so many ways, she made it clear to her parents that she remembered her old life.
“We used to call her Scooby Doo because she would make the craziest sounds that you’ve ever heard,” Hanson said. “My husband was like, ‘Scooby Doo! Scooby Doo!’ and she did it right away.”
Now, Laila is adjusting to her new old life with three other senior rescue dogs, including her brother Blake. While she’s still wary around her new siblings, she couldn’t be happier to be home. And her parents are so grateful that their family is whole again.