SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe woman is now reunited with her dog after he escaped almost a year ago. “I am feeling—trying not to cry. I’m really overwhelmed. I think it’s nothing short of a miracle. Milagro,” says Marisa Martinez.

When Rufus came to Marisa Martinez’s family in June of 2017, Martinez had just lost her nine-year-old daughter Zamora Moon to a rare brain tumor called DIPG. “She passed away and my friend from Albuquerque, my best friend, gave me Rufus as a present, as a healing dog, and he was deaf. So he was abused because they didn’t understand his superpower being deaf,” Martinez says.

The family decided to move to Santa Fe last year, and just a month later, in early September, Rufus escaped. “It’s been incredibly hard. It seems like a wound opened up again because he was, he was my guy with me through a difficult time of losing my nine-year-old daughter,” Martinez says. She contacted Team Frijoles, a lost pet recovery team, and they jumped into action looking for the blue heeler.

“A comfort station was created, and posters were put up. Quite a bit of time went by, we would get a few sightings but never anything verified,” says Michelle Lord with Team Frijoles Lost Pet Recovery.

A comfort station is set up with items familiar to an animal—like a favorite toy or clothes of the person an animal is close to—to attract them if they’re in a given area.

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As the months went by, Rufus’ trail began to grow cold. “I started to lose hope in February,” Martinez says. That is until a motorcyclist named Arabel Solis spotted a blue heeler wandering across the street from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and sent a photo to Team Frijoles. They checked with Martinez, who was overseas in Spain at the time, whether this could be Rufus. “Every month for the last year, she’s like, ‘Nope, I still feel he’s alive.’ And she texts me in the middle of the night in Spain and is like, ‘I think this is Rufus! Is this Rufus?’ And I was like, this is 100 percent, Rufus,” Martinez says.

They set up cameras and traps and managed to catch him. Now, after almost 11 months, Rufus is finally home. “Even though the case kind of went cold a few times, if you will—we got no sightings or anything—we always believed you never ever give up hope. We don’t stop until you have a reason. Until you have proof that it’s time to stop,” Lord says. Miraculously, Lord says Rufus is doing well: “He obviously had found resources somewhere. He was not underweight; he was not emaciated; he looked good.”

“Life changes in a minute. And so, I mean, I don’t know the powers that be or God was involved, I don’t know, but I feel like a big miracle has happened. And I’m truly blessed,” Martinez says. Rufus was found on the five-year anniversary date of Martinez’s daughter’s terminal diagnosis.

They also urge everyone to microchip their pets if possible or make sure they have an ID tag. “There’s so many loose dogs out there and we got lucky somebody spotted him,” Katzman says.