Call it a tail-wagging ending to a doggone good story.
After a year -- and dozens of miles -- apart, a pit bull named Ratchet was reunited on Friday with his owner, thanks to the dogged determination of another South Carolina dog lover.
Esther Atkins was walking her border collie mix, Grace, this week near their Greenville home when they both noticed a sturdy brown and white pup cowering in a mud puddle. After some gentle cajoling, Atkins said that the timid canine followed her home, where she went to work on social media trying to find his owner.
After ultimately taking the dog to have him scanned for a tracking microchip, Atkins said that she got in touch with a woman in Greenwood, some 70 miles (113 kilometers) away. It turns out that the 4-year-old, purebred pit bull named Ratchet had been missing for a year -- and his owner feared he was dead.
"Her kids were screaming and crying in the background," Atkins said, describing the fateful phone call. "He had been with them his entire life."
According to Ratchet's owner, a neighbor frustrated that the dog often ended up in his yard told the owners that he'd killed their pup.
"They thought he was dead," Atkins said, saying the owners told her they'd contacted police but were suspicious when the neighbor couldn't produce Ratchet's remains. "They asked him for a body, because they obviously wanted to bury him. But he couldn't produce it, so then they suspected the dog wasn't dead."
Atkins arranged a reunion for Friday morning, when Ratchet's owners drove up to retrieve him, capturing it all on video and chronicling much of the saga online via social media.
This isn't the first time Atkins has played a role in bringing dogs and owners back together. Last year, she said she found a stray huskie and ended up finding her owner, And just last week, she helped a neighbor find a dog during one of her regular walks around the neighborhood.
"This is something that I just do, I guess."