A relieved, but happy Spotsylvania County family is enjoying a very special pre-holiday celebration this weekend.
Their beloved dog Petunia, missing for eight years, has been found... in California.
"Sort of almost unbelievable", says owner Kristen Pruitt.
Eight long years ago, the precocious pit bull went missing from the Pruitt's Fredericksburg-area farm. Family members last saw her outside their barn the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2003.
Pruitt's husband John says the family tried everything: putting up posters, placing announcements in the local paper, even checking dog pounds in the area.
It seemed Petunia had simply vanished.
"She just didn't come back and I don't know what happened to her", says Pruitt.
But last Thursday, in rural California, outside Sacramento, Meg Eden, visiting the area from Oregon, spotted a hungry and tired pooch.
"Head down, tail wagging, right down the center road", Eden says.
That remote road... 28-hundred miles from Petunia's Virginia home.
"She was very thirsty, very hungry when I found her", Eden recalls. "I'm just glad she took the right fork in the road and came to me", she adds.
Animal control officers traced Petunia's microchip to a veterinarian's clinic in Fredericksburg, who contacted the Pruitts.
Kristen Pruitt was shocked and surprised--- but in a good way.
"And I said where has she been found, and she said Sacramento, California. And you're dumbfounded, speechless."
The Pruitt's eight year old daughter, Elaine, was just five months old when Petunia went missing.
"I'm very excited", she says.
But Elaine... and everyone else in the family wonders... where did their pet go, and what was she doing?
"When I found out she was in California, I was like, oh my gosh, how did she get to California," she exclaimed.
"I can't believe she would've trekked across the Mississippi, to the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon, to get to California on her own", her mom says.
At the very least, perhaps one would have to say Petunia is a very resourceful dog.
And soon, after her cross country canine mystery tour, the focus of a lot of love.
For John Pruitt, whose birthday was Thursday, this was a very nice surprise.
"I'm very elated, and very happy to see this dog again."
The family agrees it's anyone's guess what Petunia was doing during her odyssey. .
They hope this will be a wake-up call to other dog owners, to get microchips for their pets.
As of Sunday, the Pruitts are trying to make travel arrangements to bring Petunia home, possibly by Friday.
"I bet she could have some stories to tell", says Kristen Pruitt.