A heart-warming story befitting of a Hallmark movie unfolded last week as a stray dog in Chester County was returned to her New York owner after being separated for five years.
The country-traveling dog, named Azzurra Diamante, disappeared from Jen Costa’s home in Nassau County, New York in 2016, and was found by Henderson resident Abbie Bayless in October 2021.
“This has just been crazy!” Bayless laughed. “I had just moved in with my roommate—literally days before—when Azzurra showed up at our front door. We opened the front door and she just walked right in like she lived there!”
Azzurra, the English Bulldog
The English bulldog wasn’t in the best condition and had obviously been over-bred. But Bayless was determined to nurse her back to health.
“My entire life I’ve rescued animals—if I see an animal I feel like I have to take care of it, at least until I can find it a good place to go,” she said. “She wasn’t in the best condition, but we tried to nurse her back to health and got her some medicine and stuff.”
According to Bayless however, it was obvious that Azzurra came from a loving owner.
“It’s crazy, now knowing everything she’s been through, and how well travelled she is,” Bayless said. “Because she was so gentle and mild mannered, and just the sweetest girl ever. And we could definitely tell that somebody was missing her—we just didn’t realize that that somebody was in New York!”
After a few weeks of caring for Azzurra, the girls knew they needed more help.
“We’re two college-aged girls, and we already have one small dog in the house, and they got along fine, but we just knew we weren’t ready for another dog,” Bayless said. “We were more than happy to foster her until we could find her somewhere to go. But she was definitely a busybody---and she kept escaping, and we live right in the middle of town, so we were a little concerned about that.”
From New York to Tennessee
Bayless contacted her mom, who recruited her friends at the Henderson Animal Control. Shelter workers the made the discovery of a lifetime—the precious pup had a microchip belonging to a woman in New York.
“They’ve been nursing her back to health—when I saw her pictures it just made me so happy because she looks so healthy now,” Bayless said. “Then we found out she was a little world traveler! It’s the craziest thing ever.”
An email was quickly sent to Jen Costa, who thought it was a mistake.
“I was sitting the other day and got an email that said ‘Your pet has been found!’ I thought I was seeing things, honestly,” Costa laughed. “I figured it was a mistake. It was a confusing emotion—I was just dumbfounded.”
Not one to question miracles, Costa called the number attached to the email—directing her to Henderson County Animal Control.
“At first it sounded like they were confused. I thought maybe it was a mistake,” she said. “And then they were like ‘Yeah, we have a dog here,’ and that was when they confirmed it was really happening!”
The location caught Costa off-guard, admittedly.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I was so happy (they found her),” Costa said. “And I didn’t even realize it was in Tennessee, until I called them, and they asked where I was located. I was like ‘New York?’ And they’re like “We’re….in Tennessee…'
“I was so confused. I’d never even heard of this town before!”
Costa drove to Henderson to pick up Azzurra Friday afternoon, and the duo—now turned trio, as Azzurra joins Costa and her dog Pancake—are happy as ever.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Costa said, while driving to pick up Azzurra. “I think this is the happy ending I was hoping for. After everything I’ve been through, God has just given me a gift and my happy ever after.”
Azzurra holds a special place in Costa’s heart, after the bulldog disappeared during Costa’s cancer treatment in 2016.
“I’m a stage four cancer survivor,” Costa said, describing a cancer that began in her tongue and spread to her neck. “They had to do a 19-hour operation to remove my entire tongue.”
Costa’s story nearly ended that day—after the operation, her trachea tube got “plugged with tissue--” stopping her breathing, and eventually, her heart.
“I couldn’t speak to anyone,” she said. “I was clinically dead for a few minutes. I was in a coma for three days.”
Costa was also struggling with a depression and a drug addiction at the time, caused by becoming bedridden after getting hit by a bus when she was 19 years old. While bedridden, she grew to weigh almost 700 pounds.
The cancer that was once considered a death sentence turned out to be a lifegiving miracle, according to Costa.
“I ended up losing over 500 pounds over the next few years,” she said.
After returning home from the hospital following her surgery, however, Azzurra disappeared. So when Costa got the call to come down to Tennessee, she was more than ready to go.
“The most amazing part to me is, honestly, at the time she ran away, I had her and my dog Bruno,” Costa said. “And Bruno just passed away from cancer in August 2020. And it was only a few months after that that they found Azzurra.
“Here’s the crazy part—the shelter sent me a video that they did of giving the dogs Christmas dinner, and the dog that was in the pen next to her was named Bruno!”
Costa couldn’t believe the coincidence.
“I asked her about it. I said ‘That’s my dog’s name, he just died,’ and she said that dog did not have a name (when he came in), and that was the first name that popped in her head,” Costa said. “She didn’t even know me at that time. Nothing short of a miracle.”
“Sometimes I realize that God allows your heart to be broken so new light shines in and drives out the darkness,” Costa said. “And I feel like that’s what happened with me. I could be miserable right now but I’m not. I’m so grateful that I’m still here, and I’m excited to share my story online—I started doing that a few years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“I’m so thankful.”
Have a story to tell? Reach Angele Latham by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 731-343-5212, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham.
This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Dog found in Tennessee reunites with New York owner after 5 years