A traveler’s beloved dog that vanished after escaping from its Delta Airlines crate in Georgia was found safe and healthy Saturday — after spending more than three weeks on the lam.
Maia the chihuahua mix was found by a good Samaritan hiding beneath a cargo rack at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.
“I didn’t say a word and walked to the end of the rack and started scooting under it on my back. It was about 10 inches off the ground,” local animal activist Robin Cole Allgood said on Facebook.
“I got to her and she still hadn’t noticed I was behind her…I took a deep breath and just grabbed her around the waist without hesitating. The next thing I hear is someone yell ‘Robin’s got her!!!!’”
Though tired, the canine appeared to be in good health and was taken to a vet for a full evaluation, the airline confirmed.
Maia had been missing since she darted out of her crate on Aug. 18 while her owner, Dominic Republic native Paula Rodriguez, was being questioned by border agents, her lawyer said.
Rodriguez was forced to return to her home country instead of her San Francisco destination over missing visa credentials — even as officials admitted her pet was nowhere to be found.
Delta offered Rodriguez $1,800 for the tragic incident, which the dog owner felt was an “insult” that couldn’t replace her cherished pet, her lawyer said.
That’s when Allgood stepped up to the task by posting signs around the airport for the missing dog, which turned out to be vital to Maia’s rescue.
A FedEx cargo employee called Allgood at 2:30 a.m. Saturday to report seeing the pup the day before, prompting her to rush to the airport.
Allgood said the airport staff led her on multiple “wild goose chases” before finally escorting her to the North Cargo facility around 6 p.m.
By that time, the mother realized she was going to miss her flight to Hawaii with her family — but decided the vacation could wait another day, while the pup could not.
“I couldn’t leave without finding Maia. I had promised Paula in the beginning I was going to find her!” Allgood said.
The group of airport workers and Allgood eventually discovered Maia hiding beneath outdoor cargo racks, but had difficulty reaching the frightened pooch.
Dozens of employees tried removing her from her narrow hiding spot with wildlife nets, long poles and barricades surrounding the spot.
But the efforts proved fruitless.
“Everyone was standing around talking about what to do next…me being me decided I’m going for this dog,” Allgood recalled.
She shimmied beneath the rack and successfully brought Maia to safety.
A veterinarian reportedly said the dog was in incredible shape considering she had been lost for 24 days in Atlanta’s blistering summer heat.
Remarkably, Maia’s paw pads suffered no heat damage, a suggestion that she may have only maneuvered through the airport grounds at night — which also explains why she had gone so long without being seen.
Maia’s owner is reportedly over the moon after hearing the good news and looks forward to being reunited with her cherished family member.
What next legal steps Rodriguez will take is unclear.
Her lawyer had been in talks with Delta in the aftermath of Maia’s disappearance, especially after the airline offered the $1,800 mishandling offer which it later defended, claiming it was not an “offer of compensation”
The Rodriguez family spent an undisclosed amount of money and resources trying to find their beloved pet themselves.
Rodriguez’s mother flew to Atlanta herself to search for the lost pup after her daughter was denied entry into the country.