The news came when they least expected it. They had already thrown away his bag, toys and food and drink bowls "because we thought he was dead", said Ana María González, still visibly moved, just a few hours after being reunited with her dog Kike, a Yorkshire terrier that disappeared more than two and a half years ago.
"Me or my eldest daughter would always take him out on a lead to a football pitch behind the house, where he loved to play with a ball," she said. But on 27 February 2018, she opened the door of their house in El Tarajal (on the western edge of Malaga city) while cleaning and the dog, four years old, ran out.
It wasn't the first time he ran away, but he always turned up in the park, or came back when he was called. That day he didn't. It was raining a lot and they figured he got lost and couldn't find his way back.
Now they know he was being looked after this whole time. Though he was very scruffy and covered in parasites, he was well fed when he was found on a road, about to be run over. "He either escaped again or was abandoned; he was dirty, covered in mud, fleas, leeches and had knots in his hair." He is also suffering from some neurological problems and is undergoing veterinary tests.
Almost hit by a van
Marta Verdier, a salesperson at Epcatem, based at the Parque Tecnológico (PTA), had just dropped her son off at school and was driving near the Famadesa factory when, in the middle of the road, the animal appeared and was almost hit by a van.
"I stopped, approached him carefully in case he bit and took him to work with me," she says.
She then got in touch with a friend who is a vet and who happened to be at the PTA on that day. "I took him there and we read the microchip. When we told the owner, she started crying. It was very emotional."
By this time Kike had many suitors and if his owner hadn't shown up, two of her colleagues were willing to adopt him.
"When he came into the house he couldn't stop jumping with excitement, and he slept where he always did, on a cushion on the landing, between my two daughters' rooms." The oldest, Ana María, 12, "went crazy" when she saw her dog again; while the youngest, Claudia, three, wouldn't stop throwing him the ball.
Their mother has only words of thanks for the people who made the reunion possible and stressed the importance of getting a microchip: "We've found him thanks to it. It's definitely worth getting."