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Missing Fredericksburg dog found in California.

 Petunia disappeared from her Spotsylvania home eight years ago, but was found last week in California.
Chris Kaufman/The Appeal-Democrat
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Petunia, the dog that went missing in Spotsylvania County only to be found in California eight years later, may reunite with her family on Friday.
Petunia’s owner, Kristen Pruitt, said Fox News hopes to fly the dog to New York City tomorrow. The plan is to show the family reunion Friday on Fox & Friends, which airs weekdays at 6 a.m.
Petunia went missing from her owners' 100-acre Spotsylvania farm in 2003. Last week, she was found in Spenceville Wildlife Area in rural Yuba County, Calif.--near Sacramento. That's nearly 2,800 miles from here.

Date published: 12/4/2011

By Jeff Branscome

The last time Kristen Pruitt saw Petunia, the dog was sniffing around an alpaca barn on the family's 100-acre Spotsylvania County farm.

That was eight years ago.

On Thursday evening, Pruitt, 43, received a call from the Chancellor Animal Hospital that Petunia had been found--near Sacramento, Calif. That's nearly 2,800 miles from here.

"I thought somebody was playing a joke on me," said Pruitt's husband, John, 69, who purchased Petunia in 2000 when she was just eight weeks old.

A dog trainer from Oregon found Petunia in Spenceville Wildlife Area in rural Yuba County, according to the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, Calif. Officials from the Yuba County Animal Shelter found Petunia's hometown by scanning her microchip. How she ended up in California is anybody's guess.

"Eight years, and she's across the country," Pruitt said. "Wow. Quite frankly, John and I just figured somehow she had gotten killed."

She says she vividly remembers the day Petunia went missing. It was a crisp, sunny morning on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She let Petunia and her two other dogs outside. Normally, they would've returned for breakfast in about 10 minutes.

About an hour had gone by, Pruitt said, when she realized Petunia was nowhere to be found.

She and her husband put ads in The Free Lance-Star and posted signs on telephone poles. They called several pounds in the Fredericksburg area.

"It's obviously not nearly like losing a child, but your dogs do become a family member," Pruitt said.

Pruitt said Petunia is a pit bull, but she doesn't match the breed's stereotypes. For instance, she would cower on the front porch when unfamiliar dogs showed up at the farm.

But she likes people. In fact, Pruitt said, Petunia rode in the front seat with the animal control officer who retrieved her in California.

That loving personality is why somebody may have picked her up after she went missing in 2003.

"She's gregarious enough where she would just jump in the car with you," Pruitt said. "Why that individual didn't turn her in or read the paper or see the poster who knows?"

Pruitt has seen videos of Petunia from media outlets in California that have covered the story. She said she carries herself the same, although her coat is dull and rough, indicating she hasn't had proper nutrition for the past couple of months.

"She obviously has not had bad experiences that would change her personality," Pruitt said.

She hopes to have Petunia flown home by Friday.

She wonders if the dog will remember the family, which includes a 12-year-old poodle mix named Boo Boo.

And she's sure of one thing: Petunia will be on a leash from now on.

"After going through all this, we don't want to take any chances."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com