The daughter of legendary New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath received an early Christmas gift when she was reunited with her beloved Shih Tzu five years after it went missing.
Jessica Namath, 28, lost her cherished Shih Tzu mix named Tula when the puppy wandered away from her home in Jupiter, Fla. Namath and her NFL Hall of Famer father knocked on doors, posted a $2,000 reward and even consulted a psychic to find Tula.
“I called the highway patrol to see if animals had been hit. I had obviously posted on Craigslist and in the paper,” Namath told ABC News. “I mean it’s brutal. It’s certainly hard to stay hopeful.”
“It was heartbreaking for everyone,” Joe Namath said of his daughter’s ordeal. “And to see Jessica and how she felt, it was tough.”
Namath says she was shocked to get a phone call last Wednesday about the missing dog.
“It was the last phone call I was expecting to get,” she said. “I said, ‘Where can I meet you? Where is she? How is she? Is everything okay?’”
The caller was Michael Cecere, who had found the dog lost and whimpering in front of his car in St. Petersburg, some 200 miles away from Jupiter.
“I immediately got out of the car and ran over to the dog and luckily it didn’t jet off,” Cecere said.
He took the dog to an animal hospital, where a tracking chip was found in the dog.
“I’d known all along that because she was microchipped, that if somebody just scanned her, I had a very good chance of finding her,” Namath said.
The chip had Namath’s name, but the phone numbers listed were out of service. Cecere eventually found Namath’s current phone number on Facebook.
But being attached to the Namath name may not have helped her quest.
“I don’t know how much he knew. I don’t even care if he knew,” Namath said, referring to Cecere. “If the name helped me get her back, I’m thrilled.”
“I would thank him for going that extra distance, [that] extra yard to check on the dog,” said Namath’s dad, Joe, of Cecere.
Cecere returned Tula to Namath last Thursday and together they learned that the dog had been found five years ago by a family with kids. The family moved to the Tampa area, but never took Tula to the vet. Last week, the family lost Tula and that turned out to be her ticket back home to Jupiter.
Now Namath’s 3-year-old daughter Jemma has the opportunity to get to know Tula.
“We are going to have an extra special Christmas this year,” Namath said.