Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “Santa,” a police dog who had gone missing early Wednesday was found by a good samaritan and reunited with her handler thanks to social media.

Some of the dozens of police officers who had been searching for her erupted in applause as Santa’s handler showed them how his 9-year-old Belgian Malinois was recovered safely.

Detective Young has been Santa’s handler for six years.

Young, who could not give us his first name or show all of his face, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that Juan Giraldo was driving along SW 127th Avenue by SW 104th Street near the officer’s home around 4:30 AM and saw the dog running near the road.

Giraldo stopped, opened his door, and called the dog, and she jumped in.

CLICK HERE to watch Peter D’Oench’s report

Young said that Giraldo eventually ended up at Sunset Feed and Supply some three miles away to purchase supplies for the dog when store employee, Ann Rhymestine, recognized Santa as the missing dog seen on social media.

“It was a happy reunion when Santa’s handler came into the store,” said Rhymestine. “It sent chills down my back.”

Giraldo and Santa were both captured on the store’s surveillance tape system and were seen walking around the store.

Giraldo said he felt he had to help the dog.

“I called out to her and got her inside the car,” he said. “I realized she was a Belgian Malinois and was worried she might get hit by a car. So I had to rescue her.”

Detective Young met up with Giraldo and was reunited with “Santa” at Sunset Feed.

“I feel good about the dog’s reunion with her handler,” Giraldo said.

Santa was the subject of a search by dozens of officers after Detective Young said she had somehow escaped from her kennel. He had last seen her around 9:30 PM Tuesday.

“I am very grateful towards the man who found her,” said Young. He told D’Oench that he had been Santa’s handler for six years and that she had never taken off before. He said she was ill and on medication and that could have been a factor.

“She had never escaped before and for to be gone this long, I was very worried about her,” said Young.

Young said he plans to keep Santa inside until she’s feeling better and then would secure the kennel to make sure she doesn’t get out again.

Detective Young has been with the Miami Police Department for 26 years and works in the special investigations section.

“Santa was very important to me and the City of Miami Police Department,” said Young.

Miami Police Sgt. Orestes Guas said, “With all the training and experience and the length of time they were partners, we did all that we could to try to find Santa. To us, this was like losing a child. We would do anything to find the dog.”

While he said it is unusual for police K-9s to take off from their handlers’ homes, he said, “It happens, like any other dog. They are often hyper and they are looking to work. This does happen.”

Peter D'Oench

Comments