When Kate Griffin saw a little dog walking across the street in late August, she just knew it was Cami — the dog her parents had given away more than a decade ago.
"I got that same feeling of excitement in my gut that I’d feel every time I came home from school to see her," the 24-year-old college student told TODAY. "It had been so long since I felt it, but there is no other dog I’d see that’d give me that feeling of seeing a family member."
Griffin, who lives and grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, recalls Cami as the "best thing that ever happened to me as a kid."
She and her sister had to beg their parents, but finally they said yes to bringing home this puppy — whom she remembers as friendly and energetic, and gorgeous and tiny.
Cami and Griffin shared the same hair color, a kind of caramel-blond shade. Cami loved playing in the snow, often leaping into giant piles of it — "and you couldn’t see her, just puffs of snow flying out where she ran," said Griffin. "She was the best dog ever." For five years, the pair were the best of friends.
Eleven years ago, Griffin says, her parents got divorced. Rather than shuttling Cami between two households, a trusted babysitter helped find the dog a new home.
In the years since, Griffin never got another dog, and never forgot her beloved Cami. She also never expected to see her again.
Then several weeks ago, Griffin noticed two dogs across the street while walking home from Starbucks in her hometown. One was big and black; the other was small and blond, with a white chest mark that was uncannily familiar.
Griffin had a flash of recognition — Cami! — but she also thought it was so improbable. After going back and forth in her head about whether to cross the street, “I just decided, hell, I’m doing it," Griffin told New York Magazine.
Griffin was introduced to the dogs: Riley and Cami. The person walking them described Cami as 15 years old and a "sweetheart." She told Griffin that Cami belonged to people who'd gotten her a long time ago from another family.
Griffin told the dog walker that this was her childhood dog; she was sure of it. She sat on the sidewalk and said Cami's name. It took a little bit, but then Cami seemed to recognize Griffin, too. She licked her face.
They all walked together for a while until reaching Cami's house, then cuddled some more and said goodbye — this time, perhaps forever. Griffin is about to move out of the neighborhood and on to nearby Chicago, though of course, you never know.
"Seeing her again was the greatest gift I could’ve gotten in this lifetime," she said.
Afterward, Griffin posted a photo of the encounter to Dogspotting, a Facebook group for serious dog lovers. She got a lot of support — and a lot of "I'm not crying, you're crying" messages as well.
"There’s no need to blame my parents," she said. "As a kid, that was so overwhelming and confusing to have two houses that you traveled back and forth to. I can’t imagine how it would feel as a dog."
Mainly, Griffin now simply feels gratitude. She's thankful that Cami has been so well-loved for all of these years. And she's grateful that she got to see Cami after all this time, and in such good care.
"If I could tell Cami anything, I’d want to tell her that I’ve thought about you every time I see another dog, and you're the No. 1 dog to me," Griffin said. "I’d tell the family: Thank you for giving Cami a second home and loving her just as much as we do. I’m so glad she had you to be there for her when I wasn’t."