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A Christmas miracle: Family reunited with dog who went missing states away

The Ryans were reunited with their dog, Zeus, months after they were involved in an accident while moving from Oregon to Virginia. (WSET/Suri Crowe)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - For one Lynchburg family, there's a lot to celebrate this Christmas. The Ryans were on their way home to Lynchburg in a cross-country move, when tragedy struck and the family was torn apart.

It was supposed to be a new start - a new town, a new job teaching at Holy Cross for Melissa Ryan.

"We were moving from Oregon," she said. "And it was just a really great feeling. We were so excited."

Ryan and her kids, Greg and Hailey, were driving in three different vehicles back in August on their way to Virginia with both of the family's labradors, Thor and Zeus, in tow.

When the family left Grayson, Kentucky, disaster struck.

Hailey was hit by a semi, and her mom turned around to help.

"And by the time I got back, Zeus was gone," Ryan said. "And [Thor] was pinned between two seats."

Hailey had a concussion and Zeus was nowhere to be found.

The family had hope that they would find Zeus, but after fliers, multiple calls and time passing, the family hadn't heard anything.

Then on Oct. 28 came a miracle.

Ryan received word that a man at a Grayson rehab facility in Kentucky had been trying to track the family down through Zeus' dog tags.

"I just broke into tears. But my first thought was, 'Is he alive?'" Hailey said.

Zeus was skin and bones, but he was alive. He was about 20 pounds underweight when found and the family says the man found him within a mile of the accident site.

Now, this story is highlighting the importance of microchipping and using a safety harness for your pets.

You can get your pet microchipped for a lower cost at many area animal shelters. The Lynchburg Humane Society offers them for $20-$25, including registration. Angels of Assisi in Roanoke offers them for $10. At a vet's office they can run around $50.

If you get in an accident, or even just have to slam on your breaks, remember your dog can not only climb out and run, he or she can become a projectile and slam through the windshield, or injure passengers.

Consumer Reports rated dog seat belts in crash tests and found the Sleepypod Clickit Utility was the only one that provided adequate protection for everyone in the vehicle; it runs about $90.

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