Volunteers Help Transport Long-Lost Rottweiler Cross-Country to Owner

PHOTO: Jennifer Koczan and her Rottweiler Sasha
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A cross-country road trip spanning eight days, 24 different stops and 17 different drivers helped to reunite a woman with her Rottweiler that apparently had been stolen from her five years ago.

Jennifer Koczan, of South Bend, Ind., never again expected to see her dog, Sasha, after she was taken from her home in 2008. But when she got a voicemail from an animal shelter in Phoenix asking her to call back to speak about her dog, she was "flabbergasted," she said.

"I was kind of like, 'I haven't seen her since 2008,'" Koczan told ABCNews.com. "I went into the specifics that I came home from work one day and she wasn't there. I guess it had been so long, it didn't occur to me that she was still my dog."

READ MORE: Strangers Across the Country Help Dog Missing for 3 Years Get Home

At first, Koczan told the shelter she didn't know how soon she would be able to get Sasha, but it didn't take her long for the gears to start turning when she was told she only had five days to pick up her dog.

Immediately, she started calling everyone she knew in Arizona to see how far they lived from Phoenix, she said. Her friends in Casa Grande, Ariz., offered to help her out and pick up Sasha before the shelter's final deadline.

During her search, she was put in contact with Kindred Hearts Transport Connection, a nationwide animal rescue and relocation organization, which offered to put a plan in motion to help her bring Sasha home, she said.

Charie Rexroad, a spokeswoman for the organization, said a post was put up on the group's Facebook page seeking volunteers from across the country to help reunite Sasha with Koczan.

Thanks to the organization's volunteers, Sasha's journey from Phoenix started on Aug. 10 and involved 24 different stops along the way, Rexroad said.

The 8-year-old Rottweiler traveled through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas before spending a week near Oklahoma City. She then moved through Missouri and Illinois before reaching South Bend on Aug. 18, she said.

"[For older dogs], being in the car is really difficult. They have no idea what's going on. They meet someone new every hour," Rexroad said. "When it's a really long drive across the country, we try to do a week-long foster somewhere."

The journey required 17 different drivers who put in hour-long shifts or more in the car, helping Sasha get back to Koczan.

When Sasha arrived Sunday in South Bend, Koczan said, she "didn't expect her to remember me or react to me at all."

"We've had separate lives for five years," she said. "Who knows what she's been through?"

But once she saw Koczan's car, it seemed as if it was all coming back to her.

Koczan said as soon as she brought Sasha back to the house, "she was like, 'I've been here before, I know all of these people.' She kept looking at me with a look that said, 'I know you. I know I know you.'"

Sasha and her owner have spent only a day getting reacquainted, and already she seems to be settling into life with her old owner, Koczan said.

"It's like a blessing and a second chance," she said. "She's at the end of her life and now she'll live it out in peace. She won't have to worry about being fed or where she's going to live. That part of her life is done."

The Arizona Humane Society, which first contacted Koczan about picking up Sasha, was "constantly in contact" with Koczan to reunite her with her Rottweiler, spokeswoman Bretta Nelson told ABCNews.com.

"We do everything we can to get these owners back with their pets," said Nelson. "We want to make sure that pets get picked up because we are so full this time of year."

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