By Jared Formanek and Julia Buckley, CNN
(CNN) — After enduring nearly a month of heartache and anxiety, a dog owner can finally rest after her missing dog was found safely at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on Saturday, according to airport officials.
Delta Air Lines passenger Paula Rodriguez’s 6-year-old dog, Maia, was lost in August at the airport, which is considered the busiest in the world.
The airport’s operations team found Maia hiding near the north cargo facilities, according to a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Tired but in apparent good health, she was transported to a vet and is expected to return home soon,” airport officials said.
On August 18, Rodriguez and Maia embarked on a journey from their home in the Dominican Republic to California for a two-week vacation.
However, when they arrived in Atlanta for a layover, Rodriguez was informed by border patrol staff that her tourist visa did not meet the necessary requirements. They canceled her visa and told her she would need to return home on the next flight, Rodriguez previously told CNN.
With the next flight to Punta Cana scheduled for the following day, Rodriguez faced the distressing reality of spending the night alone in a detention center, separated from her beloved canine companion.
“They called a Delta agent, who took Maia from me,” Rodriguez told CNN.
The next day, Rodriguez arrived at her flight’s gate early, eagerly awaiting her reunion with Maia. To her dismay, Maia never arrived.
Unable to remain in the United States for over 24 hours without a visa, Rodriguez was left with no choice but to board her flight to Punta Cana without Maia, an experience that she said triggered a panic attack during her journey home.
“Everyone who knows me knows what she means to me,” Rodriguez said of her beloved pet. “I don’t go anywhere without her. She’s so well behaved that I take her to restaurants, literally everywhere. She’s my partner in everything.”
Two days after Maia went missing, a Delta representative contacted Rodriguez to share unfortunate news. “He said that she was being transported (to the plane) on the runway, and staff had opened her kennel, and she had escaped into the middle of the runway,” Rodriguez told CNN.
Despite Rodriguez’s relentless calls to Delta for updates, weeks went by without receiving any new information.
A Delta spokesperson previously told CNN in a statement: “Delta teams have been working to locate and reunite this pet with the customer and we remain in touch with the customer to provide updates. Delta people feel deeply concerned for the customer and the dog and we’re committed to ongoing search efforts, working closely with the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation and other stakeholders.”
With the cancellation of her tourist visa, Rodriguez sent her mother to Atlanta to join the search efforts in the vast 4,000-acres of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Rodriguez shared the agonizing toll that Maia’s disappearance had taken, describing her experience as “living a nightmare,” she previously told CNN.
Her worst fears faded on Saturday when Atlanta Airport officials announced Maia’s discovery three weeks after she was lost.
CNN has contacted Delta Air Lines regarding the circumstances of Maia’s escape.
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