"It's like having a piece of your heart back," said Shandi Lancaster.
That piece of the heart is Darwin.
Three years ago, he disappeared -- likely stolen -- leaving the Lancaster family with broken hearts.
They posted fliers around the Seminole Heights area. Darwin even appeared on the Missing Pets of Tampa Bay Facebook page.
Lancaster thought they would hear something, especially since Darwin is micro-chipped and easily identifiable.
"Within the first year maybe a call from animal services that he had been picked up or, you know...at least some sort of closure," she said.
But days stretched into months and years. Nothing, until two weeks ago.
"I was in disbelief," recalled Lancaster after receiving a phone call.
A woman in South Tampa found Darwin living in a secluded spot in her side yard.
"He's dug a nice little hole and made it his home for quite a while," said Trudy Stracey.
Darwin's micro-chip paid off and he's now back home with his family where he belongs.
"I like playing with him," said Lancaster's daughter Nina, who was two when Darwin vanished.
Although the Lancaster's will likely never know what Darwin went through, they do know he remembers his first home.
"He went right back in to his bed, he went into the babies rooms. He knew exactly where he was. And he laid in front of the fireplace like he always did to cool off," Lancaster explained.
Darwin now has some medical issues and is undergoing costly heartworm treatment the family hopes to offset with a crowd-funding page: http://www.gofundme.com/chmqb0
But Darwin is home.
"Amazing. And I think it gives hope in a sometimes hopeless world," Lancaster said.