Delta Air Lines is out of the dog house after it finally found a passenger’s Chihuahua that the airline lost nearly a month ago.
Paula Rodriguez, who lives in the Dominican Republic, had her 6-year-old dog, Maia, taken from her during a layover in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport due to a visa issue, according to CNN. As Rodriguez embarked on a flight back home the next day, she was informed that Maia had gone missing.
The operations team at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport found the dog Saturday, “hiding near the North Cargo facilities,” the airport said on X, formerly Twitter, Sunday morning. Airport officials noted in their post that Maia was “tired but in apparent good health” when she was found and was sent to a vet for evaluation.
“We are thankful for the teamwork that has led to our customer’s dog’s recovery,” a spokesperson for Delta told The Washington Post via email. “Delta is working to reunite the dog with our customer as soon as possible.”
Rodriguez, 25, told the Post that she left Santo Domingo with her rescue pup in tow to visit friends in California on Aug. 18. She was supposed to have just a brief layover in Atlanta, but border control staff at the airport told her that her tourist visa didn’t meet necessary requirements to continue her travel.
She was told she’d have to spend the night at a detention facility, but without Maia ― who is also her emotional support pet ― and get back on a plane to return home on the next flight the following day.
“They called a Delta agent who [then] took Maia from me,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez told CNN in a previous interviewthat she told the Delta agent she was concerned about being separated from Maia, because her dog had “been in a lot of distress” during the first part of their flight and had “puked with distress and had diarrhea,” when they arrived in Atlanta.
In response to her concerns, Rodriguez was told “not to worry” and that Maia would be “taken to a facility with staff trained for that.”
“It wasn’t my wish, but I understood,” said Rodriguez. “There was nothing I could do, and I trusted him.”
Rodriguez told the outlet she was supposed to be reunited with Maia the next day at their gate before their flight back to the Dominican Republic. But when she was ready to board her flight, she was told by Delta gate agents that Maia had gone missing.
She was also told she was not allowed to stay in the United States for over 24 hours and was forced to leave to the Dominican Republic without Maia.
“Everyone who knows me knows what she means to me,” Rodriguez told CNN 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.”
According to Rodriguez’s social media posts, her separation from Maia caused her a lot of anguish. In an updated Facebook post on Aug. 23, Rodriguez says she did not receive “any information whatsoever” on Maia’s whereabouts from Delta for two days, in which they finally informed her that they had lost Maia.
Rodriguez told the Post the airline told her that Maia never made it to their pet facility. Apparently, the distressed dog escaped from the kennel in the middle of an active runway while she was being transported. Airline workers chased after her, but Maia couldn’t be caught.
Delta Airlines offered Rodriguez $1,800, according to CBS News correspondent David Begnaud. Rodriguez’s attorney called Delta’s offer an “insult.”
A Delta spokesperson later told Insider that the $1,800 sum is not an “offer of compensation.”
“Delta people have shown empathy through many actions, gestures and communications with our customer. That continues,” the representative said. “As this matter is being handled by attorneys representing the customer and Delta, we will point out that what our customer is sharing is one portion of an initial conversation between attorneys and not reflective of an offer of compensation.”
Rodriguez told CNN that because of her visa issues, she wasn’t allowed to fly back to Atlanta to search for Maia. So on Aug. 24, Rodriguez’s mom flew to Atlanta on her daughter’s behalf and brought some of Rodriguez’s clothes to plant her scent around the airport. While there, her mother also got a better idea as to why it was so difficult to find Maia. She said her mother told her the airport spans “more than 4,000 acres.”
“My mom told me its scary dimensions,” said Rodriguez. “It’s definitely a possibility that she’s hiding in the airport, but she could be in a lot of places.”
The Post notes that although they couldn’t connect with Rodriguez for further comment, she did post a celebratory update on her Instagram story Sunday in which she said she was “over the moon” to find Maia.