By Sharon Cotliar
May 26, 2014 12:00 PM

The James family lost a lot when Superstorm Sandy blew through Keansburg, N.J., in October 2012: their rented house, which flooded and is still unlivable; their van, which broke down in high waters; and their beloved pit bull terrier Reckless, who escaped through a hole in the fence during the cleanup effort before the family moved to a hotel. “I looked and looked and looked,” says Chuck James, a construction worker and former Marine. “The hardest thing was to pull back in that driveway without him.” Months passed and, says his daughter Alexandra, 10, “I told myself he probably wasn’t coming back.” Even as they bounced from one temporary home to another, they kept searching and calling local shelters, asking if anyone had brought in a tan and white pit bull with a little scar on his forehead. “I tried to hold out hope somebody had him,” says mom Elicia James, a former home health aide. But nobody came forward.

Nearly a year and a half passed before the Jameses agreed that it was time to get a new pet. Chuck and Elicia decided to surprise Alexandra and her siblings Kelsey, 3, and Liam, 2, when they went to the Monmouth County SPCA on April 24. And there, in the brown brick shelter just two blocks from where they were now staying, was the perfect dog: a friendly pit bull with a very familiar scar on his face. “My wife was the one who realized it was Reckless first,” says Chuck. “As soon as she called his name, he jumped three feet in the air. Then he fell on her feet and kept licking her until we were covered in dog hair.” It turned out a volunteer had found the dog – with no tag or other way to know who his family was -in November, and, says the shelter’s adoption manager Kait Reiser, “it was like Reckless had been waiting for them.” Now implanted with an identifying microchip, Reckless is home and, says Alexandra, “I couldn’t be happier. Reckless is everything to me.”