James Bryan, a homeless man living in Florida, woke up the morning of May 8 to find that his pet dog was missing. The dog, a blue pit bull named Handover, was the only remaining tie to Bryan's previous life, before he'd lost his farm, his home, and nearly all of his other personal belongings.
Bryan, who lives along U.S. 19 in Hudson, Florida, feared Handover might have been targeted by someone involved with a dogfighting ring.
“I'm praying to God nobody's putting him into an arena and fighting him," Bryan said. "He is a force of nature."
Word spread about Handover's theft, and eventually Carolyn Texter, who knew Handover and Bryan from her work with animal rescues, heard and decided to help.
"That's the hardest thing I'm having right now. To even explain to my kids how someone could possibly steal someone's family member," Texter said.
Texter started a Facebook page to find Handover and, with the help of a few friends, raised a $200 reward for his return. The story eventually went viral. The Facebook page received thousands of likes and attracted the attention of local news stations. Information about and pictures of Handover was shared thousands of time. Soon, the reward money swelled to $1,000.
Wednesday afternoon, all the work paid off, and Bryan was reunited with Handover.
Handover was taken to a veterinarian for an check-up – he was healthy – and to have a microchip implanted in case he goes missing again.
So far, there's been no official word from Bryan, but on the Facebook page Texter described him as "speechless" and thankful for all the help he'd received.
As for Handover's name: He was a gift from Bryan's then-wife five years ago. As she was holding the new dog, she asked Bryan what he wanted to call his new pet. “Hand him over!” was Bryan's immediate response, and the name stuck.