What could have been a tragic tale fortunately turned into a funny story for a North Carolina family whose 5-year-old golden retriever went missing last week.
One minute, Riley was roaming the family's backyard on a warm spring day. The next, he was gone, leaving an unlocked gate door swinging behind him.
But before sheer panic began to set in, the dog's owners got an unexpected phone call.
Teresa McCarter, owner of Happy Dog Cafe & Boutique in Belmont, called Doug Mosteller at work to tell him that his dog had walked over to the doggie day care center, located about a mile away from his home.
"A customer walked in and said, 'There's a dog sitting out here waiting to come in,'" McCarter told CBS News. "It looks like he just took off and went running straight to day care."
The friendly golden retriever has been going to Happy Dog since he was a puppy. Described as being "like a second child" to the Mosteller family, McCarter says he frequently walks to the day care center with his "mom."
In fact, he ran into a Happy Dog worker and several dogs earlier that day.
"He's kind of like Norm [from "Cheers"] -- where everyone knows your name," McCarter joked.
A shocked Mosteller offered to pick up the dog immediately, but McCarter stopped him: "No, if he walked that far he's going to get to stay today for free."
As soon as the door opened, Riley sprinted toward his 26 canine pals, grabbed one of the bones laying out and started wagging his tail and chewing on it.
"He thinks he's a person with four legs," McCarter said.
Owner Tonia Mosteller agreed, "He's my baby; I have a 17-year-old and a four-legged baby."
Though the family was worried about their dog's one-mile trek, they're happy he ended up in good hands.
"He's never done anything like this before -- ever, ever, ever," Riley's "mom" said. "It's a true testimony of how much Riley loves [day care]."