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After 13 years, Simba the dog returns to Richburg family

Note: View video of Simba here.

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RICHBURG — Terry and Blaine Horne had to go to a church meeting 13 years ago this summer on a beautiful hot evening.

"It was still daylight, and we could hear Simba out in the back, running and howling like Husky dogs howl," Terry said. "Huskies, they don't bark. It is more like a howl."

Simba was their beautiful, less than a year old, red-coated Siberian Husky with the ice-blue eyes.

Blaine paid $100 for Simba when the dog was just a pup.

That night, the Hornes left their Richburg home in rural Chester County and went to church.

They came home, and Simba, with a tag around his neck that identified him as having shots at a certain place, with an ID number, was gone.

"Vanished," said Blaine Horne.

Heartbroken, the Hornes looked all over for Simba. They checked with neighbors, to no avail. Days, weeks, they looked.

"Just gone," said Terry's son, Chip. "I had a husky once that was stolen, so we figured somebody grabbed him."

Blaine said his wife was inconsolable and never gave up hope.

"She kept thinking somebody would find him," Blaine said.

Terry said sometimes, late at night, she would think to herself, "Keep looking. Simba will turn up."

About a year ago, the Hornes got another dog, a little Shi-Tzu named Bebe. Every morning, Bebe had to go outside to do what dogs do outside.

About three weeks ago, on a Tuesday morning, Blaine let Bebe out on the way to work at his auto body shop behind his home. A few minutes later, Terry called Bebe to come in.

She looked outside, and there in the grass, rolling in the morning dew, was the skinniest, sorriest looking excuse for a dog that might have once been red anybody ever saw.

Terry's throat constricted.

"The dog was limping, and hungry and thirsty, so I gave it water and called Blaine to ask if I should feed it, and I asked him, 'Do you think it could be Simba?'" Terry recalled.

Blaine said he almost dropped the phone and came rushing out to see for himself.

This dog, clearly old, back leg limping, close to skin and bones and covered with fleas, walked right up on the deck and sat in its old spot.

"Just like Simba used to," Blaine said.

The dog then walked to the carport, circled a few times, and lay down.

"Just like Simba used to," Terry said.

"It made me think he was penned up all these years, somewhere, and just couldn't get home. Then he got loose, or somebody let him loose, and he just came home like nothing happened."

The Hornes took the dog to a veterinarian, who said it was possible that the dog was Simba. It was about the same age, but there was no identification.

The dog was given shots and wormed, and it came back to the Horne house.

The dog immediately took a shine to Sunni, the Horne's granddaughter, who lives next door.

The two have been inseparable ever since.

"I think it is Simba," said Sunni. "I play with him and pet on him. It is like he knows me."

Even though Sunni wasn't even born when Simba vanished 13 years ago.

Blaine Horne says it sure could be Simba, but Terry Horne says there is no doubt.

Their daughter, a fourth-grade teacher at Westminster Catawba Christian School in Rock Hill, polled her class. Each kid said it was Simba.

"A miracle," Terry Horne said. "Like the movies. 'Homeward Bound,' think it was. The dog comes home."

So now most afternoons Simba waits for Sunni to get home from school.

He sits in a dirt patch and on the deck and in the carport, just like the old days.

Then Simba follows Sunni everywhere she goes.

When it rains, Simba rolls in the grass like Simba did 13 years ago.

Is it the same dog that vanished 13 years ago?

"If you believe it, it is Simba," said 10-year-old Sunni. "I say so. I believe. This is Simba."

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