It was the second most important moment of Melanie's and Doug Hill's week.
The first was finding their dog, Xhaiden, on Monday afternoon outside a River Road home in Point Borough.
The second was meeting and thanking the woman who made it happen.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Hills met JoEllen Brady Osborn, who had called police on Monday afternoon to report that she had seen a dog that looked like Xhaiden,
Osborn and her husband, Forman Osborn, visited the Hills, Xhaiden and his father, Tanner, at their home in Point Borough.
It was the first time the two couples were meeting face to face and it was sweet. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of thank yous.
"I just can't thank you enough," Melanie Hill kept saying. "Anytime you need anything at all, come here. We're here."
Melanie Hill and JoEllen Osborn first spoke on Tuesday afternoon when Patch visited Osborn at her home, called Melanie Hill and handed the telephone to Osborn so she could talk to Hill.
As Hill talked about how much it meant to her and her husband, Doug, that she had given them the tip they had prayed for, tears streamed down Osborn's cheeks.
Osborn, who taught for many years at and then , grabbed a tissue, dabbed at her eyes and smiled through the tears as Hill said, "I am so grateful, you have no idea."
"Well, that's not necessary," Osborn said into the cell phone. "You've made me so happy, just knowing you got your doggy back."
The Osborns are also animal lovers, having had numerous dogs and cats over the years, including a number who have lived to be 18 years old. In April, they had to make the tough decision to put down a dog and a cat who had succumbed to illness.
"I know what it feels like to lose an animal, but I've never had one run away," she said. "I would be out of my mind. I just can't even imagine what they were going through."
The beginning of the end of Xhaiden's long, lost weekend came when Osborn saw a dog on the other side of her fence off Maxson Avenue. Her driveway fronts on Maxson, while her home fronts on the Manasquan River, next to the Maxson Avenue Beach and across from
About an hour after seeing the dog, Osborn and her husband were grocery shopping at Stop & Shop on Bridge Avenue. As she walked out into the vestibule, she happened to spot a "Lost Dog" poster hanging on the bulletin board to her left.
"It looked like the dog I had seen," she said. "I thought to myself, I saw that dog at home and an hour later I saw a dog that looked like it on a poster. It's too coincidental. It was a sign. I felt like it was happening for a reason and I needed to do something."
Osborn called when she got home and talked to Dispatcher Steve Grady, who said he knew about the missing dog and would send officers out to her neighborhood to look for the dog.
"And I could tell by his voice that he really was going to send them," she said.
And for good measure, Osborn called Stop & Shop and asked them to read her the dog owner's phone number on the poster and she called that number too.
By the time she called Melanie Hill's cell, she was with police who had been dispatched as a result of Osborn's call to police.
"I didn't realize at the time I was talking to the person who had seen the dog and called the police," Melanie Hill said. "Things were so chaotic that day. I don't even know if I talked to her before or after the dog was found. So many people were calling me."
Melanie Hill said when police told her the dog had been spotted just off Maxson Avenue and River Road, she drove over there with Tanner, Xhaiden's father. She drove up and down various streets, sometimes getting out of her car to search on foot.
At one point, she drove down River Road and stopped at a large home with a long driveway.
"I just had a feeling I should look there," she said. So she ran down, despite the "No Trespassing" sign and not knowing whether anyone was home.
When she didn't see Xhaiden, she started heading back up the driveway, but a shadow caught her eye and she looked more closely.
She spotted a dog, that had risen on its hind legs, in an aggressive stance, "like a bear up on its back legs," Hill said.
"And I heard a growl come out of him, like I have never heard before," she said. "And I thought, that is not my Xhaiden. Xhaiden is the sweetest dog, he's a mush. I just didn't think he could be like that. So I didn't think it was him. And my heart just sank."
But Hill said she had to be sure whether the dog in the shadows was hers before she left that driveway.
"I got down on my knees, so I would look less threatening, and I called out his name a few times, like I usually would," she said. "And then he whimpered, came down and ran towards me. He jumped up on me and was licking me and I was crying.
"It was a moment like I have never had before," she said. "I was so happy. It was surreal."
She immediately called her husband.
"I was screaming into the phone, 'I got him, I got him,' " she said.
"My husband was so happy," Hill said. "He worked harder than anyone trying to find the dog. He got no sleep from Friday night til Monday night. He was walking up and down every street looking for Xhaiden every day."
Hill said she sat with Xhaiden in that driveway for a good 20 minutes, just to make sure he would be stable for the ride home. When she walked out of the driveway onto River Road, people in cars and on foot realized she had found her beloved pooch.
"People were crying, honking and yelling, 'It's Xhaiden, it's Xhaiden,' " Hill said. "A lot of them had been out looking for him. I have never seen a community have the amount of compassion, to take time out of their busy schedules to do that.
"There were people from Toms River driving up here all weekend to look for him. People from all over Point and so many towns were out looking, calling me, emailing me, leaving me messages on Facebook.
"I used to have 80 to 90 Facebook friends, now I have double that," she said, adding she is so grateful to everyone who called, spread the word and looked for Xhaiden. There were also volunteers from Howell, Brick, Bradley Beach, as well as Point Borough and Point Beach helping with the search.
"It's just been an unbelievable, life-altering experience," she said.
When Melanie Hill finally got Xhaiden and Tanner home, Doug Hill cracked open a bottle of bubbly.
"Tbe four of us just sat on the floor together, enjoying the moment," she said.
Since then, Xhaiden got a clean bill of health from the veterinarian Tuesday morning and had a microchip installed.
"And we're getting a new fence," Hill said. The Hills have not figured out how Xhaiden escaped their fenced-in backyard, so they're replacing the fence.
She said she did not have collars on the dogs when they went into the backyard on Friday night because she doesn't keep them on the dogs when she and her husband are not home.
"They play rough and have come close to getting caught up in the collars," she said.
So they didn't have collars on when she let them into the backyard, just after her and her husband got home from work, for what was supposed to be a quick bathroom break.
Now they'll be taking every precaution to make Xhaiden has no more lost weekends.