When Shannon Crandall struggled awake at Scottsdale Osborne Trauma Hospital after a car accident, doctors asked her how she felt.
"Where's Sammy? Where's my dog?" was the first thing she said.
On Nov. 4, 2006, Crandall's Nissan Maxima cut a tree in half after she drove off the road on Highway 260 at the turnoff to Camp Verde.
Crandall's dog, Sammy, was in the back seat.
"The top of the tree came back like a trash compactor and chopped off the top of the car," Crandall's father, Jim Speiser, said.
She suffered a broken leg (she has a rod and five pins in it) and hairline fractures in vertebrae of her neck.
Paramedics on the scene were more concerned about getting Crandall airlifted to the hospital, than catching Sammy.
I was told Sammy ran around the car until the helicopter landed. Maybe that scared him into the woods, Crandall said.
Each time Crandall woke from the painkillers, her blood pressure would skyrocket because she was crying over Sammy.
She spent three days in intensive care and another two in the hospital.
Doctors told Crandall's family that she would recover better and faster if they found her dog.
Crandall adopted Sammy, a chow/golden retriever mix, from the humane society in Sunnyslope two years ago. Sammy was about three years old. The two became close friends.
When Crandall came home from her job as a chef at the Camelback Inn, Sammy would be there ready to play and be petted.
Sammy loved to ride in the car when Crandall went on errands or trips.
After the accident, Crandall's family organized two search teams for the 41-pound dog.
"We searched for two-and-a-half weeks. Friends, family and even a couple of strangers helped," said Crandall's mother, Mary.
They posted pictures up and down the highway and signs at the stores in Pine and Strawberry and placed ads on the local radio stations.
"I never gave up hope," Crandall said.
While she recovered, she called Arizona humane societies asking if they had Sammy.
Coincidentally, about the time she posted a notice about Sammy on the Web site, craigslist.com, Pine resident Buddy Randall noticed a skittish dog playing with his black Labradors.
It took Randall two weeks to catch the stray and read his tag that had Crandall's father, Jim Speiser's, cell number on it.
"I think I've got Sammy," Randall said.
"He kept saying ‘she' and I thought it was another bum steer," Speiser said.
"I got your number off the collar," Randall told him.
"I started crying and screaming, ‘Sammy, Sammy, Sammy' when I got the call," Crandall said. "How soon can I get up there?" That was April 10.
Randall brought the dog to the Speiser home in Payson that morning on his way to work. He would not accept a reward.
Sammy's whole body was wiggling when Mary opened Randall's truck door.
"Sammy lunged for me like he was trying to hug me," she said. "I was sobbing, I was so happy."
Sammy immediately checked out his favorite squeaky toy, made sure the bones he had hidden in the yard were still there and greeted his doggy friend, Lexis.
Speiser brought his daughter home a few hours later and she and Sammy were reunited.
"Sammy has always stayed close, but now he follows me everywhere," Crandall said.
She faces another surgery for her mangled foot with her dog at her side. Sammy will be there encouraging her with his doggy smile.
The vet looked at Sammy and said he was healthy with no broken bones and had actually gained five pounds.
"He was feasting on something, maybe rabbit," Speiser said. "I don't know what he survived on. He was up there in the forest all winter and it was cold."
Speiser would like to make a map of Sammy's five-month journey. Anyone who thinks they spotted the dog should call him at (928) 474-4747.
"I wish (Sammy) could talk, I really do," Crandall said.