▶ Watch Video: Good Samaritan returns lost dog to family after 22-day search

After 22 days on the tarmac at one of the world’s busiest airports, Maia, a Chihuahua mix, is the ultimate survivor. She was found last weekend after a Good Samaritan brought the three-week saga to an end. 

Maia and her owner, Paula Rodriguez, got separated on their way to San Francisco from the Dominican Republic. During a stop in Atlanta, Rodriguez had to spend the night in a detention center because she didn’t have the proper documents to enter the United States.

Since pets aren’t allowed in the detention center, Delta Air Lines offered to care for Maia overnight, after she flew in the cabin on a Delta flight. But during the transfer, Maia escaped her zipped carrier and ran onto the active runway. She was wearing a seashell collar that later helped identify her. 

Rodriguez turned to social media for help and posted in a Facebook group called “Atlanta Area Lost and Found Pets.”

Robin Allgood, a volunteer pet rescuer, saw the plea and took matters into her own hands. She placed signs around the airport, hoping to locate Maia, but after two weeks lost hope.

“I honestly gave her a 1% chance of still being on that property,” Allgood said.

Then, a FedEx employee named Al Lewis, who had seen Allgood’s signs, reported a sighting. Rodriguez rushed to the FedEx facility at the airport, where employees were skeptical. 

“They were looking at me like, ‘Really lady?'” Rodriguez said. But she insisted the dog was on their property.

She said FedEx security told her she needed to speak with Delta, so she drove to the Delta terminal where she said she was told she couldn’t get clearance since they didn’t have proof the dog was there. Allgood broke into tears and went back to FedEx, where she said she was told, “Delta lost the Dog. It’s Delta’s problem.” 

Allgood said she circled the FedEx facility for nearly three hours looking for Maia. Her persistence led her to Norris Champion, a FedEx manager who organized a search party. About an hour later, they made a breakthrough: Maia was found. He sent Allgood a picture of the dog — and saw the seashells on her collar. 

“I was like, ‘It’s her, it’s her, it’s her!'” Allgood said. 

Officials escorted Allgood onto the tarmac to retrieve Maia, who, though still shaken, was safe.

“She was so panicked. She was trembling so bad, and I could literally see her pulse in her neck,” Allgood said.

“I’m just so happy that I got her,” she said.

In all, Allgood’s search after she got the call from Lewis had lasted nearly 24 hours. 

The next day, Delta flew Rodriguez’s mother to Atlanta for a heartwarming reunion. Maia, dehydrated and 7 pounds thinner but otherwise okay, has since returned to the Dominican Republic, where she is back in the loving arms of Rodriguez. 

Delta previously told CBS News that the specifics of how and why the dog went missing were still being investigated. PETA is splitting a $5,000 reward between Allgood and the five FedEx workers who helped her find Maia.