When their 9-year-old daughter, Valentina, accidentally left behind her beloved American Girl doll during a flight earlier this summer, Rudy and Celeste Dominguez tried everything they could think of to reunite their daughter with her "best friend," Beatrice.
“[Beatrice] means a lot to me. She brings me happiness and she’s my best friend,” Valentina explained to “Good Morning America.” “When she was missing, when we got settled into our hotel, I felt very bad. I felt like my heart was broken.”
The Plano, Texas family searched everywhere for the lost doll with brown hair, including their travel baggage, without success.
“We checked our bags to see if maybe she was in there but we all remembered seeing her on the plane so once we did the search, didn't find her, we called the airline and then we sent an email to the airline looking for her,” Rudy Dominguez recalled.
The family also spread the word about the misplaced doll through a Facebook post – a message that eventually reached pilot James “Jim” Danen, a first officer for American Airlines who's based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, not far from Plano.
Danen said he jumped at the chance to help young Valentina locate Beatrice, who was last seen on July 20 on a plane in Tokyo, Japan, where the family had a stopover on their flight back to the U.S. from Bali, Indonesia.
"It's my nature. I like helping people ... that's just what I like doing," the veteran pilot, who often files to Tokyo and back, told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA. "I was really glad I could do something nice for somebody."
Danen said he reached out to Turkish Airlines' lost-and-found at Haneda Airport in Tokyo and was able to locate the missing doll after two tries. He then took photos with Beatrice in various airports and on flights as he carried her back home to Valentina in Texas, over 5,800 miles away.
On Monday, Danen drove to the Dominguez family home in Plano and personally returned Beatrice to Valentina, along with some Japanese treats and a map that showed all of Beatrice's travels. WFAA was there to capture the in-person reunion on camera.
“I felt over the moon,” Valentina said of seeing Beatrice again after a month-long separation. “I knew Beatrice was gonna be mad at me but I was happy that I could see her again.”
"I think it's another sign of there's a lot of kindness in this world,” Dominguez said of Danen and his actions. “I'm really happy that Jim was able to help us and thankful for him."
After Valentina was reunited with Beatrice, she thanked Danen, gave him a hug and asked him a crucial question.
"Was she well-behaved on the flight?" Valentina inquired.
"Very well-behaved, yes," Danen responded.
Celeste Dominguez said the experience of losing and then reuniting with Beatrice the doll has “taught us a valuable lesson, has taught the girls a valuable lesson: When someone reaches out, help them out if you can.”