I know her first name, she’s elderly and that her dog is ‘yappy’. I’ve lived on the street for four years and I’ve seen her many times come out her garage door to either bring down the barrels on trash night or walk to the mailbox. Her little dog would stay right by her side as she walked down to the end of the driveway for her mail. Many days the dog would either bark from their fenced in backyard or from the upstairs bedroom window especially when she saw my dog.
Then everything changed
Monday evening, my elderly neighbor was letting her dog out to the backyard or perhaps she didn’t even realize she had left any of the doors open. Regardless, the open garage door was somehow forgotten. The dog was gone. It took her only a few minutes to realize the mistake. And by then, no one knew where this little ten pound dog went off to.
We were coming home from our son’s hockey practice and found other neighbors milling out and about when I was informed of what happened. They were looking but no one notified anyone outside of our little neighborhood.
I called Animal Control to put the word out in case anyone picks her up. And then being a social media gal, I immediately got a picture of Chelsea and shared it the Animal Control Office Facebook group and another lost dog community Facebook group.
And then something amazing happened. Something I will never forget and I will now do more of it going forward. The picture I posted about my elderly neighbor’s lost dog was being circulated all around Leominster and then some via Facebook. First 9 shares, then an hour later 50 shares, triple digits only hours later! People I didn’t even know where stepping in and sharing a picture of a dog they knew nothing about except that it was lost.
And other pet owners were messaging me to let me know what the next steps were to do. Call the police, file with Missing Dogs Massachusetts. And flyers on neon paper needed to be made up, placed into clear plastic to protect it from the elements and hung up all over the area.
Being a pet owner, I could only imagine the devastation and hopelessness that my elderly neighbor was feeling. The dog was her companion and her to the dog. All I knew, was that I had to help her in any way that I could. I enlisted a help of friend and the two of us set off posting neon flyers up on every other telephone pole.
I was told to file a form with Missing Dogs Massachusetts (MDM). I had never heard of them but willing to do what I needed to do to get this dog back home. After I filed the missing dog form with MDM, I received a text message on what Shirley should be doing next. She explained the dog owner should put out clothing the dog would recognize by scent, familiar toys and/or blanket. I relayed the information to Shirley. They also were the ones to put a flyer together for based on the missing dog form I filled out!
Waiting is difficult
Monday night somehow became Tuesday night and we get a message that someone has spotted her running down a busy street and into a driveway. We have a hope. We continued to search and worry as there was a snow storm coming Wednesday night. My friend and I posted more flyers and met some wonderful people along the way. People were stopping us to question about the little dog on the flyer. Strangers were getting in their cars to search for Chelsea.
God was listening as Thursday morning, we had only an inch or two of fresh snow and not the big snow storm they were predicting. Also, the new fallen snow we found out was actually a blessing because little paw prints were spotted in the same driveway she was seen in on Tuesday night. Feeling hopeful, the volunteers at MDM put up a camera and bait to try to get a picture of Chelsea while we slept.
Friday morning devastation set in as there wasn’t one picture. We wondered what would be next. How do we move on. It’s not even my dog but yet I was riding the rollercoaster of emotion as we struggled to find this dog. I put myself in her shoes and as a dog lover, I knew I had to keep doing what we were doing. We’ve been out canvassing the neighborhood three times, walking up down railroad tracks, snow piles, and our hilly streets posting up flyers, checking under bushes and parked trucks for the dog. We we’re spent and at a loss. That afternoon I spoke to one of the MDM volunteers who told me she and another were going to go back to the railroad tracks and parked trucks and search on foot as well. Perhaps find some more dog tracks in the snow….
Less than an hour later, I received the best news ever. They found her in a ravine near the railroad tracks! Unharmed and just patiently waiting for someone to come save her. The volunteers from MDM somehow spotted her from a long ways off. I still don’t know how they were able to spot her. Chelsea is the same color as trees/rocks/snow and she camouflaged well in the woods.
To say that this little dog was able to survive four nights, in below freezing temperatures in the woods with coyotes, foxes and a recently seen bobcat is nothing short of a miracle.
We each played a vital part in Chelsea coming home and we couldn’t have done it without one another. The community of neighbors and the strangers on Facebook is both overwhelming and amazing.
Heartfelt Thanks to MDM and What I learned
From their website, “Missing Dogs Massachusetts (MDM) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that works to reunite missing and found dogs with their families.” But it’s more than that…the woman who was assigned to us, was open, honest and supportive. She called myself, another neighbor who was also assisting and the elderly women whose dog was missing. She talked to us, gave us hope, ideas and led us through the process of finding Chelsea. Her and another volunteer have full-time jobs and when they’re done with their jobs, they head out and help others. Their passion for finding missing pets is inspiring. Their work won’t be overlooked and I’ll be donating to them.
MDM is a non-profit that depend on the community for all that is needed to help these dogs. Donations help fund vital elements including printing costs, gas, equipment, educational materials, outreach, and technical support. Please consider donating.
If your pet goes missing, here is what I learned from Missing Dogs Massachusetts and going through the process of finding a lost dog.
- Call Animal Control to report your dog missing
- Call the non-emergency local police number to file a missing dog report.
- Circulate a picture of your dog on Social media such as Facebook. Search out your town’s name and lost pet to find local pet groups for assistance or see the list of New England groups below.
- Put familiar scented items on your door step. Dogs can smell items a long ways off – put out their bed, a familiar blanket, dirty clothes with your scent on them.
- Create a flyer – there are sites to help you with this such as Missing Dogs Massachusetts.
- Put the printed flyers in either a gallon-size zip-loc bag or plastic protective sheet to keep it safe from the elements. Grab some tacks, a hammer, tape or whatever you have and get those flyers up where people will see them as soon as possible.
- Check the groups listen below for other tips and/or assistance
- The hardest part – wait, stay calm and try to stay positive.
Facebook Directory of Lost Pet Groups in New England
Did I get time to sit down and write all that I want to? No, however what I did get was a new outlook as well as becoming closer friends with two of my neighbors, met some wonderful new neighbors along the way, met two selfless, compassionate women volunteers from Missing Dog Massachusetts. I’ve gained a new insight and inspiration for volunteering. Oh, and I have an amazing story to tell about a little dog who survived in the snowy woods by herself for four nights.