Baby come back: Social media works overtime to return lost pets

Mar. 16—ASHLAND — Maggie the Shih Tzu escaped from her yard beside Central Park one day recently.

"The dog was lost on a Monday afternoon, around 3 p.m.," Allie Wears said; her uncle is the dog's owner. "She got out of the fenced-in yard."

Thankfully, her jaunt was cut short by a good Samaritan who spotted Maggie about two blocks from the dog's home. But her family had no idea what had become of her.

"We weren't hopeless but we were concerned that Maggie had been hit by a car or maybe even picked up by someone who wouldn't return her," Wears said.

Meanwhile, Barbara Compston Albert of Hanging Rock was waiting in a parking lot of a medical facility in Ashland while her daughter had tests run when she saw the dog, who ran into the building the first chance she got.

"I do rescue work and I knew from looking at her she had to have a home," Albert said. "Her paws were smooth, she was clean."

Albert had her checked for a chip and none was found. She also checked on all the Facebook pages for lost animals and posted her picture, saying she'd found the dog.

"I found her about 3 p.m. and it was a little after 9 when Allie messaged me," Albert said. "She said her uncle said he was afraid he'd lost her forever."

Wears said she saw Maggie on Ashland KY Lost and Found Pets, an extension of Ashland Animal Rescue Fund.

"Within the hour, I was connected with the individual who had found Maggie, and Barbara was kind enough to drop Maggie off at 10:30 p.m. Monday night," Wears said.

AARF volunteer Nicole Bryant said AARF was overwhelmed with requests to help find pets, or their owners, so for organization's sake, the page was started.

"I'm not sure the number of animals we've single handedly been responsible for helping reunite, since we post a lot of animals shared elsewhere and it's always a community effort," Bryant said. She said most of the animals are in Ashland, but they're willing to post information from surrounding counties and throughout the region.

A Boston terrier who goes by the name Maddie is an example of a lost pet whose information made the rounds on social media.

Owner Mary Dawn Selby of Grayson said the 13-year-old's disappearance was especially concerning because she is blind.

"She lost both eyes to cancer," Selby said.

Selby said she escaped through a hole in the fence on their property and was gone for 18 hours before she was found.

"We were scared to death," Selby said. "She's not one to bark and if she's scared, she just sits and shakes."

Selby found her in her own neighborhood, shaking, just as she predicted.

Rick Keelin of Catlettsburg has two dogs — Hamilton and Peanut — who were posted on the page after escaping their fenced-in yard; within two days, both had returned home on their own.

It's not the first time the escape artists fled their home, but Keelin said no matter how many times they run off, it's a traumatic experience.

"It's like losing a child," Keelin said. "You're vulnerable and hurt, and there's no guarantee they're coming back."

Keelin said he has used the lost-and-found page to find the owners of a dog.

"It was three or four years ago, we had a dog show up, a stray," he recalled. "My son put the dog on Lost and Found and other pages and we found out that dog was from Huntington. We were able to get that dog back to its home."

One misconception about the page: It's not for placement of a pet.

"Somebody had found a yorkie and people post, 'Oh, it's so cute! I'll take it!'" Bryant said. "You can't claim it. We are trying to find its home."

Bryant said anyone who wants to post their missing pet to Ashland KY Lost and Found Pets may do so. The best way is to make a post and share it to the page.

Experts urge pet owners to have their animal chipped and buy them a collar with their name and phone number.

(606) 326-2661