On Nov. 22, 2015, Carla Conward of Maryland was in the process of moving out of her parent’s house when her German Shepherd, Dinkus, got out of the backyard through an open gate. With the commotion of packing up boxes and taking things out of the house, Conward had accidentally left the gate open.
Conward says that Dinkus had been roaming around the backyard, which she described as “huge and park-like” and provided the dog a lot of space to run around. She added that when they walked the neighborhood, Dinkus was always on a leash.
Then, when she was on her way to drop items off at her new house, Conward suddenly remembered that she had left the gate open. She immediately called her parents, but they weren’t home. They rushed back to the house. But by the time they got there, it was too late. Dinkus was gone.
Conward’s first thought was to quickly post on Nextdoor, a free and private social network, alerting her neighbors that Dinkus had gotten out of the yard. She remembered Nextdoor from reading other neighbor’s posts, which ranged from asking about lost bikes to finding a contractor. Conward said she had found that helpful in the past, so posting about Dinkus’ situation on Nextdoor was her first inclination.
Conward thought, “Let me send out a quick alert on Nextdoor, letting my neighbors know about Dinkus, what he looked like and that he was a German Shepherd who had gotten out of the gate.”
Within five minutes, Conward received her first lead, and immediately after that, responses continued to flow in. People were reporting to her that they had seen Dinkus and also provided his location. But, because he was scared, he kept running. Nextdoor was also the impetus that prompted other neighbors to plan and schedule a search crew to look for Dinkus. “Five or six of them went out one evening to look for Dinkus until dusk,” Conward said.
In the first week alone, she had about 100 replies, but Dinkus was still on the move and traveling farther and farther away. Nextdoor continued to remain helpful during the search for Dinkus because the alert was not only posted in her Hillandale neighborhood, it was extended to other Nextdoor neighborhoods.
Conward estimated that Dinkus had traveled 15 to 20 minutes away. “If he was that far away, then there was no way that he would have been able to make his way back because when people called his name, he ran away,” she said.
After three weeks of searching, the hoped-for alert finally came in — Dinkus was found. Conward said her father, Gary, received a message that said a tan-and-black German Shepherd, about six years old, was found roaming and had been picked up by the Prince George County Animal Shelter.
When Conward was finally reunited with Dinkus, she said, “He went crazy when he saw us. He was out for that long with no food. We don’t know what he was eating. It was raining a lot those few weeks and it was getting really cold at night. When he saw us, he was excited, and he was ready to go home.”
She said this is great story with a happy ending. “If we didn’t have the outlet of Nextdoor, Hillandale, I don’t know how this story would have played out. Aside from putting up flyers in the neighborhood, I really didn’t know any other means. We don’t know if we would have been able to find him. Having so many neighbors on Nextdoor was amazing.”
To bring Nextdoor to your neighborhood, click here. Other ways to help bring home a lost pet through social media include Craigslist; Twitter, if you have a lot of local followers; and Facebook, which many neighborhoods use to create their own lost-and-found groups. If you do lose your pet, blanket all of these social media sites with your lost dog listing.
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About the author: Anne Forline is a freelance writer in Bellmawr, New Jersey. She is an unrepentant foster failure. Her three rescue bunnies, JoJo, Bennie, and Nibbles, allow Anne, her husband, Steve, and daughter, Cara, to share a home with them. Anne likes to run 5Ks and has placed a few times in her age division. She is also a certified teacher who homeschools Cara. Anne makes friends with all of the neighborhood dogs and keeps treats handy to give out when they pass by on their walks. See more of her work at anneforline.com, check out her Facebook page – Anne Forline – Writer, and follow her on Twitter at @AnneForline.