On September 11, 2011, “Abby,” a Belgian Malinois, arrived at her new adoptive home in Swansea, MA, but quickly escaped by scaling the fence. Attempts to catch and chasing made her run further away. Sheilah Graham had recently adopted the same breed dog from ABMC. Emails and FB posts alerted her to Abby’s plight, so she spent the next two days on scene talking with people and handing out fliers. There were no new sightings for days, then Abby reappeared. Calls came in from Dighton, Rehoboth, and Taunton. Sheilah headed to the last sighting area in Taunton with fliers and high hopes. Janet Steeger, also involved with ABMC, tacked large, laminated fliers to poles. They were discussing strategies when Janet’s friend reported that Abby was just seen a mile down the road. The women took off with leashes, hot dogs, and string cheese. The homeowner at the site address said they could park and search for as long as necessary. Neither voiced complaints as they walked in the woods for hours. Optimism faded as daylight disappeared and they left. Then, within ten minutes, two sightings were reported five minutes apart. Both callers saw Abby near the property where they’d just been. Though it was now dark, Sheilah and Janet returned, hoping to see Abby themselves. No such luck.

Thursday morning Sheilah checked FB and web posts for new sightings before heading back to Norton. Mother Nature provided torrential downpours. Food bowls, left in case Abby circled back, weren’t touched. The property owner told her he had called a friend who works on lost dog cases. That was me, Debbie, AKA LostDogSearch. I quickly loaded supplies in my Jeep and arrived in thirty minutes. Sheilah brought me up to date on the search and we increased public awareness with fliers to police, shelters, and businesses in both Norton and Mansfield. Neon signs are tacked to poles. All sightings now indicate a northerly zigzag route. That night Janet set up Google Maps to track sightings while I redesign the flier. On Friday morning we learn that Abby has crossed into Mansfield. A woman reported a big, thin stray dog pawing at her fence, but it left before police arrived. I talked with her, other residents, and the mailman. Bingo! More sightings, and one just twenty minutes old. Abby proves elusive, and hours later, rain soaked, I head home. That night, Janet and I meet for the first time on a dead-end road that was a strategic place to park and stage. She brought me a huge batch of updated fliers. With heavy rain pouring down and too dark to see anything, we sit in her van and talk. I give her a general overview of search procedures, including scenarios of how to lure a dog to you.

Saturday morning the sun was shining. Sheilah had to work but Janet and I would team up in Mansfield. While waiting, I tacked up signs. Janet called to relay a sighting, less than an hour old, in downtown Mansfield. Within minutes I found others who’d also seen her. Janet arrived and I put a sign on her van. A bicyclist rides by, sees us, says Abby is a few streets away, and continues to help by observing Abby from a safe distance. Janet drove to the address, while I walked, in case Abby backtracked. Skinny and limping, Abby was obviously tired when she stopped to rest. Janet went in the yard a few feet and immediately assumed a low ground position. Talking softly, and now on her back, she crawled very slowly, then stopped about thirty feet away from Abby. She gently threw food bits, shortening the distance with each toss. I kept onlookers away, while the bicyclist waited in case Abby bolted. Janet’s submissive posture, reassuring tones, food bits, and patience, all worked in harmony. Abby overcame fear and caution to wander ever closer until Janet was able to gently grasp the loose collar. The whole process took over an hour but was a normal timeframe under the circumstances. The twelve-day ordeal for both Abby and searchers over, we cried and smiled until our faces hurt.

While Janet readied her van for Abby, I held both collar and leash with a death grip. Abby kept pulling away hard, straining the leash, BUT it was only because she wanted to go with Janet. Love at first rescue sight! Witnessing Abby’s immediate attachment to Janet was amazing, way cool, and heartwarming. It wasn’t a hard decision for Janet to adopt her. Backtracking and zigzagging, Abby traveled 45-50 miles. Her fortuitous route by “Performance Plus” in Taunton and my friend’s yard established our search group trio. As she roamed through one particular yard that morning, the family called to report a stray and thus learned Abby was lost. When I went to the house to confirm the sighting, I talked to the wife, not knowing, but later learning, that “bicycle man” was her husband. Things fall into place on their own time.

Abby a poem by Sheilah Graham

You had not met me before the other day,
Yet you constantly searched for me, even going out of your way. Wandering around for twelve days lost and scared, Searching for food, water, and shelter, my life was spared. Posters and flyers and even going door to door,
A safe place to sleep, food and love, I need nothing more. Hoping sooner rather than later, you would secure my return,
A pack with that special someone, is all I yearn,
Sharing love with an animal, it is as good as it gets.
Live each day to the fullest, with no regrets.
You ignored the weather, armed with hot dogs and string cheese,
I kept looking for you, thinking “Find me please”.
You never wavered, never gave up hope,
Foraging northeast you expanded your scope.
I was seen over here, I was seen over there,
Strangers came together, everyone showing just how much they care.

“Karma” you called it, the lucky Penny you picked up that day on the ground, Maybe this means today will be the day I will be found.
Tracking this little girl searching for a new “Fur”ever home to live, Happiness and joy to share with you, I have plenty to give.
The fear in my eyes, eased with your trust,
Emotions were shared, that special bond is a must.
Now safe in a new place, with a nice fluffy bed.
All I ask is treat me good, keep me warm and well fed,
When a day goes wrong and you are feeling kind of crabby,
Smile and remember your adventures finding me, my name is Abby.


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