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Column: How social networks can bring a lost dog home

A few weeks back, my pooch and I were on a walk around our neighborhood. We were about two blocks from home when this little beagle trotted up, seemingly out of nowhere.

Rissa is a friendly girl, and she really likes to greet other dogs, so she pulled and pulled to get to this beagle. He didn't seem to have much interest in us, though. At least, not at first. He sniffed at Riss, let me pat him on the head, then wandered off into some yard.

He wasn't wearing a collar. I watched him for a few minutes. I was trying to determine whether he was at home, or if he was lost. Pretty soon, it became evident this little beagle wasn't at home.

I called to him a couple of times, calling him "buddy," and holding out my hand. Rissa sat down and waited. Eventually, the little beagle came on over again. I looked around to see if anyone was looking for him. Nothing. So Riss and I started to walk back home. The beagle followed us right up to my front door.

If it sounds like I was trying to dognap, that wasn't the case at all. I had a plan.

On Facebook, there's a page called "Lost Dogs-MN" and I think it's become a valuable tool for helping dogs find their people if they've been separated.

Lost Dogs-MN has two forms on its page. One form is for "parents" whose dogs have wandered off. It gives information like the dog's name, sex, whether the dog is microchipped, and, most importantly, it gives contact information for the owners. The other form is for those who find lost dogs, like I did. It asks you to say where you found the dog, describe the animal and to note any identifiable markings he or she may have.

In either instance, the owner or the finder can post photos of the dog. So, once we got inside and this little beagle got a good drink of water and a scoop of food, I grabbed my camera and took photos of him from a couple of angles. All these years of Pet of the Week photos paid off, I guess.

I went onto the Lost Dogs-MN page and filled out the finder's form. I posted the picture. Almost immediately, I was contacted by the people who administer the page. They offered next steps for me, and they thanked me for taking in this dog.

It took about three hours before the owner pulled up in front of our house. She'd been crying all afternoon. Rex apparently had slipped out of the house while she was gone. She and her husband live about eight blocks from us, and it's a pretty safe bet I wouldn't have gone that far if I'd gotten into the door-knocking stage.

But this Facebook page did what it was supposed to do. People see the posting, they share it on their own pages. Someone else sees the post and shares it. And so on, and so on. In Rex's case, someone up the street from my house knew his owner, saw his picture on Lost Dogs-MN, and called the owner to let her know where Rex was.

I don't share all of the animals I see posted, but the ones where I know I have family and friends, I definitely do share. Late Friday night, I saw a posting for a lost dog, Barkley, right here in Farmington. Of course, I shared it on my own page.

I was relieved Saturday afternoon, when I saw the following message from Lost Dogs-MN:

"Barkley is home safe. A nice family picked him up yesterday and had been caring for him! Thanks to the neighbors who all posted to Facebook, a friend of a friend recognized him!"

I take no credit for helping Barkely find his way home. I do, however, urge everyone I know to use this page.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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