GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 7, 2013

Nonprofit group reunites 1,200 dogs, owners

By Alex Lippa and Andrea Holbrook
Staff Writers

---- — Nine-month-old Zadie has been missing since May 27.

That day, the shepherd-coonhound, let off-leash by a dogwalker and spooked, traveled from the Middlesex Fells to Stoneham, then was spotted by state troopers going south down Interstate 93 to Route 28. Then the trail went cold for a month, before people reported seeing a dog matching Zadie’s description in Peabody and Beverly in July.

Now, co-owner Matt Osborne-Smith of Cambridge says he has 4 credible reports in the last 12 days — two on Sunday — that his dog is in the Gloucester village of Magnolia, near Hammond Castle and Route 127.

Zadie’s owners are receiving help from Granite State Dog Recovery, a nonprofit group focused on reuniting dogs with their owners. The group has posted Zadie’s picture and description, reaching more than 25,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

“The most important thing is to get the word out to as many people as possible,” said Lori Bertrand, one of the organization’s founders.

Bertrand is one of six women who volunteer around the clock to find missing dogs or the owners of found pets.

The organization, based in Salem, N.H., covers all of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and posts notices for dogs missing elsewhere in New England.

The volunteers create and post fliers on social media and go out searching for dogs.

Osborne-Smith says that the hunt for Zadie has led to the recovery of two other lost dogs, and that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the dog seen in Magnolia is his, and that she will be recovered.

“These are the best leads we’ve had in over two months,” he said. “This is hard work, with a lot of emotional ups and downs. Granite State Dog Recovery is fantastic, all the volunteers are fantastic.”

Granite State Dog Recovery is also helping with the search for Duncan, a 58-pound white coonhound with liver spots who left home when a latch broke and followed his nose into Dogtown on July 27. He’s wearing a collar and has been heard baying in Nelson’s Quarry.

Duncan’s owner, Alexandra Stella D’Meris, has been meeting with volunteers at the parking lot between Walgreens and Dunkin Donuts off Main Street at 11 a.m. every day this week to search or hang up fliers for her pet.

If a dog is seen in a specific area, volunteers will set up a food-baited trap and a trail camera, which notifies them if something passes by, Bertrand said.

With help from the traps and thousands of Facebook fans, GSDR has found about 1,200 dogs since the group formed in 2010.

About 80 percent of dogs that have been posted to the group’s Facebook page have been found.

“There isn’t a better feeling than reuniting a lost dog with its owner,” said Susan Piche, a GSDR volunteer.

The group was started after they successfully found a dog in 2010, and they realized how valuable a tool social media could be in finding a dog.

“There wasn’t anything out there to help people look for dogs,” Bertrand said. “We started out with five people, then it grew to 25, 50, 100, 1,000. We just kept growing so fast.”

They have rescued more than 600 dogs already this year and receive notification of about 20 missing or found dogs per day.

“Even through rescue work I’ve done, I never realized how often a dog went missing,” Bertrand said.

All the funding for the group comes from donations and goes toward purchasing equipment, hanging up fliers and travel expenses.

“It generally ranges from $100 to $500 a month,” GSDR co-founder Holly Mokrzecki said of donations.

Not only does the group help find missing dogs, they keep in constant contact with their worried owners.

“We reiterate to them that we are doing everything we can to help find their dog,” Piche said. “I’d want them to help me.”

Someone from the group will call the owner every night and offer tips to help find their dog.

Most of the volunteers who run the website work with dogs in their full-time jobs. Piche and Mokrzecki run dog-sitting businesses, while Bertrand worked at Salem, N.H., Animal Rescue League for 12 years.

But this organization means something else to them.

“We just have a compassion for animals,” Bertrand said. “An animal out there trying to survive without help of any people is heartbreaking.”

To post a missing or found dog, visit granitestatedogrecovery.com or facebook.com/granitestatedogrecovery.

Alex Lippa may be contacted at alippa@gloucestertimes.com. Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3456 or aholbrook@gloucestertimes.com.