The story of Maddie begins with the early March rescue of a litter of eight adorable Coonhound puppies from a shelter in rural, southwest Virginia. The puppies were weaned prior to arrival at City Dogs Rescue and Maddie and her brothers and sisters went to several different foster homes in the metro DC area. Maddie was sponsored and named by Loretta Stadler in honor of Maddie from Newark who survived the streets for 11 months before being rescued. I'm told Maddie of Newark was one tough cookie.
On Tuesday, March 19th, one of our Dog Management Coordinators, Hae, got the call that no rescue ever wants to receive - - that Maddie was missing in DC! This was all very perplexing since this puppy was being fostered in Maryland. It turns out that the foster took the puppy to a friend’s home while she was at work without notifying City Dogs Rescue. As the story began to be pieced together, we learned that Maddie had disappeared from the foster’s friend’s home in Anacostia around 12:30 pm on the Tuesday, March 19th. Some contractors had come to work on the home and she had been put in the backyard temporarily and, unfortunately, without supervision. At some point thereafter, we believe she escaped through an open part of the fence.
Hae received the call five hours later that she was missing. Even more unfortunate, we learned that the foster had removed her City Dogs Rescue dog tag with plans to adjust it, but never replaced the tag. City Dogs Rescue leaders were incredibly distressed that multiple terms of the Foster Agreement had been violated. While our leaders realize that dogs can still escape even when every precaution is taken, the circumstances here were particularly disheartening because the incident was preventable. We were particularly surprised since the foster had successfully fostered several dogs in the past with great care and results. Despite our efforts to maintain policies and procedures to reduce risk and ensure safety, CDR now faced a situation where an innocent 9-week old puppy was lost in an unfamiliar and rough neighborhood. How could we possibly find her with virtually no information about her potential whereabouts? She could be in the city or she could be miles away already. (PHOTO: Sister Marisa was wearing her tag in this photo. Marisa was adopted the Sunday before Maddie went missing.)
We decided to focus on the most obvious area - - the neighborhood where she was lost. Volunteers were mobilized and went to the area with flyers. Recognizing that time was of the essence with a lost dog, CDR quickly hired a search and rescue tracking team, Sam Connelly and her sweet Golden Retriever, Brie, of Pure Gold Pet Trackers, that evening to track Maddie from the backyard of the foster home to a major road about a block away where the trail went cold. Sam believed that Maddie was picked up either in a vehicle or by someone on foot. We could only hope that she was found by a good samaritan.
CDR Fosters Carmen and Katya posted on every light post, went into stores and talked to everyone they saw on the street. Katya even saved a stray cat that she brought to a local cat rescue. CDR Foster Rebecca put up flyers on the main road on her way home from work. Toby Emerson joined the search party multiple times as well.
However, upon canvassing the area, we quickly learned that most people believed that our Coonhound mix puppy, Maddie, was actually a pit bull, based on her flyer picture. We updated the flyer to make sure it was prominently noted she is a hound! Sadly, it appeared from talking to neighbors that dog fighting is prevalent in this community and many said that she was likely sold into a fighting ring. However, we could not be certain. We could only hope that this wasn’t the case as it was unbearable to imagine.
CDR volunteers did an amazing job online with our great networking group to coordinate ground efforts, generate ideas, and also manage the web monitoring. Our group "Find Maddie: Puppy Missing in Washington, DC" (https://www.facebook.com/groups/findmaddiecdr) was updated constantly throughout our search. Many people who couldn't help on the ground were monitoring websites, including Craigslist, Petfinder, Petharbor, and other sites. Every new posting about a lost dog was scrutinized by a team of highly devoted volunteers. We would all get our hopes up with each new posting. Many of us kept clicking “refresh” on Craigslist because someone surely must have found her. We quickly realized though that our online networking wouldn’t get us as far as we thought. Alumni Coordinator Amy said, "This is not going to be solved online." It was reassuring though to have everyone change their profile pictures and spread the word as best they could. In addition to monitoring social media sites, CDR Adopter and Adoption Counselor Deb donated a Pet Amber Alert to call 750 neighbors with phone messages to the community where she was lost. That led to a number of calls to Hae’s cell phone, but nothing concrete.
We are also grateful to Eat Shop Live blogger Nikki Peele for helping spread the word on Facebook and Twitter about Maddie. We could not have done it without the amazing people in the neighborhood willing to help us every step of the way!
In structuring the search, CDR also worked with Animal Control through the Washington Humane Society. Officer DiGiandomenico was extremely helpful and accessible to us and she coordinated our search efforts with the other animal control officers. They were extremely helpful in responding to any concerns the volunteers had along the way.
Volunteers continued canvassing the area, speaking to residents, and posting flyers tirelessly each day for the remainder of the week. Patricia and the Pulaski Plotts went every morning at dawn to try to draw her out. We felt encouraged by the outpouring of support for our efforts within this community. By Saturday, we found that many people we encountered knew about Maddie and most people were carrying her flyer in their coat pockets in case they came across information on her whereabouts. At this point, we all tried to remain optimistic, but were increasingly concerned about her safety and the likelihood of recovery.
Finally, Saturday’s adventure brought some leads for the first time since the original dog tracker on Tuesday. After canvassing all day, volunteers learned of several separate reports of sightings of a puppy matching Maddie’s description in a park North of the home where she was lost. We began to refocus our search efforts to that general area.
On Saturday night, we brought the search and rescue dog back into the new area of focus. CDR Fosters and Adopters Megan back with Toby again, came into the city right after getting home (an hour away!) so that they could show the tracker where people had said that Maddie had been. The tracking dog’s findings corroborated the reports of sightings of Maddie and tracked her scent around two city blocks. In this path, we came across several well-fed and scrappy cats, but still no Maddie. The tracking dog then specifically zeroed in on the crawl space under two residences off one alley. The tracking dog’s handler believed that Maddie had been hiding under these buildings recently. The search dog’s findings brought invigorated hope to this very tired team of volunteers, but we all also continued to wrestle with the horrible possibility that Maddie could be out there, frightened, cold, and alone.
Volunteers led by Guiding Star, Carmen, reconvened on Sunday to focus on the areas where the search dog tracked Maddie’s scent. Foster moms, Pat and Carlyn, also brought out two of Maddie’s brothers in the hopes that they would lure her out of her hiding place. Volunteers walked the streets and alleys for hours on this very cold and overcast day looking for any sign of the lost puppy. At the end of one alley, chained dogs lunged at us and the puppies. When we approached the men behind them to tell them about Maddie, they said we just wasting paper.
It is important to note that vast majority of the residents of this neighborhood were on our team fighting to find Maddie. Neighborhood children rode their bikes alongside our search groups calling for her and peeking in potential hiding places. People walking around promised to be on the lookout and saved our flyers.
As we continued to look for Maddie, the volunteers met a man selling his pitbull puppy that he told us was too small to fight and were told that she would likely be used as “bait” if she wasn’t purchased. One of the volunteers with us asked if CDR would authorize the “pull” of this dog if she could foster and the Directors agreed to take the dog right then and there. While we hadn’t found Maddie at that point, we were able to save one puppy. That gave us a sense that all of our efforts were not in vain. The circumstances behind the selling of the puppy are being investigated by the proper authorities.
After an exhaustive search of our new target area, we left with little more information about Maddie’s whereabouts than when we arrived. Frustrated, tired and cold, our volunteers left without Maddie. We were feeling very defeated at this point.
Shortly after arriving home, a call came in from a woman in Anacostia named Peaches. She said repeatedly that she was certain that her daughter had our dog.
Peaches relayed to us a recent trip to the store with her daughter. Her daughter mentioned to another person in the store that she wanted a dog and a man who overheard mentioned that his friend was trying to sell a dog because he couldn’t take care of it anymore. When they asked what kind of dog he was selling, the man said it was a mix, and he wasn’t sure what kind but it could be a pit. Peaches and her daughter went to V Street and bought the dog from the man’s friend. A couple days later, a friend of Peaches asked about her daughter’s new dog because she said there were flyers of a lost dog in the neighborhood and groups of people were looking for her everyday.
Peaches called the number on the poster knowing the dog was Maddie. Director Darren called her on the phone and stayed on her speakerphone as Peaches went to her daughter’s home to retrieve Maddie. Her daughter was not home, but her daughter’s boyfriend was there and told Peaches that he wanted to keep this puppy because she was a pit. Peaches said she knew from the posters that Maddie was a HOUND dog and that she belonged to someone who cared enough to hang posters everywhere. On speakerphone, Darren told Peaches that the police could pick up the dog if we had the address. Peaches went outside to the steps to get the address and the boyfriend, overhearing the conversation about the police, handed Maddie over to Peaches.
Peaches drove Maddie back to City Dogs Daycare where they were both greeted by a welcoming party of ecstatic, emotional and relieved volunteers! Peaches was our hero in Maddie’s unfortunate adventure. Without her, it is unlikely that we would have ever recovered our Maddie. Peaches received a reward check of $750 donated by very generous CDR supporters.
(We also named our newest rescue who looks like Maddie in honor of Peaches.)
The first order of business was a collar with a CDR tag and a harness! Maddie appeared to be in good condition and was eager to play with the other dogs. That night she went home to a wonderful, safe foster home with Carlyn and Pat in Fairfax, Virginia with two of her brothers (Cosmo and Brayden) and slept in a warm bed with a full tummy.
The story of Maddie is also the story of City Dog Rescue’s first (and hopefully last) lost dog search. The experience all made us appreciate the safety of our own dogs a little bit more. The takeaway from Maddie’s adventure is to always be vigilant about the safety and security of your own dogs. Dogs should not be left outside unattended even in fenced-in areas. Fences must be maintained and surveyed for escape routes that may develop through a dog digging or a newly missing fence post. An up-to-date tag should be on every dog. (Had someone not removed Maddie’s tag, this little misadventure may have never happened.) Maddie was too young to be microchipped, but this is yet another safeguard that can help you recover your dog in the event he or she is lost. Another great local resource is Lost & Found Dogs - DC Metro Area on Facebook.
We could not be more amazed at the outpouring of support and volunteerism in the search for Maddie. At times, it felt totally hopeless, but City Dogs Rescue is truly a great community that came together to find this brave puppy! We want to thank our own volunteers but also the many concerned citizens of Anacostia who came to our aid over the course of this search. People on the street asked us what was so special about this puppy - - we told them we had made a commitment to her and there were a whole lot of people who wanted to make sure that that commitment was fulfilled. Welcome home, Maddie! You're a pretty tough cookie, too! We can all sleep better at night.
City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties volunteers.