Friday, April 13, 2012
Lost Dogs and Social Media
Wednesday afternoon, a fairly intense (at least for our Sierra Nevada foothill region) thunderstorm blew through Auburn. We had lightning, thunder, wind, heavy rain and even some small hail. The storm was intense enough and close enough that I decided to wait to finish building electric fence for the sheep until it passed - something I posted on facebook just for fun.
When we fed our animals at home on Wednesday evening, we discovered that Lara's border collie Mo was missing. Remembering the intensity of the afternoon's storm, we assumed that he was hiding from the thunder. After we failed to find him hiding around the farm, we made an increasingly frantic search of our immediate neighborhood. Lara and I drove with the windows open, calling Mo's name. Sami went door-to-door asking if anyone had seen him. No luck. We all went to bed worried and upset. Before going to bed, I posted photos of Mo on facebook, asking friends and fans of our farm to keep an eye out for him. I also sent an email to friends who know Mo, again asking for help.
Thursday morning, we awoke to numerous offers of help in our email in-boxes and on facebook. In fact, my posts about Mo probably received more response than anything I've ever posted on facebook. In the end, however, it was old fashioned face-to-face networking that returned Mo to Flying Mule Farm.
Before leaving to take Lara to school, we printed missing dog posters, offering a reward for Mo's return. I left posters at several local businesses, and Sami posted them in our neighborhood as she took Emma to school. Emma took one to her teacher (who lives nearby) - and her teacher immediately called Sami to tell her that she'd seen Mo that morning, frantically trotting down the county road in front of our place. Sami and I both started walking the community and calling for Mo. I stopped at several homes and asked neighbors if they'd seen him - at least one other person had seen him that morning as well. Our county animal control offered to help search as well.
By 10:30, Sami needed to get to an appointment, but she decided to stop at a nearby small animal hospital to leave a poster. The receptionist looked at the photo and said, "We have that dog here." As anyone who has lost (and found) a pet knows, we were all overjoyed. Mo spent the rest of the morning going on calls with Sami, and he spent the afternoon moving sheep with me. My facebook posts and emails announcing his return received even more response than the first posts!
As I've written here and elsewhere previously, part of the reason I farm is that I love working with animals. While I've never been without a dog in the nearly 45 years I've been alive, my relationship with my working dogs runs much deeper than any relationship I've ever had with a pet. My working dogs are my daily companions and working partners - I'm constantly amazed at their instinct, their courage and their stamina. The potential loss of one of our partners was an awful feeling. His return was truly an joyous occasion. As Mo and Taff helped me move one of our flocks to a new pasture about a mile up the road yesterday, I couldn't help but think that Mo was feeling relieved and joyous as well!
The other interesting part of this entire episode for me was the sense of community that I felt. Our friends and colleagues, both local and virtual (that is, our on-line "community") offered tremendous support and help. My friend Roger Ingram, for example, offered to help search for Mo at 9:30 on Wednesday night. Others made special trips to and through our neighborhood watching for him. I'm certain that the thoughts and prayers of friends from outside our geographic area had something to do with Mo's safe return.
Tonight, Sami will put microchips in all of our dogs. From now on, we'll make sure that Mo is safely with us if a thunderstorm approaches. And we'll be much more aware of our connections with our community. Thank you all!