Allison Crookshank and her family were in a car accident, when their six-month-old King Charles spaniel Penny Moo was ejected from the vehicle. Despite there best efforts of trying to find the puppy, their search came up empty just outside of Seattle. “We thought Penny Moo was gone forever,” Allison said.
While the family felt helpless, a group of local volunteers from the Lost Dogs of King County WA got involved to find the dog. The organization has 34,000 members and a 92% success rate at finding dogs lost in the area. Lily Burns, who volunteers about 16 hours a day as the Facebook moderator, helps to lead these efforts. “About 30 people post about missing dogs every day, and we look into each and every one,” she said. “If there’s a dog out there that needs help, that’s where my heart is. We do everything we can to help reunite them.”
In the case of Penny Moo, her owner was directed to the group just hours after the accident by a neighbor.“She said they’d send people out to look for her, and I remember thinking, ‘This is crazy — how will they possibly find her?’ ” said Crookshank.
The post was soon live with details about Penny, her last location, etc. Within minutes, dozens from the group were out looking for the lost pup. As the sun set, and the searchers went home, Allison's children made missing signs to hang up. However, they never had to post them.
The next morning, Allison received a call from James Branson, the founder of the organization. “He said, ‘I can see your dog — she’s about 50 yards in front of me,’ ” Crookshank recalled. “He’d found her under an overpass, about 50 yards from the accident scene.”
Branson put Allison on speaker phone to entice the puppy over to the rescuer. This technique is taught to group members to avoid the dog from becoming frightened and running away. “She heard my voice and she ran right over to him,” said Crookshank, becoming emotional. “I can’t put into words how grateful I am.”
“Jim thought, ‘If I were this dog, where would I go? What would I do?’ ” she added. “What he did was such an incredible kindness. I think about what he did for us and Penny Moo every day.”
Jim started the group in 2014 after seeing a similar group in Snohomish County have success. He also runs Useless Bay Sanctuary, which helps find homes for stray dogs. In addition to the phone technique, he also uses his own two dogs, Wakomu and Tino, to find dogs and cats lost in heavily wooded or remote areas.
“Happy reunions are rewarding for the dogs, the cats and the people,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. And I also like working with my dogs — they’re my family.”
While most searches take a few days, Branson said, some can be exceptionally difficult. Specifically, he recounted a dog named Bonnie that was missing for seven years before being spotted. “When they contacted me, I realized it was Bonnie and we were able to finally pick her up and reunite her with her family,” he said. “She went home and plopped down by the fire and was just glad to be back.”
Lily Burns joined the group after one of her dogs Zoey slipped out of her collar and ran off a few years ago. “I panicked and ran around screaming for her — I did everything you’re not supposed to do,” she said, explaining that frantic yelling is likely to cause a dog to run further or hide.
Luckily, Zoey was found after about 30 minutes. This inspired Lily to help others looking for their lost dogs. “I can relate to people in a panic over their dog, because I’ve been there,” she said.
This amazing organization has shown the power of community and how each and everyone of us can help the most vulnerable.
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