It sounds like the start of a good mystery.
Five-year old Maggie Balevic, awakened from her slumber by a sound outside, slipped from her warm bed and scurried into the back yard to investigate. She never returned.
By the time her family awoke and realized she was missing, valuable time had been lost.
Patty Balevic’s pampered beagle, accustomed to her own fluffy pillow and all of the luxuries of a kept hound, spent 14 days – Feb. 15-28 – outside after straying from home. Balevic believes a rabbit roused Maggie, who made her way outside through the dog door and slipped through a space in their fence created by the previous night’s windstorm.
Experts say the first 24 hours a person is missing are the most crucial, but does the same apply for a missing dog? R.V. Wakefield, a tracker from Kernersville, said most dogs return home within 36 hours. But even after that, hope remains for finding a missing pet because its scent can linger for up to six months.
“Scent blows,” said Wakefield, who tracks around a half-dozen missing dogs every month. “A lot of times, the scent will be up in the leaves and the bushes.”
Hired by Balevic, Wakefield’s Doberman tracked Maggie about a mile from home before the scent stopped.
Balevic posted more than 100 fliers around town and offered a $1,000 reward for Maggie’s safe return. Word spread through social media, on Facebook and through Nextdoor, a social network geared toward neighborhoods.
“There is a large reward being offered, so send out your teenagers on a dog-finding mission, and they won't be pestering you for ‘date’ money for quite a long while,” Balevic wrote on Nextdoor. Dozens of people replied, assuring Balevic their kids were on the hunt. Messages of support filled the site, too.
“I just can't believe the number of folks that have sent me messages of hope and prayer,” Balevic wrote on Nextdoor. “I bet I have received 200 messages at least.”
Spreading the word is one of the best ways to capture a lost dog, but there are other things that can be done, too. Humane traps are available to check out from the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office’s animal control department. They’ll even use tranquilizer darts to help catch a skittish pet on the run.
Animal control picks up between five and 10 stray dogs every day. The shelter posts a photo of each one on its website, usually within a few hours.
“Immediately, they can check the website,” said Lt. David Taylor of the county’s animal control unit. “If it’s picked up at 8 in the morning, it’s usually on the website by 9 or 10.” Taylor said about 50 percent of the dogs picked up by his unit are reunited with their owners.
Sightings of Maggie came in from several neighborhoods, including Sheffield Manor and Carriage Downs. Skittish after 14 days on the lam, she ran from most who tried to approach her.
But it was the last sighting that brought results. A call from a construction worker near Sheffield Manor reported Maggie was spotted in the woods. Balevic’s husband, Ed, rushed to the area, and once he saw her, he sat down on the ground with a dog treat. After several minutes, the tired dog with the two week-adventure, recognized her owner and came running.
“She is happy; we are happy,” said Balevic. “We are sincerely grateful to everyone.”
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.