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Hundreds continue search for Daisy

Posted by Matt Byrne  September 28, 2010 10:04 AM

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Ann Mitchell immediately feared the worst.

A powerful freak thunderstorm swept into the Boston area in July, unexpectedly dumping more than 4 inches of rain on some cities and towns. But it wasn't the threat of a flood that Mitchell feared. It was her dog, Daisy, who was painfully afraid of storms.

"I heard the thunder and I just dropped everything and came home," said Mitchell, who lives in Stoneham and has been semi-retired since 2005. But it was too late, Mitchell said.

The border collie mix had managed to open the front door and a screen door, escaping into the wet afternoon on July 12. Now, nearly three months after the dog's disappearance, Mitchell's efforts to find her lost companion have ballooned from posting flyers around her neighborhood to a multi-city search and reconnaissance mission undertaken by dozens of volunteers who have come forward to help her.

A website, a YouTube video, and a Facebook page have been set up by volunteers, and hundreds of flyers have been distributed throughout Stoneham, Melrose, Wakefield, Malden, Medford, Somerville, Lynn, and Everett, Mitchell said. So far, the Facebook page has attracted more than 600 followers. 

Hopes of finding the animal are pinned on the efforts of a professional pet tracking company from Maryland that Mitchell has hired, and the nearly 100 volunteers and citizens who search, call, and offer moral support since the distressing disappearance.

"She's my constant companion," said Mitchell. "[Daisy] had her 10th birthday about a month ago, so she's now 10 years old now. And I worry about her, because dogs don't last too much longer than that."

Mitchell said her phone has been bleating since she began posting flyers. The efforts are tiring, she said, but she said she holds out hope that the dog can be found.

Reports of alleged sightings have been frequent, Mitchell said, but so far no one has come forward with a positive identification of Daisy or a photograph showing her recent appearance.

The Daisy website listed the most recent sighting: Sept. 21 at 11:30 a.m. at Foss Park in Somerville, at the intersection of Broadway and McGrath Highway.

Anyone who sees her is asked to call 781-439-3109, 617-974-7597, or 781-435-1740.

Mitchell said Daisy has most likely turned feral and will fear human contact. 

"The worst thing you can do is chase her," Mitchell said, urging anyone who sees the animal to call one of the numbers to contact a search team member. "She's a fox now."

Daisy is smart, Mitchell said, and it was no surprise that she was able to escape. Mitchell said that in the past, Daisy was known to move a chair into the kitchen and push it against the countertop so she could reach food on top of Mitchell's refrigerator, she said. 

"She is a a problem solver," Mitchell said, adding that she believes Daisy's intelligence and cunning has led to the difficulty finding her. 

Mitchell said that if anyone spots Daisy, do not approach her. Take a photograph, if possible, and call someone who has been participating in the search effort, she said. 

Sam Connelly, the professional pet tracker based in Maryland, has made the journey to the Boston area three times so far to track Daisy and a few other dogs in the area. Connelly said she uses a trained search dog to lead owners to the general area where the lost animal is believed to have been seen last. Then the trackers set up feed stations or humane traps in the area, and encourage focused flyering near the animal's last known location.

Another tactic that often draws a lost pet out from seclusion is simple conversation.

" Go out into the woods, sit down on the log, and talk to her," Connelly said. "It may take her hours to come out." The familiarity of the owner's voice combined with the slow approach to making contact will often allow the dog to relax its natural survival instincts long enough to recognize the owner, Connelly said, adding that there is a "really good chance" of finding Daisy.

"She's being seen. The fact that she's coming out in the day, is great."

Patti Barr, a neighbor of Mitchell's, has taken up the cause and so far has fielded scores of phone calls from kind people looking to help, she said.

"Amazing. amazing amount of people that come out, that don't know the owner, don't know the dog, who come out to help," said Barr in a telephone interview. 

After the July disappearance, Barr said she and a handful of friends and relatives pushed to get the word out before the efforts seemed to take on a life of their own. The website and Facebook pages were creaed by total strangers, Barr said.

ClearChannel Outdoor, the billboard advertising arm of the communications giant ClearChannel, contacted the search team and put Daisy's picture and information about the search on a billboard lining Route 93 during Labor Day weekend, Barr said. 

"It makes you think about it, and it gives me goosebumps. It's like, whoa. People are good," she said. One man, Barr said, even created an informational video during a recent outing to search for the dog and posted it to YouTube.

The efforts have taken their toll on Mitchell, who said finding her dog has become nearly a full-time job. 

"We keep going, but it takes a lot out of a person. I have help, it's just a lot mental, too. [I'm] wondering what's going on with her, and how she is out there. I worry about her, you know?"

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