Lost Your Dog? These People Feel Your Pain

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Anya, a border collie-Australian shepherd mix who went missing in Chandler, Ariz., in January 2017. (Courtesy Where Is Anya? via Facebook)
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You lost your dog. The pain is real.

To ease the anxiety, you can put 100 fliers on lamp posts or report her missing to the microchip company. You can dutifully search the kennels at the pound to console your weepy six-year old, or to console your weepy self.

But if you’re like me, you’ll need something else. You’ll need Straydar.

Jessica Laughlin started the Facebook page in 2011 when her husband found a lost dog and they didn’t know what to do with it.

“The plight of the stray and abandoned dog has always just pulled at my heartstrings,” she told me.

Laughlin lives in Morrison, Tenn., but the page is for dogs who’ve gone missing around Phoenix. That’s where I was visiting for the Christmas holiday in 2015, when my 10-pound Chihuahua named Bisbee dug a hole beneath my brother’s backyard fence. I arrived despondent at Straydar to post my digital flier, and found an entire city seemed to be doing the same thing for their own lost-and-found dogs.

Every post is an urgent cry for help. They often include details that would be humorous under better circumstances. Who could resist a dog named Macho running the mean streets in a pink sweater?

More than a year later, I still spend time browsing the page to watch the very-human drama that unfolds when a dog goes missing.

“I don’t think that’s weird at all,” says Susan Taney, who founded Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and then went on to develop similar sites for 33 other states.

Her page for Illinois, where she lives, has more than 120,000 followers. Many of them aren’t even missing a dog. But they’ll volunteer to paper a neighborhood with fliers. Or they’ll spend an extra hour at their computers cross-checking animal control websites.

“What they’re doing is trying to make matches between a lost dog and a found dog,” Taney explains. These amateur pet detectives have a stake in the outcome of a stranger’s dilemma “because it could be them the next time.”

Unfortunately for Theron Bartlett, the time has come.

His border collie-Aussie mix, a rescue named Anya with one floppy ear, went missing from his parents’ farm in Chandler, Ariz., on Jan. 22.

A tip from a stranger leads him believe Anya was stolen. Theron has canvassed the neighborhood and posted the details on Straydar. He’s started a fundraising campaign and created his own Facebook page called “Where is Anya?

And that’s the fundamental question when your dog goes missing, isn’t it? It’s the constant worrying and wondering — is she still out there? Theron still asks that more than a month after Anya’s disappearance.

“And there’s no way to know,” he says. “It’s the not knowing that gets you.”

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