Joanne Cremer holds one of the handbills that were distributed around town after Molly disappeared. Photo by John Boivin

Rossland couple touched by community’s search for missing dog

Molly was lost for nearly three weeks, but massive community effort found her

A little dog is safe at home after being missing for nearly three weeks — thanks to an astounding effort by residents of Rossland.

Molly the dog was found near Columbia Ave. on Tuesday, after disappearing from her home on October 9.

“It was because of the whole community that Molly was found,” says owner Joanne Cremer. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Molly is a Lagotto-Romagnolo, and came from Qualicum Beach, where she had a couple of litters of pups. Cremer is a fan of the breed, but says Molly was also a favourite of the previous owner.

“She entrusted Molly to us,” says Cremer. “It took her a long time to decide she could let her go.”

But Molly did eventually come to live with her new family. On October 8 she arrived by air in a travel crate to Trail, and Joanne picked her up there.

And less than 16 hours later, she was gone.

The search begins

“I took her out for a little walk up the street, and a loose dog came running at her. She became very frightened, threw her collar and took off.”

That began a 20-day nightmare for Cremer and Aldo Sterpin, her spouse.

Their new lost dog, with no street sense, was wandering a town where wild predators are common in the bush.

“She did not know the area, she has no ‘street sense’, and she’s very new here,” says Cremer. “I was devastated.”

And so the hunt began.

“We went out every single day, morning, noon and night,” says Cremer. “I would go out in the morning for the first few weeks, I took the lining out of her crate and lay it out on the deck. And I’d sit and wait. And I’d go out to the end of the driveway and play recorded sounds of her puppies, hoping she could hear them.

“I was out every day until I was completely exhausted after two weeks,” she recalled.

Almost from the start, friends and acquaintances began calling Cremer, offering help. A neighbour, Lindy Welsby, spearheaded the effort to get the word out.

“Before I knew it I had the whole community here,” she says. Posts on local Facebook and Bhubble pages kept track of sightings of Molly.

Soon there were so many people out looking they began sorting volunteers into committees, sub-teams, and co-ordinating search efforts.

“One group would go in the morning, another in mid-day, another group would go at night,” says Cremer. “I had contacted every organization I could think of — the SPCA, Rossland Search and Rescue, animal places, everything. “

Some team members made up posters and handbills, and started distributing them around town. They started searching in people’s yards and in alleyways.

A separate message board was created so team members could co-ordinate and keep each other updated without constantly disturbing the exhausted Cremer.

The search crew expanded its area, going as far as Tadanac and and Oasis, closer to Trail than Rossland.

Lisa Wegner was one of the members of the search crews.

“It was incredible, some of us would have given up for the day, then we would get a note saying ‘she was spotted on Columbia’, and we’re on the conference group and everyone would drop everything and go up there,” she says.

But there was still no sign of Molly.

Searchers grew more inventive. A total stranger from Vernon lent a wildlife trail-cam to the effort and helped in a ground search. A drone went up looking for her.

Wegner contacted the breeder and got her to ship some of Molly’s shed fur, collected from the wash-bin at her old home, in an effort to bring a familiar scent to the area.

In the end that wasn’t needed. The day her hair arrived, someone spotted Molly in an alleyway near Columbia Avenue.

“I was preparing dinner when they called, and I had lamb chops,” says Cremer. “I just grabbed a raw lamb chop and thought, ‘if this doesn’t get her, nothing will.’.

Not very long later — dirty, disheveled and with her ribs stretched over her skin — Molly was back at her new home. She had lost nine pounds- a third of her body weight.

Cremer called the breeder to tell her the good news.

“She was so relieved,” says Cremer. “We both cried and cried. Now, we’ve been crying off and on for the last 20 days. But I tell you, she was so grateful — both of us were beginning to think she may not be found.”

For Wegner and the other search team members, the experience may turn into a more formal arrangement for finding lost pets.

“It’s more than a lost pet, it’s a family member, and it has to be treated in the same manner,” she says. “We don’t have a search and rescue for our animals, like we have for kids…

“It gives us something to look forward to in the future, perhaps having something like a committee that has the availability to line up drones or wildlife cams or live traps,” she says. “The organization and communication was so outrageously good that we were communicating throughout the day, saying where teams were going out, and by debriefing you could plan for the next day.

“It illuminated even more just how much Rossland gets involved,” she says. “Everyone was watching, everyone was involved in some degree, it’s so inspiring to see people weren’t giving up.”

Safe and sound

Things are winding down, but the calls still keep coming in from friends wanting to check on how Molly and family are doing.

Molly’s quite unaware of the fuss she’s caused. Still a little skittish — she really doesn’t know her new family yet — she’s slowly beginning to calm down.

“She needs time to adjust, to rest, and recuperate from her 20 days of not knowing where she was and being frightened,” says Cremer. She, too, is still recovering from the experience, but says it really brought out something special.

“We live in a fantastic community who are caring and will jump in to help not only animals, but anyone in the community who needs help,” says Cremer. “I have met so many wonderful people, who are now my friends, so a tragedy has turned into a positive.”

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Home again, home again: Joanne Cremer holds Molly while husband Aldo Sterpin holds their other dog, Sam. Photo by John Boivin

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