Sometimes it takes a village to find a lost dog, and Oak Lawn Patch readers did just that by rallying to help some neighbors locate their missing pup this weekend.
For Melissa Huizenga, the weekend started off badly when Wilbur, her eight-year-old, rat terrier-mix somehow got out of his yard near 95th Street and Natoma on Friday morning.
A man caught Wilbur and had him in his arms, but Wilbur managed to wriggle free and continued his frantic run, already in “lost doggie survival mode.”
Unfortunately, when Wilbur jumped out of the man’s arms, he slipped out of his collar as well. Wilbur was now on the streets “naked,” without his collar or ID tags.
Some friends told Melissa to post a lost dog alert on the Oak Lawn Patch Facebook page. On Friday afternoon, someone called to tell her that Wilbur had been spotted near Penny Lane School at 103rd and Ridgeland. Wilbur was heading east.
What made Wilbur’s plight doubly hard is that he is a timid dog who is easily frightened of loud, sudden noises. As a former rescue dog, he was more likely to run away from people trying to help him.
Melissa did everything right in her search for the missing pooch. She distributed hundreds of fliers around Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge. She searched the strays at Animal Welfare League, and filed lost dog reports with the Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn police departments.
She even handed out fliers to the caretakers at Chapel Hill South Cemetery. Meanwhile, at home, her 7-year-old son, Ethan, wouldn’t stop crying.
Oak Lawn Patch posted more information about Wilbur on Facebook. The social media love from our readers poured in for Melissa and her family on Saturday. The updated info was shared 54 times on Facebook.
Patch just happened to be out Sunday morning buying biodegradable poop bags at Petco, when we saw this message left by Patrick McGowan for Melissa on our Facebook page: “We have your dog. Just left u a message on your cell phone. Please call us back. He is fine.”
We immediately called Melissa, who was already on her way to Patrick's house near 99th Street and Massasoit Avenue. St. Francis apparently had been watching out for Wilbur, who navigated his way across the mean streets of Ridgeland and 95th, and over the Metra tracks.
Melissa was kind enough to let us follow her home so we could capture the happy reunion on video. Not wanting to disappoint her family in case the dog Patrick found was Wilbur's doppelganger, they were completely surprised when Melissa walked into the backyard carrying Wilbur in her arms.
Ethan gasped. Grandma Rose started crying as Wilbur scampered into her arms, then said hi to the family’s other dog, Max.
Patrick and his wife managed to corner Wilbur in a yard, then opened their car door. Wilbur, tired of running, jumped into the car, Melissa said.
A weekend that had started out so horribly suddenly got infinitely better.
“I just want to thank everyone who helped us,” Melissa said.