It happened so quickly. Joy, a young Golden Retriever mix, had been adopted in late January by Tracy Wilson. Just three days after arriving at her new home in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, the dog was calmly resting in the backyard when she suddenly charged full-speed ahead, broke through a weak spot in the fence, and disappeared.

A heartbroken Tracy immediately created a plan of action to find Joy, using methods both traditional (neighborhood flyers) and new (a dedicated Facebook page, Joy Lost in Ballard). Tracy’s neighbors in Ballard and the larger social media community rallied to the cause: Groups of people set out each night looking for Joy, humane traps were set, and maps of Joy’s sightings—remarkably, she was spotted more than 20 times—were shared. The problem, however, was that Joy was an extremely fearful dog, and ran whenever a human approached.

The Shelter Steps In

Then, ten days into the ordeal, came an important break: The Seattle Animal Shelter received a call about a stray dog hiding in the bushes of a homeowner’s yard. David Goldberg, Humane Law Enforcement Officer for the Shelter, explains what happened next:

“I got [to the house] and the dog panicked when I went near her. She scrambled up a four-foot concrete retaining wall; I climbed up after her and she jumped down into the yard again. She then tried to bust through a fence and got caught between it and a retaining wall. There was enough time for me to get a ‘snappy snare’ [a type of slip-leash] on her.

“She was very fearful but she let me scan her and I found a microchip. Caryn [Cantu, SAS Humane Law Enforcement Officer] ran the chip to no avail. But to Caryn’s credit, she checked Craigslist, and that led her to Facebook, where she found contact information for the owner. I was able to bring Joy back. The owner was ecstatic… It was rewarding for me as well. And let’s not forget Caryn’s due diligence—maybe a bit beyond due diligence!”

Faith In Humanity, Restored

For her part, owner Tracy Wilson has one word to describe the experience of losing—then finding—Joy: “Overwhelming.” By the tenth day of searching, she says, “I was just exhausted. I was driving home from hanging up flyers, when the phone rang. It was the Shelter. When I heard, ‘We have your dog,’ I lost it. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Tracy remains grateful to Officer Goldberg, whom she tearfully hugged when he returned Joy to Tracy’s home, to Officer Cantu (“Let’s just say I’m going to have to make a visit to the Shelter soon to thank her in person.”), and to her neighbors and kind strangers throughout Seattle, who tirelessly assisted in the search for Joy. The entire episode “restored my faith in humanity,” Tracy says. “It’s an affirmation of this great community we live in.”

How the Shelter Makes It Happen

The City of Seattle is able to directly fund the positions of Humane Law Enforcement Officers like David Goldberg and Caryn Cantu through pet licensing fees. Pet licensing, not coincidentally, is a critical aid in the process of returning lost pets to their owners. The Seattle Animal Shelter website has a full list of tips on how to minimize the risk of pets becoming lost, and what to do should they become lost.

The Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF), meanwhile, exists to help fund the highest-priority needs for the Shelter overall, including its expertise in humane field services. SASF depends on the generosity of Seattle’s animal-loving community—the kind of caring, selfless people who gave their all in helping Tracy Wilson find Joy.