Samantha Wright Allen
July 18, 2014
More than a year-and-a-half ago, Hope Cadieux opened the door for her dog, Nekita, like she had so many times before, so the husky mix could take a run on the family’s St. Albert farm.
Nekita never came back.
But two weeks ago, with the help of the Ottawa and Valley Lost Pet Network, that lost cause became a found dog.
“They gave me hope when I didn’t have any,” says Cadieux of the Facebook page where she posted a picture of the husky border collie cross and its two puppies that went missing in January 2013. Days later, one puppy came back but the other, Ace, is still missing. Up until early July, that was Nekita’s story, too.
“I thought we would never see her again,” says the 18-year-old of the first dog she bought with her own money.
One day Cadieux opened her Facebook feed to find her name tagged many times to a photo of a familiar-looking dog. The woman who found that dog took it to bylaw officers in Casselman, where Cadieux now lives with her family.
Cadieux says she’d been through that drill before, visiting potential pups that never turned out to be hers.
“I didn’t really get my hopes up. I thought it would be a lost cause again.”
But when Cadieux walked in the room and said Nekita’s name, she knew it was the right dog.
“She just lit up and it was really nice to see. She came up to us and started jumping on us,” she says of the dog, who is almost four. “I was overwhelmed.”
Cadieux says she never would have found her dog without the network.
“They work miracles.”
One of those miracle workers is founder Gisele Villeneuve, who started the page in December 2012. Before, Villeneuve managed a lost pet group closer to her home in Renfrew, but she thought, given how far animals can roam, the group’s reach needed to be wider.
“You never know where a lost pet will end up,” says Villeneuve, who owns four dogs. Since then the page has grown to more than 10,000 likes. She says the site tracked more than 150 reunions of pets and their owners in the first five months of 2014. They’ve since stopped counting.
“We have to go through hundreds of notifications every day,” she says, adding the group contacts the owners with any leads posted to make sure all leads are followed up. Villeneuve manages the page part-time with 15 other administrators, four of whom volunteer full time.
Villeneuve lists success stories like so many memories.
There have been feral dogs, caught and adopted or returned. An orange cat, missing for two years, returned to a “little boy who was heartbroken.” And then there was a woman who searched for a stranger’s dog for three days because the Ottawa owner was stuck in Ottawa. She found the dog.
There was also Katy Meredith, who lost her cat on her wedding day. Because of the network, Max was home three days later.
“It’s just amazing. They reconnect animals every day, and people need to know that because those people are the ones who are going to find your pet.”
Now Meredith is a regular poster, and hopes more in the Ottawa Valley will like the page and keep an eye out for missing pets.
“It works like magic, sometimes within hours,” says Villeneuve, adding it’s important to be sure the owner is the correct one — ask for vet bills, pictures and watch if the animal responds to its name. “That’s the power of social media.”
The organization even posts when deceased animals are found because it can give the family closure.
Villeneuve is quick to add it’s important to report through the proper channels as well, like the local animal shelter or the Ottawa Humane Society. She also stresses that a microchip is important to help bylaw officers identify lost and stolen pets.
“This network is a community hero. It’s so heartwarming,” she said, to see strangers helping strangers. “It will restore your faith in humanity.”