Local Facebook group helping bring lost pets, owners together

Rachel Hampsmire sits with her dog, Molly, and her daughter, Anna, 4, right, at their home in Quincy. When Molly, a 15-year-old cocker spaniel, became lost recently, Hampsmire posted information to the Quincy Humane Society’s “Lost and Found Pets of Adams
Posted: Feb. 2, 2013 6:11 pm Updated: Feb. 16, 2013 9:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Molly is more than a dog to Rachel Hampsmire and her family. The brown cocker spaniel also is a link to Hampsmire's late mother and a playmate for her 4-year-old daughter, Anna.

When Molly went missing from the Hampsmire's southwest Quincy home last weekend, the family was concerned that it might never see Molly again. Now 15 years old, Molly has lost all of her hearing and is starting to lose sight in one of her eyes.

"I was crying," Rachel Hampsmire said. "I work overnights, and I don't think I slept for those two days. I was going crazy. I was worried. I drove around for about an hour and a half in the freezing rain on Saturday trying to look for her."

Before hopping in her car, Hampsmire turned to the Internet to enlist others in her search for Molly. Hampsmire posted a photo of Molly and provided other information about her pooch on the "Lost and Found Pets of Adams County" Facebook page. The page was launched on Jan. 2, 2012, a joint effort by the Quincy Humane Society and Paw Pals. The group has more than 1,500 likes. Those who follow the page are quick to spread the word when an animal turns up missing.

The service has proved to be an invaluable service to pet owners. Sally Westerhoff, executive director for the Humane Society, said the community's involvement in the Facebook page has been "amazing."

"I had no idea that we would get the number of views and likes that we have, but I am certainly happy that we have," Westerhoff said.

Westerhoff estimated that the Facebook page has helped lead to no less than 100 pets being reunited with their owners.

"It's been a tool that has had a great, positive impact for pets and pet owners in our area," she said. "I have connected with high school friends and grade school friends (through Facebook), and with family, it's easy to send them a message. But I think this is a real, positive power of the tool."

The page was launched after a dachshund named Tiger was visiting Quincy with its owner in November 2011. The dog bolted away from its owners and was lost for 11 days. The Humane Society put posts on its main page about Tiger's status. Those posts helped bring Tiger back to its owners. The fan page designed specifically for lost animals was launched soon after that.

"It's been an incredible success," Westerhoff said.

One of the added bonuses of having the Facebook page, Westerhoff said, is that all of the animal shelters in the county -- the Quincy Humane Society, Quincy Animal Shelter and the Adams County Animal Shelter -- can monitor which pets are lost and those that have been found.

The Quincy Animal Shelter has taken an active role in the Facebook page. Lacey Platt, who works at the shelter, helps monitor the site for the shelter. She was well aware of Molly's plight thanks to seeing the Facebook posts. One post about Molly's plight was shared 150 times. Another post was shared by 108 people. That means Molly's face showed up in thousands of news feeds.

So when an animal control officer with the city of Quincy showed up with a cocker spaniel, Platt knew just where to go to find the owner. The Facebook post proved helpful, since Molly wasn't wearing her tag and she hadn't been implanted with a microchip.

"Unless they had called us, we would have never known it was here until she got up to the hospital to see what her medical problems were," Platt said. "We have to hold the animals for four days until they are ours. Then we can take them to the animal hospital and place them up for adoption."

Molly had quite a journey. She was found on the north side of Quincy near Eighth and Lind, nearly two miles from home. Platt said it was odd for an animal to be found so far away from home.

"I'm surprised she was able to make it across Broadway," Hampsmire said.

Molly was reunited with her family on Monday. This marked the third time in the last 18 months that the dog has ran away from home. Hamspmire said she plans to keep Molly inside, giving Anna a full-time playmate.

"We got Molly after my mom (Chris Kealen) was diagnosed with cancer in 1997," Hamspire said. "Molly was born in January in 1998. My mom wanted a lap dog. She figured it might help her with her treatments. When my mom died in 2006, Molly came to live with us."

Over the last few years, Molly lost her hearing, and her eyesight just recently started to deteriorate. Considering Molly's physical ailments, finding her figured to be a tough proposition.

It seems that when Facebook is on your side, anything is possible.

"(Molly) is acting like a princess now," Hampsmire said. "Anna just adores her and is so happy when she came home."