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Lost Dog Back Home After 44 Days; Found 33 Miles Away

After an Ellicott City dog went missing in January, he was able to return home more than six weeks later thanks to a group effort and the power of technology.

Found: Cockapoo.

Answers to "Winston."

Ran away from his Ellicott City home on Jan. 21.

Picked up March 6 – from a house 33 miles away in Gaithersburg.

The search for Winston included old-fashioned methods – feet on pavement, fliers on post – and new-media assistance from Facebook, Google Maps and, in the end, the classified ads of Craigslist.

And so when Janet Lynn West announced that Winston was home, her exclamations of gratitude were directed to many beyond those who had given her dog temporary shelter.

"We did it! We all did it!" West wrote on Facebook. "We found him!"

It had been a long time. And it had been a long journey.

'Will be dirty'

The fliers were seemingly ubiquitous, attached to posts and poles around Columbia and Ellicott City.

"LOST DOG," they read. "WINSTON white cockapoo with beige markings. Will be dirty..."

He had gone missing early in the evening on Jan. 21 from West's home off Route 103 in Ellicott City. His owner figured he must have followed some neighborhood kids.

The search soon began.

West called in Dogs Finding Dogs, a nonprofit organization that, as its name suggests, uses trained dogs to track down lost pooches.

West and others went with the rescue dog for more than two hours on Jan. 25, looking near Route 29, Old Columbia Pike and Route 103 in Ellicott City.

"Winston's scent led us in a few different directions," West wrote on Facebook.

There was the inside of the firehouse.

There was Veterans Elementary School.

There was no sign of him. Some people had seen him earlier, but nobody knew where he had gone since. 

"We are hopeful he didn't cross over to the other side of 29, but we can't be sure," West wrote.

Across Route 29 – And Beyond

New sightings were seemingly being reported each day. Descriptions of where and when were posted on Google Maps, lines crisscrossing first around Ellicott City east of Route 29, then shooting west of the busy highway and farther away from home.

Jan. 24: "Somewhere on Toll House Road."

Jan. 25: "Heading west on 103 across 29."

Jan. 27: "He seemed to be traveling northbound on Columbia Road. Every time I got closer and tried to talk to him, he'd run."

More days, more dots on the map. The dots kept moving west along and around Route 108.

Finally, on Feb. 17, there was what, for some time, was referred to as the last sighting:  "Green Dragon Court. Columbia. Sighter saw Winston running northwest."

And then a call came in.

"A woman called ... and has in her possession a white poodle mix with a blue collar that is thin like a cat's," West wrote on Facebook on Feb. 17. "Pray it's Winston! She is in Ellicott City on Main Street."

It wasn't Winston.

But several days later there would be this entry into Google Maps, all the way over in Gaithersburg, near Damascus:

"Lady found a dog that looks like Winston on Marsh Point Court."

Found?

Denise Harris is an employee at Camp Bow Wow, a day care and boarding facility for dogs in Columbia. She had never met Winston before he went missing. She did not know West.

She was one of nearly 260 people who had joined a Facebook page dedicated to helping find Winston

"He kept tracking farther and farther away. He was moving really fast. And then there was nothing for about two weeks," Harris told Patch earlier this week, a day after Winston returned home. "If he’d continue to move at that speed, he’d be out of Howard County if he continued to move up Route 108."

Route 108 led to Montgomery County. Harris logged onto the Craigslist site for people living in and around Washington, D.C., and checked the "found" listings.

"I sent the lady an e-mail just saying, 'We are looking for a dog who disappeared from Howard County. It’s been a while. Do you have a picture of the dog?' " Harris said. 

"She sent me a picture. I looked at the picture and thought: 'I don’t think that’s Winston.' "

Despite that, Harris gave the woman a link to the Facebook page.

"I looked through the pictures and called the numbers listed," said the woman, Katy Cox Engels, writing on Facebook. "I live too far away to [have seen] any of the fliers. It really was a miracle we connected."

On March 6, West headed to Engels' house to see if this dog was Winston.

A friend waited for West to call with the news.

Nearly 260 people waited in suspense for an update on Facebook. 

Found!

At 11:06 a.m., they had confirmation: "IT IS HIM!!!!!!"

Video of West's reunion with Winston can be seen above.

"They were thrilled," West said of the Engels, writing on Facebook. "They had been looking for the owners for 7 days.

"We hadn't heard [of] a sighting in two weeks, and I was getting stressed thinking, 'Hopefully that means ... someone has him!' " West wrote.

The fliers can now come down.

"I never expected him to run off. He never had," West wrote. "He is certainly a survivor. I was most afraid of him getting hit by a car, but he kept proving over and over [that] he was making it through the weather conditions.

"You would never know he was out there all this time. He looks as vibrant and playful as ever!" West wrote. "He is running around the house looking for his ball in his favorite spots – like he never missed a beat!"

Lisa March 10, 2011 at 05:08 PM
This makes me sooooooooooo happy! Thanks so much for sharing. And for giving us another glimpse of the generosity of spirit of people. amen!
Ran March 10, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Absouletly adorable. I wonder how many "doggie hearts" he broke during his adventure(s). I am so glad you found him. Lucky you and Winston! "There is no place like home."
A W ELLWOOD March 10, 2011 at 09:58 PM
My first dog was 6 mos younger than I. Only during college days have I been without a dog. So, I think I understand the situation and the pain/joy of lost & found. Been there a time or two. Can't help but compare this to the stories of lost/found children. May God bless those who respond about a child as these folks did about a dog. No matter which, it's still a family tragedy and heart break. Bless those who respond quickly and with their hearts in both cases. Children can, and do, wander off (or are taken off!) Bless each of you who does respond; you, truly, are the healer of broken hearts! signed: Old guy in mid seventies (jakeesdad5@aol.com)
Jeanette Warne March 14, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Hoorah! What a wonderful ending to Winston's long journey! Welcome home Winston!
Kristin Lessans April 15, 2011 at 04:04 PM
I am so happy for your reunion with Winston..I am the woman who met you on Main Street..thinking I had found Winston...yours is an amazing story with a happy ending! Thank you Lord!

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