Nearly two weeks after their lost dog, Abby, was found through the coupling of social media and the good hearts of their extended Peachtree City community, Matt and Jennifer Davis are still in a state of disbelief, Matt said.
“I find it truly amazing,” he added of how their story blew up on Facebook and touched the hearts of so many people,
including the Peachtree City Police Department, whose officer made regular calls to the family to check in and see if Abby had been found. Police and fire officials even posted a picture on Facebook when Abby was finally found eight miles from home in Senoia and two long weeks after being lost.
Matt was not even a regular Facebook user when he turned to the power of social media to locate Abby and hoped “dumb luck” might get the family pet returned home safely. He had no idea the community around Peachtree City had created a cyber community that mirrors their real world.
Abby was found through “an incredible response from Facebook users in Peachtree City, Tyrone, Fayetteville, Sharpsburg, and Senioa,” he said.
Abby’s most recent adventure began on New Year’s Eve when she ran away from a dog-sitting neighbor, but her story really began more than three years ago when she was lost, put in a shelter, and rescued by the Davis family.
The family of four had been without a dog for about a year after their 15-year-old family pet had died when Jennifer began to routinely check out the shelter’s website and look at the most recently posted pictures of dogs.
“My wife is a huge NCIS fan,” Matt said. And one Friday, the shelter had pictures of Abby and another dog that workers had named Gibbs after the characters in NCIS. The Davises went to meet the dogs and “we knew right away we were getting Abby,” Matt added.
The only information the Davises have about Abby is that she was found under a deck, which is exactly where she found this time, too.
On New Year’s Eve, as the family was returning home from Tampa, the neighbor took Abby for one last walk so the Davises would have one less chore to do when they arrived. She was only two driveways away from the Davis home when fireworks from a nearby neighborhood began to boom overhead.
Maybe because of Abby’s previous life, loud noises frighten her. “She gets panicky and she sits down and locks up and you can’t move her,” Matt said. “Abby did her little ‘I’m not budging’ thing,” the neighbor tried to pull her and Abby slipped out of her collar.
“As soon as she does that, she will look at you and say, ‘see ya,’” Matt said, adding that he had the same experience with her once when she was frightened by another dog. That time, however, Abby ran straight home on the path she had been walking. And Matt hoped she would find her way again.
By the time the Davises arrived home about 8 p.m., the police had been called and a search party was already organized in their neighborhood at Windgate Road and Raintree Bend.
But Abby would not be found for two weeks.
Matt was a registered user of Facebook, but like many parents, he had only signed on to the social media site so he could monitor his kids and had never really used it for his own entertainment. He decided it might be the best tool for getting the word out about Abby, though.
He didn’t find his way until a friend in Tampa pointed him to the Facebook page “Life in the PTC Bubble,” which is dedicated to “anything and everything” about Peachtree City, according to its description. From there, Matt located a few other Peachtree City-specific pages and the word spread like wildfire. In the meantime, Jennifer found a lost dog service that sells robotic calls to specified areas and bought 2,000 calls to tell neighbors about Abby.
They also went the old-fashioned route of posters and walking the community every day.
Without Facebook, however, “we would still be looking for her,” said Matt, who posted something on Facebook about Abby every day she was missing.
“There are a lot of serendipitous moments to this story … truly amazing,” said Michelle Hamner, in a Facebook post explaining the rescue to the many who followed the tale on social media.
Michelle Hamner is a volunteer with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue and administrator of the group’s Facebook page. Another volunteer and Peachtree City resident saw information about Abby in the “bubble” group and forwarded the information to her.
“That post got a ton of shares and comments, but unfortunately no confirmed sightings,” she said.
When she saw a post about a possible Abby sighting in Senoia’s Ivy Ridge neighborhood, though, Hamner “grabbed a pack of hot dogs, loaded the kids up and headed over,” she wrote. “We drove around the neighborhood several times and kept checking in (with Facebook).”
Below, (L-R) Michelle Hamner, Matt Davis (holding Abby) and Kirk Panayis. Photo/Matt Davis.
She just happened to see a deck that looked like it could be a good hiding place for a frightened dog and stopped the car, not really expecting to find Abby.
“I crouched down to look underneath,” she said. “I could see a very small bit of something white in the back. I threw some hot dog back there, and sure enough, there she was.” Abby was too scared to come out even when her name was called so Hamner crawled in after her. She couldn’t pull Abby out because of support beam, however, and began to holler for help because she wasn’t about to let Abby go.
While Hamner was circling the neighborhood, Matt and others saw the sighting confirmed on Facebook and Matt took off for his dog.
“As I was driving down there, my phone just kind of started to blow up,” Matt said. “My phone was just going crazy. Four or five people jumped right into the comments. A flood of people (posted) ‘we’re on our way to help.’”
By the time Matt got to Senoia from his job at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, there were cars and people circling the neighborhood, but Abby had not been recovered.
He joined the search and “as I started to walk between two houses, I heard someone yelling ‘help,’” Matt said. The voice he heard was Hamner hollering for help from under the deck where she found Abby.
“I can’t believe there’s all these people,” Matt said. “It’s nice to know that everyone cared enough to come out.” On the way home, Matt even received a call from officers at the Peachtree City Police Department who wanted to know if Abby had really been found.
They got the news on Facebook and wanted to confirm it.
Here’s the whole first-person story from a grateful Matt Davis, quoted in its entirety:
This is intended to be a thank you to everyone who helped bring Abby home on Jan. 13 and some background for those that may not know what happened. It is also to let those who do not use Facebook but may have seen the flyers, received a robocall-lost dog alert from lostmydoggie.com, or just heard about it from a friend that Abby is home, safe and sound, and that we are very thankful for everyone’s help and support.
On New Year’s Eve, we were returning from a lacrosse tournament in Tampa, Fla. One of our neighbors was graciously taking care of our dog, Abby, while we were out of town.
We had intended to return on New Year’s Day, but after our son finished his last game of the tournament, we felt we could get home early enough on New Year’s Eve to avoid the commotion of New Year’s Celebration and actually sleep in our own beds. Not to mention save a few bucks on hotel rooms.
My wife informed our neighbor that we would be home a day early and that they could let Abby stay in the house after her evening walk. Our neighbor was actually let Abby stay overnight at their place with their dog (they are friends).
Our neighbor decided to take Abby for a walk prior to our arrival so we would not have to worry about taking her out when we got home. This was around 7:30-8 p.m. Our neighbor was within a couple of driveways from our home when someone in another cul-de-sac behind our house let off a large amount of fireworks. As described to us these were not just bottle rockets, but larger, more intense type fireworks that frightened Abby, who panicked and pulled free from her collar. Abby disappeared.
As we neared home, my wife texted our neighbor to let them know we would be home shortly so they did not have to worry about Abby being home alone overnight. As we pulled in to the driveway, our neighbor greeted us (in tears and very distraught) to inform us of what had happened. They had already contacted the police as well as organized friends and other neighbors who were now out searching for Abby.
My wife went with our neighbor to join the search while my sons and I unloaded the vehicle. After unloading the vehicle, my older son contacted some of his friends who then joined in the search and I went out as well.
This is the front end of the story that leads to an incredible response from Facebook users in Peachtree City, Tyrone, Fayetteville, Sharpsburg, and Senioa. What followed was a long 14 days of wondering where our dog had gone, or if someone had her and didn’t know we were looking for her, or worse. We had assumed that our dog, Abby, would either come home or show up near home the next day once she had calmed down.
Below, Matt davis with Abby at the veterinarian’s office. Photo/Matt Davis.
We began the search with just friends looking for her along the paths that we used to walk or jog with her, and I initially put out word to my friends on Facebook with a simple post.
That initial posting got me a call from one friend who informed me that someone had my dog and that I should look on the “Life in the PTC Bubble” Facebook page.
Not being an intense Facebook person, I was unaware of the page and had to look for it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a different dog but that dog looked very similar to Abby, had a similar name (Addie), lost in the same general area, and lost under similar circumstances.
This initially complicated our search for the first few days as many people sent us notices to look at the “Life in the PTC Bubble” page where Addie was shown.
My friend’s response, however, led me to a new way to broadcast the call for help to find Abby. I began posting help requests on public Facebook pages (Life in the PTC Bubble; PTC Lost and Found Pets; Fayette County, GA Lost and Found Pets; Peachtree City Police Department and Peachtree City Fire Rescue; and ALL of the Peachtree City animal hospitals). There are quite a few that I did not list too.
From there, others latched onto my daily posts and shared the info with friends/family in Coweta County and throughout Fayette County.
Angels Among Us Pet Rescue is one organization that re-posted a lost dog notice that in my humble opinion went viral. During the first day on their Facebook page there were over 2,600 shares of Abby’s picture and the call for help. Abby quickly accumulated a large following.
Many people logged on each day just to see if Abby had been found. I realized after a few days that I could also attach a lost dog flyer that people could download and print out on their own. I encouraged people to use these flyers to cover more territory than my wife or I could cover and in areas we had not thought to post them. Facebook users were posting flyers, passing on potential sightings, passing on ideas on where to look, and how to expand the search. All of which led to her ultimate rescue.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13 (Day 14), I was about to leave my office to head home (approximately 4:30 p.m.) and thought I would take one last look at Facebook before I made the 40-minute commute back to Peachtree City. As I was about to log out of Facebook, I got a new comment response notification that included pair of photos and the text, “Is this her?”
Without even enlarging the photos, I knew almost instantaneously that it was her. It is hard to describe since we had gotten one or two other photos of dogs that were close to Abby’s description but were off ever so slightly.
Below, Abby with Davis sons Cole (L), 17 and a senior at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, and Graham, 15, a sophomore at MHS. Photo/Matt Davis.
I was able to quickly contact the person who informed me that the photos were only minutes old and had been taken by someone in their subdivision. I was only on the phone long enough to get location, directions, and to tell them I was on my way.
By then, there were already five or six other Facebook users asking where, when, and that they would be enroute ASAP. Not to mention that my phone began to blow up with text messages saying they were on their way to help look for her.
By the time I got to the Ivy Ridge subdivision in Senioa, where she had been seen, there were over a dozen people scouring the subdivision looking for her. One of those people was Michelle Hamner of Angels Among Us Pet Rescue. Michelle found and with the help of Kirk Panayis, was able to retrieve Abby from under a friend’s deck.
The following is Michelle’s story from Facebook with some minor edits.
“I volunteer with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, and one of my roles with them is serving as an admin to their Facebook page. Several days ago, a fellow AAU volunteer and PTC resident, Debbie Eubanks, forwarded me Matt’s flyer for Abby and asked me to post it to our AAU main Facebook page. That post got a ton of shares and comments, but unfortunately no confirmed sightings.
“This afternoon (1/13), I saw the post of the sighting in Ivy Ridge, so I grabbed a pack of hot dogs, loaded the kids up and headed over. We drove around the neighborhood several times and kept checking in with this group to get the address of where she was sighted this afternoon. Someone also in the neighborhood searching told me Abby had run off and disappeared after the homeowner who spotted her opened her garage door. There are a lot of woods behind that address, so I figured she had run back into the woods.
“I drove onto the bridge that crosses over the stream right next to Autumn Creek (the road where she was spotted). Just a few houses down from this afternoon’s sighting was a house with a very low deck and an opening between the deck and the ground. The picture from this afternoon’s sighting showed Abby looking pretty dirty from red clay, so I thought perhaps she had been hunkered down in some dirt (i.e., under a deck). This particular deck looked nice and cozy for a lost dog.
“I parked in the driveway of the house with the deck and realized the house looked VERY familiar. I texted my friend Liz and confirmed it was her house (hah!) and when she came out to meet me, I told her I was going to check real quick to see if Abby was under her deck.
“I left Liz in the driveway with my kids in the car and took the hot dogs into the backyard with me. I was really not expecting Abby to be under the deck, to be honest.
“When I got back to the deck, I crouched down to look underneath. I could see a very small bit of something white in the back. I threw some hot dog back there, and sure enough, there she was.
“I called her name a few times and threw her some more hot dog pieces, but she was staying put. At that point, I figured what the hell and crawled in after her. I was able to get her to come a little closer to me with the hot dogs and was able to grab ahold of her front leg. After maneuvering her several times, I realized she wasn’t coming out easily due to a support beam between me and her that I couldn’t fit her under. She was also very scared and tensing up.
“At that point, I started hollering for help from under the deck. Thankfully, so many people were out in the neighborhood looking for her and were able to hear me (thank you, thank you!) There was no way I was going to let go of her and risk her running out from underneath the deck.
“Around that time, Matt and several others arrived, including a man named Kirk. Kirk crawled under the deck with his headlamp, leash, and more treats. With me holding one of Abby’s legs and Kirk feeding her treats and maneuvering the leash, we were able to get the leash around Abby’s neck. Using the hot dogs and treats (and a lot of pulling and prodding her — thank goodness she is a sweet dog), Kirk and I got her far enough over to a larger opening in the deck where we were able to get her out.
“This was a great team effort and it was really heartwarming to see so many people out and about looking for her this evening. Abby did not appear to be injured when we pulled her out … just very frightened.”
Kirk and his wife DeDee are regulars at Huddleston Pond where we walk Abby. So when she went missing they were one of the first to jump at the opportunity to find her. To paraphrase DeDee, Kirk was bound and determined to be the one who found Abby as he felt that Abby was one of his own kids.
Since she was found several people have expressed the same feelings. Abby was not just our dog, she seemed to belong to everyone in PTC and even some of the people in neighboring towns.
Abby was taken to her regular animal hospital (VCA Braelinn Village) that night, where she was washed, de-ticked, poked and prodded, and given the all clear from the Vet. She got star treatment from the staff as she was now known as Facebook Abby. Abby quickly adjusted to being back home, immediately taking up residence on the sofa once she got home from the Vet as if she had never been gone.
My wife, my two sons, and I are all very grateful for the support and help we received from everyone who took the time to look to put out flyers (and take them down after she was found), who kept an eye out for Abby, and responded when she was sighted. My wife still comments about how lucky we are to have her back. Without the help of Michelle, Kirk, and everyone else we would still be without our sweet Abby.
Below, Abby asleep at home after her ordeal. Photo/Matt Davis.
CORRECTION NOTICE: This version corrects several instances of misidentification of the person — Michelle Hamner — who found Abby.