A lost dog that had thousands of people in the St. John's area searching and sharing social media posts has been found — 10 days after running away while the family was away on vacation.
Mary Margaret, a one-year-old Boston terrier owned by the Whitton family, was being looked after by a dog sitter while the family was in Jamaica for a wedding.
Lost in 3,400 acre urban park
On May 6, Mary Margaret managed to get off her leash while walking in the Three Pond Barrens area of Pippy Park, kicking off an online campaign to find the little dog, which Cindy Whitton then saw while she was using the internet down south.
"We hoped that it wasn't her but then someone tweeted that 'We have to find Mary Margaret,'" the mother of two told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. "Everything went into a tailspin then, basically."
The news was especially devastating for the family to hear given that Mary Margaret is actually a companion dog to Whitton's 11-year-old son Liam, who has Asperger's Syndrome, and his younger brother Keith, who adores her too.
"She's an amazing dog. She was recommended by several people who have children with autism. She's so quiet, she doesn't bark much and is a low-key dog," Whitton said.
Whitton's husband Scott left the wedding celebrations early to go back home to St. John's to help with the search. Meanwhile Whitton couldn't believe how widely shared the posts about the missing dog were on social media.
"It was kind of crazy the attention it got. There were 12,000 people on the Facebook page in a matter of a week that joined this. That's the power of social media," she said.
"I don't think a dog has ever been prayed for as much as this little Mary Margaret, a good Catholic name by the way."
Little dog, big reunion
After 10 days and dozens of phone calls from people who claimed to have seen Mary Margaret, the family was really starting to worry about the Boston terrier, who weighs just 15 pounds.
Callers reported seeing the dog in virtually every area of the city, but ultimately the moment they were all waiting for happened not far from where Mary Margaret first got off her leash — near Mount Scio Road and Pippy Park.
The family had just gotten out of their vehicle to start another afternoon of searching, when Whitton called out to the dog like she always did — only this time it was followed by the pitter patter sound of little doggy feet getting louder and louder through the bushes and trees.
"When we went into the woods, mom called out 'Mary Margaret'. All of the people who were looking for her, she wouldn't come out for them. She would only come out for us," said Whitton's son Keith.
"She was far away but she heard us and she was going like a bullet. I was really happy and I thought I was going to cry."
That's when the big reunion happened, and Mary Margaret was once again in the arms of the family who missed her dearly.
She was brought to the vet to get treated for a small cut on her chest, and Whitton said she is ravenously hungry after more than a week alone in the woods.
But Mary Margaret is OK for the most part, back under a safe roof with the people who love her — getting treats and snuggling up in bed instead of shivering out in the woods.
"It's incredible. She's a 15 pound little dog that was out without any protection. We sometimes call her Little Princess because she is so spoiled, and she survived for 10 days out in the wild during Newfoundland spring," Whitton said.
"We took her home and within two minutes she went to find her ball, wanted to play, and last night she was back in bed next to Scott and I on the pillows under the covers."