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2014-08-20 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Do you know that we have a fabulous and free Facebook network on Long Island for lost pets unlike any other? When an animal lover’s pet is missing, the search is heart wrenching and overwhelming. Owners on LI, however, are blessed with the “Lost & Found Pets of Long Island” page; better known as “LAFPOLI,” the brainchild of two sisters from Babylon dedicated to reuniting lost pets with their families, and educating the public about the importance of pet ID and microchips. (I'm urging you right now to Like and Share the LAFPOLI page and posts, if you haven’t done so already.)

In 2010, Christine Mott and Elaine Chadwick launched their LAFPOLI Facebook page and website because they realized that social media could be as useful a tool for lost pets as Amber Alerts are for finding missing children. Since then hundreds of pets have found their way back home because of LAFPOLI, including a lost N. Babylon Boston Terrier that a neighbor noticed a person walking last Saturday night.

"Trixie" was reunited with her family after a year, thanks to LAFPOLI. "Trixie" was reunited with her family after a year, thanks to LAFPOLI. As the number of LAFPOLI followers continues to mushroom, more people see and share their lost/found posts, creating more exposure; thus, making it more likely that someone will notice or know something about a missing pet. More folks then make the visual/mental connection between a stray or “new” dog in their midst to a LAFPOLI listing and flyers hanging everywhere like the recovery of this Boston Terrier.

The sisters make a great team. Elaine is the techno wiz while Christine is the social worker, communicating with distraught owners and matching them up with those making potential sightings. “The posting priority is the current dog that just went missing,” says Christine. “Time is of essence. Getting the word out immediately and educating the owner as to how to proceed in the search is of utmost importance.”

Both Christine and Elaine have real jobs, too. Keeping LAFPOLI current is a labor of love to which they devote about 40 hours each week. “Our pay is that we helped bring a pet home,” Christine says. “We want to give LI a central place to go to showcase lost and found pets.”

They have succeeded so well. Just as town shelters are the physical refuges for lost/found pets, LAFPOLI has become the internet haven. More than 2,400 pets (dogs, cats, birds, others) in need have been featured resulting in countless reunions, some as amazing as “Trixie,” a Pit mix lost in Pt. Jefferson for over a year. Christine recognized her picture and then matched her to a photo at Brookhaven Shelter after the Coram people who found and kept her (despite the fact that she was wearing a name tag with phone number) advertised her as “Trixie” when they lost her a year later.

Finders keepers is a no-no. So many dogs have been lost forever because the finder decides the owner does not deserve to get the pet back. Imagine if that were your lost dog. The LAFPOLI awareness campaign emphasizes that people must get found pets scanned for microchips and take them to the town shelter to maximize their chance of redemption. Also, owners must not limit their search geographically. People take found dogs for long rides or hand them off to friends in other towns.

Christine also advises owners to be open minded about breed classification, especially with lost designer dogs. No one can look at a tiny mix nowadays and distinguish a “Lhasapoo” from a “Morky” because they are not purebreds. There is no standard of appearance for mixes. “Follow up on every plausible lead,” reminds Christine.

LAFPOLI works closely with the town shelters, especially Babylon. In fact, Babylon has changed how the shelter features strays because of this Facebook momentum. Rather than waiting a week until the dog is up for adoption, Babylon now posts strays the day they come into the shelter and tags LAFPOLI, enhancing the network and resulting in more reunions. Often the frantic owners realize after hours that their dog is safe at the shelter and are spared a sleepless night combing the neighborhood. By combining efforts, LAFPOLI and Babylon were able to recover “Nikki,” a Collie mix that went missing for over three months right after Sandy. Tips from Facebook led to the shelter’s humane trapping of this panicked dog in the woods behind W. Babylon Pathmark. (See Beacon “Pets” Jan. 31, 2013.)

LAFPOLI posts are well organized in a specific format. As the word spreads, police, firemen and LIRR workers are responding to the lost pet pleas too. Some owners receive closure this way when tragedy strikes. Despite their grief, they know they need not search any longer.

After last Wednesday’s torrential rain, “Yuri,” a magnificent Black Russian Terrier, was swept into the floodwaters at Southards Pond. LAFPOLI posts were instrumental in quickly spreading the word to many helpers and to the media. Searchers discovered his body the next morning off Carll’s River, south of Montauk. Christine’s post expresses sympathy and the sense of community generated by the powerful online vehicle she and her sister created. A poignant portion is borrowed below:

“Words cannot express our deepest sympathy or the heartache we feel at Yuri’s loss, and we are certain that the thousands of you that responded to his lost post on LAFPOLI join us in sending condolences to his family who searched for him until morning light.

Yuri’s story touched the hearts of so many here on Long Island, as Facebook reported to us that almost 60,000 people viewed his LAFPOLI post within hours. At a time like this, for the family, the support, the positive thoughts and the true concern and help are absolutely overwhelming and immeasurable. It means so much to know that there are concerned people that truly care and wish to help. Whether you actually went on the site to search for Yuri, shared his post or commented to send positive thoughts, the power of our community coming together to show support restores faith in humanity for all.”

For Adoption at Babylon Animal Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Shining the spotlight on two terrific cats- “Emma” 4-265, an effervescent oneyear old Maine Coon mix, and “Pikachu” 4-289, a sixmonth old Mr. Mischief.

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