FLOWERY BRANCH — If you’ve ever lost a furry friend, you know how frightening and stressful it can be.
Kelly Neville knows these feelings all too well. Her dog, Molson, went missing for five days in October.
“It was all a blur when Molson was lost,” she said.
Molson, a skittish chocolate Labrador, was staying with her ex-husband, Phillip Kuchek, in Flowery Branch.
The dog, who the couple have owned since 2008, got spooked and hopped the fence at Kuchek’s house when a friend came over to let him out.
Neville, the technology coordinator for Ferguson Elementary School in Duluth, sprang to action. She posted information such as her dog’s coat color, collar color and other details about her missing pet anywhere she could, including Facebook.
“I know the power of technology,” she said, explaining she scoured the Web for hints about her lost companion.
Neville then checked all of the animal shelter websites in the area, including a few “Lost and Found” pages on Facebook.
When the search proved to be unfruitful, she created her own page on Facebook, “Bring Molson Home.”
Next, she spammed the pages of every lost dog Facebook page to help with the search, even creating a free online version of a lost dog poster with the website helpinglostdogs.com.
“We would get a couple of calls from people who had seen the posts,” Neville said. “Phillip and I were so overwhelmed by all those [who] helped us. Our friends and family helped a great deal, but we were truly surprised by the support from strangers.”
Helping spread the word about Molson were a few area businesses, such as Liberty Candy Company in Flowery Branch and Masterpiece Mixers and Desperate Dogs, both in Braselton.
Molson even had his own hashtag, #bringmolsonhome.
“People we had never met were out looking for him around the last sighting areas,” Neville said.
After five days, Neville and Kuchek received two calls about potential Molson sightings near a creek across from the Sterling on the Lake neighborhood.
“Phillip went there right away. Molson saw him and started running straight for him,” Neville said.
Kuchek took the beloved pet home and gave him a bath. Neville saw Molson as soon as she got off work. Both attribute Facebook to helping locate their Labrador.
“It spread the word more effectively than we ever could,” Neville said.
Social media is not the only place to locate lost pets.
The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia and the Hall County Animal Shelter provide brick-and-mortar locations to help find and possibly recover missing pets.
One wall in the humane society’s lobby has a bulletin board covered in lost dog and cat posters. However, the organization isn’t allowed to bring in strays because of county ordinances. Executive Director Julie Edwards advises residents to check with animal control first.
Hall County Animal Shelter Program Coordinator Cindy Langman agreed, advising pet owners to visit the facility and not just call.
“We encourage people to come in person,” Langman said. “It’s like one-stop shopping.”
Langman estimated about 30 animals come into the shelter daily, with some days totaling 100.
“There could be 50 black labs that look like your black lab,” Edwards said.
Langman added pet owners should check with the local veterinarian if they have not had any luck with physically searching for pets or using social media.
Edwards said social media has had a huge impact on the humane society’s adoption rates in the past few years.
“You can reach so many more people with social media,” she said.
When Edwards started working with the humane society six years ago, the nonprofit had a Facebook page but it wasn’t used. She changed that.
Edwards took photos of the adoptable pets and shared their names, ages, weight, breed and other pertinent information. She saw an immediate uptick in adoptions.
“All of it hinges on having good photos,” she said, adding it is easier to take photos of dogs than cats.
Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts were added as well as PetFinder to the sites the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia was connected.
Once a potential owner sees a pet, he or she can call HSNEGA to see if the animal is still available. When the animal is adopted, its profile is removed within 15 minutes.
The organization is not alone in its use of social media. The Hall County Animal Shelter also has a Facebook page for sharing photos of the adoptable animals.
But it’s a process for the government-run facility. Langman said it is still working out what works and what doesn’t.
“We’re trying to reach every outlet possible,” said Cody Stubben, director of development and digital communications for the Humane Society.