Nothing like a happy ending – especially for Russell Earle, this 9-year-old black Labrador retriever who was injured and lost in the woods of Dayton for five days before he was found by a volunteer with Maine Lost Dog Recovery.

Nothing like a happy ending – especially for Russell Earle, this 9-year-old black Labrador retriever who was injured and lost in the woods of Dayton for five days before he was found by a volunteer with Maine Lost Dog Recovery.

SANFORD — He was a lost dog, lost for five days, and injured when he was hit by a car. But this story has a happy ending, one that brought friends and neighbors, strangers and an all-volunteer agency together to bring the black Labrador retriever named Russell Earle home.

Now, Russell, as he’s called for short, is basking in the loving attention of his family while he gains weight and builds up his strength for surgery.

Laurie Normand of Sanford hugs her 9-year-old Labrador retriever, Russell Earle, Sunday as Maine Lost Dog Recovery volunteer Lynn Sanborn, who found him five days after he was hit by a car and ran away, looks on.

Laurie Normand of Sanford hugs her 9-year-old Labrador retriever, Russell Earle, Sunday as Maine Lost Dog Recovery volunteer Lynn Sanborn, who found him five days after he was hit by a car and ran away, looks on.

He’d ventured onto a busy roadway where he was hit by a car and ran away.

Many people searched, pitching in to help try and find the lost 9-year-old canine.

But one day turned into two and then three and eventually into five. Owner Laurie Normand was heartbroken.

She had adopted Russell two weeks before, from a cousin.

“I felt like I had lost someone else’s child,” she said.

But then, five days later, she got a phone call. Russell had been found. He was thin, and as it turned out, had a broken pelvis, but he was found.

“He had his head on my shoulder all the way home,” said Normand Sunday, as Russell greeted guests in the kitchen of her Sanford home.

Russell is very much at home now, and although he’s headed for surgery sometime this coming week, his tail still wags, a lot. And when he turns his head and looks up with those eyes – well, even a cat person can get misty-eyed.

It happened in Dayton, where some friends were dog sitting for Normand. The Lab had been on a leash, hitched to a fence and was secure, Normand said. But as they unclipped the leash to bring Russell inside, he bolted, running into busy Route 5, where he was hit by a car.

The dog sitters, neighbors and the driver of the car all went searching that night, Nov. 17, to no avail.

There were people out searching the next morning as well, when York County Sheriff Bill King happened by, on his way to work. He stopped and asked Normand what was going on, enlisted the help of Goodwin’s Mills Fire Department and their thermal imaging camera for a time, but still, Russell was not found.

Normand was looking at lost pet Facebook pages when she stumbled across the all-volunteer organization called Maine Lost Dog Recovery, and sent them an email. They responded with tips, ideas, support, phone numbers of area veterinarians where a lost dog might be taken, a template of a flyer she could print and post around the area, and so much more.

“They called me every day and encouraged me. They went door to door, and they went searching in the woods,” said Normand.

There were hours and days of searching. And then, on Nov. 23, just two days before Thanksgiving, Maine Lost Dog Recovery volunteer Lynn Sanborn had a hunch.

Sanborn had been searching for Russell earlier in the week. On Monday, as she drove by some older buildings, she decided to stop and have a look. Out back on a trail about a quarter mile from the roadway, she saw Russell laying on a little knoll surrounded by a small stream.

“He was very skinny, and hungry,” said Sanborn. “I tossed a treat, but I saw he couldn’t move.” That’s when she got closer.

“He started to shake, so I wrapped him in my sweatshirt and cuddled him,” she said.

Others arrived to help Sanborn get Russell out of the woods.

Maine Lost Dog Recovery was formed in 2011 as Maine Lost Pet Recovery, but the response was so overwhelming the group split into two organizations, one for cats and one for dogs, according to their website. There are about 16-20 formal volunteers statewide, and others who help. The group estimates 85 percent of the dogs posted on their Facebook page are found.

Maine Lost Dog Recovery recommends anyone who has lost a dog call their local animal control officer and those in surrounding communities, along with animal shelters and vet clinics. The group also recommends reporting the lost dog to their agency by filling out a form on their website at http://mainelostdogrecovery.wordpress.com or at their Facebook page.

Natalie Messier of Maine Lost Dog Recovery in an email said volunteers who assist families directly typically have had prior experience in animal rescue. New volunteers are coached by experienced ones.

“The vast majority of the time, it’s not as simple as just going out and finding a dog like Russell,” Messier said. But in those circumstances, with a dog lost in unfamiliar surroundings, injured, and coupled with a lack of sightings, she said, it made it more probable he was hiding nearby.

“Lynn used her solid gut instincts to quietly search likely areas a dog like Russell would seek out and, thankfully, she found him,” said Messier. “We are all so grateful to her for that. Her love for animals is boundless. And is the shared bond of all our volunteers.”

Normand is grateful for everyone’s help, and for Maine Lost Dog Recovery.

“I felt like that everything that could be done, was done” she said.

Russell, normally a 75- pound dog, weighed 57 pounds when Normand rushed him to the veterinarian on the day he was found. But he’s gaining weight, and gets around, to some degree, on three paws.

The ordeal hasn’t dimmed his spirit. On Sunday, when Sanborn and others came to visit, he was frisky as a pup, despite his nine years and his injuries.

Normand’s eyes softened as she gazed at her faithful friend.

“It’s sure bonded us together,” she said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: