Layla, a 30-pound black lab-hound mix, ran off on Wednesday from her home in Durham. She is wearing a collar with a name tag and rabies tags.  Courtesy of Sierra Kenkel

Durham residents are rallying in search of Layla – a 4-month-old puppy that ran off on Wednesday.

Layla’s owner, Sierra Kenkel of Durham, said the puppy was spooked by the sound of a passing garbage truck around 8 a.m. Jan. 19. The search for Layla was still on as of Sunday evening, Kenkel said, but the outpouring of support from neighbors the town of roughly 4,000 people has been “incredible.”

“We moved here like six months ago, we don’t know that many people here, and we have everyone going through their barns and their sheds, everyone is driving around putting flyers out – we even have people out with drones,” said Kenkel.

There was one confirmed sighting of Layla on Saturday, Kenkel said. Locals have taken to social media to help aid the search, and some have offered game cameras and Havahart traps in an effort to find the pup.

Layla is a black lab-hound mix and weighs about 30 pounds. She is wearing a collar with a name tag and rabies tags. The dog is shy and if members of the public spot Layla, Kenkel said it is best not to chase her and to speak quietly.

“It’s devastating, she’s a family member of ours,” said Kenkel. “We’re trying to stay very open and more than just positive.”

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As of Sunday, a poster by Maine Lost Dog Recovery of Layla had been shared over 900 times on Facebook. Maine Lost Dog Recovery is a nonprofit that uses social media and other educational tools to help reunite owners with missing dogs.

Maine Lost Dog Recovery’s poster for Layla. Courtesy of Maine Lost Dog Recovery

In 2021, the organization reported an 86% success rate, helping to bring 1,000 missing Maine dogs home safe. In total, Maine Lost Dog Recovery advocated for 1,160 dogs in 2021. Of that, 124, or 11%, are still missing and 36, or 3%, were found deceased.

In addition to using social media, board member Morgan Miles said one of the best practices when searching for a missing dog is immediately printing between 100 and 300 flyers to post in a 5-mile radius.

“If you go several days without a sighting, you expand your flyer range. You print off more and you go out further than the five-mile radius,” said Miles. “That’s how you’re going to get real time sightings.”

Maine Lost Dog Recovery typically does not recommend large search parties, as it can further scare a lost dog that is typically in “survival mode,” Miles said. Dogs can survive even in the coldest temperatures, Miles added, and in the past pets have been reunited after over eight months without sightings.

“Several years ago, we had a 6-pound chihuahua lost for 63 days when it was like negative 20 during the months of January and February – and this chihuahua survived just fine,” said Miles. “They are resilient, they will find ways to stay warm, they will find ways to eat.”

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Among those searching on Friday was Durham resident Kat Jewell, owner of Wildflower Equestrian Center, who went out with her two ranch dogs in the morning for over two hours.

Despite signs of urine, puppy tracks and bedding spots, Jewell said the dogs lost the scent and were unable to find Layla.

“I know Sierra has horses and I know what it is like to have a dog take off on you, and I thought if another horse person could help another horse person we might as well try, we have the dogs, let’s do it,” said Jewell. “So, my heart gave out to her.”

Kenkel asked that those who wish to help do not go out looking, but instead contact her at (406) 261-5621. Kenkel is also searching for anyone with expertise in tracking lost dogs and asks that they reach out as well.


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