UPDATE: 8:45 a.m.
Aspen, it appears, is home.
Moscow's Jim Mital posted to his Facebook page Sunday morning that Aspen, an American Eskimo that ran away in late August and has eluded capture since, has been found and is back at the Mital home at the base of Moscow Mountain.
"My little girl is home!!!!" Mital posted to his Facebook page with two pictures of Aspen in a crate. "Thank you everyone for all your assistance with her safe return!!! I'm just going to love on her all day!!!!"
Aspen remains on the run
Drama of dog’s disappearance, continued sightings, being followed on social media
On Aug. 28, Jim Mital brought his fourth American Eskimo dog, Aspen to the Palouse.
Aspen is a rescue dog from a shelter near Chewelah, Wash., and spent the first two years of her life in a puppy mill.
Two days after arriving at the Mital home at the base of Moscow Mountain, Aspen bolted through the front door. Mital tried to chase her when she first escaped, but keeping up in flip-flops proved to be too big of a challenge.
Unable to find his dog, Mital did what many owners of lost pets might do. He made “missing” posters in bright shades of yellow and pink, stapling them to utility poles around Moscow. He went door-to-door in downtown Moscow and put the flyers in his neighbors’ mailboxes. Mital said he took his flyers as far as Viola, reasoning that perhaps Aspen would travel back up towards Chewelah, thinking she might return to the shelter.
Almost four weeks later, Aspen remains on the run.
Aspen has, however, been spotted more than 160 times.
In addition to the flyers, word of mouth and phone calls, Mital has relied on a fairly new tool being used to track down lost pets: social media.
Humane Society of the Palouse Director Sierah Beeler said online missing pet groups like the ones on Facebook have aided in bringing home many dogs faster than they could before.
Aspen’s disappearance has been a common point of discussion on the Lost and Found Pets of Moscow, Pullman and surrounding areas Facebook group, which draws attention to and provides images and sightings of many lost or stray pets in the region. The group has more than 5,000 members. Other lost pet groups in the area have member numbers also in the thousands.
“I think it’s actually really helped the way that we can get animals back to their owners, and in a lot shorter time as well,” Beeler said.
Mital is asking for anyone who sees Aspen to call him as soon as possible and be as detailed as possible about her condition. Mital keeps a Google map overlaid with location pins, a new one added each time there is a sighting of Aspen.
After posting about Aspen being missing online, Mital also received the help of a lost dog specialist, Babs Fry from San Francisco. Fry gave him the idea to start mapping out Aspen’s sightings to see where she’s been seen the most and what she does after coming in contact with people.
“When people do seem to go after her, that’s when she runs,” Mital said. “Babs had described that as ‘she interprets (people) as a large mammal wanting to eat her. So she runs.”
Fry also gave Mital tips on how to catch Aspen. By asking the public to use calming techniques when approaching Aspen instead of chasing her, Mital hopes he can get close enough to catch her without causing more stress.
“She’s never really experienced the love and kindness that a normal dog would experience in their home, living with a family. So that’s what I wanted to give Aspen — a new life,” Mital said.
Mital said he’s received calls where people tell him they have changed their route to work to see if they can spot her.
“The community response has been overwhelming in the Moscow Pullman area, Potlatch as well, people all throughout this area saying they hope she comes home and offers of help,” Mital said.
Nelson is the news clerk at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. You can reach her with feature story ideas at email@example.com.