Everyone lives in a small town.
It doesn’t matter where you live: The biggest cities on earth or the most rural of areas. Everyone lives in a small town. While we may be surrounded by thousands, or even millions of people, we truly only interact with a few hundred, or a couple thousand at most. This is also borne out online. We live in communities online but there is a number we reach and we either split off into smaller groups, or create cliques within the larger group. In the end, I feel people live in a few small towns… but, that is a discussion for another time.
This is a story about an online community who banded together with little more in common than the breed of dog they own and love.
I belong to an online Pug Group in New Zealand. This group (through Facebook) is where Pug owners (and lovers) join and post pictures and videos of their pugs, memes, and jokes. It is normally a light and easy group. We post, like each others dogs, and occasionally have meetups where our Pugs (many of whom are related since we are such a small community) can form grumbles and play around. Sometimes, they post things warning about puppy farms, and trying to save dogs who seem to be from puppy farms being sold online. Husband and I joined a couple months ago, but haven’t been to a meetup yet.
Anyhow, last Sunday a desperate post was sent out. A Pug, named Cruz, had disappeared at a Beach in the southern part of the North Island. One moment, he was there. The next moment, Gone.
The Pugs owner was beside herself. The community quickly reacted, with suggestions on how to find the pug. One poster attacked the owner for having the pug off leash (which is common practice in New Zealand), and the community quickly piled on him for being callous. As the hours went and no sign of Cruz, his owner started to panic. Night fell and she had to go home. She returned the next day (it was a holiday for us) and spent the entire day searching, and posting lost posters. This is where the community leapt into action.
People plastered the whole lower half of the island with lost posters. Informed all of the Vets and stores in the area to make sure he wasn’t stolen. People went to the beach to look for the dog. Vets up in Auckland (which is like a 8-10 hour drive mind you) were alerted.
Each day people would check in, saying they put up posters, informed another Vet, or did a walk on the beach looking for Cruz. A few people eventually became point people directing walkers to certain areas to look for him.
On the Page, people where simultaneously giving advice, offering support, and sounding out ideas. On Wednesday, a meetup group was announced for people to come to the beach and fan out in search of the dog. A BBQ would be had in the afternoon to try and attract the dog to the smell of food. Also, bringing dogs, (and pugs in particular) may make Cruz come out of hiding.
No one dared mentioned that something terrible may have befell him.
On Thursday, after four days missing, Paw prints were found my people walking on horseback in the area. The prints were pug sized and were on the edge of a forest adjacent to the sandy dunes.
At this point, people went into overdrive. We need to get out there now? Can we bring the horses back? Did you leave clothing out there with your scent to attract him? Can we get a drone to look from the sky? Maybe we can call the army!
And Yes, someone did call the army.
On Friday, the owner, with someone with search and rescue experience (working on his own time) went out with some horses to search for the pug.
He was spotted, but ran off.
Posts galore on the page. People screaming out ways to catch him. Pug breeders (who are well known and loved here in NZ) were giving tips and tricks and to not act like their daddy (because we are all relatively close knit, and we know all the reputable breeders in the country). We were all invested. I was reading with bated breath, looking outside at the fading light and worried for a dog I have never seen (and will likely never see because he is so far away… if he even got out of this).
They couldn’t find him, and the light failed. They set up a tent with clothes from home and some food, in the hopes of attracting him.
On Saturday, over 20 people from across the southern part of the Island gathered, many with pugs of their own and fanned out. Over 100 people were following the events unfold, cheering and giving advice from afar. by 4:30, no sign of Cruz, and the worry set in. The weather for the week had been surprising ok given it is Winter right now, but forecast from Monday onward were portending deteriorating.
Traps were then set out in the hopes he could be caught.
Sunday morning, at 9:15 ish, as I was finishing up my walk, a message on the board. A woman and her son had caught Cruz and were holding him, and needed help calming him down.
For a Sunday morning, my phone was filled with updates from this page. The owner hurriedly driving to the beach (30 minutes away), another person, who had been on the search for Cruz started as well. Cruz had lost his harness, so second person bought a harness and lead. Soon, people were offering to help donate for the vet check afterwards. Everyone was excited, and we all dared to hope. A week had gone by, and… have we actually found Cruz?
It took over an hour of anxious waiting for the online people to find out that Cruz had been found, and was now safe with his owner. Pictures of the reunion was posted on the wall, and a massive outpouring of love, relief, and elation swept through the community.
Over the week, people from all parts of New Zealand, with nothing in common outside their breed of dog became a community, who together made sure a Pug and their owner were not separated. It’s a warm feeling, and one I won’t soon forget.
Tonight, a video of Cruz was posted, with him running in his yard, playing with his toys, as if nothing had happened over the last week.
Just like a Pug would.