LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — The tale of Ruby, a border collie puppy who was lost in the Camden hills at the end of June, has elements of suspense, heartbreak and hope.
But most of all, her story is one of a community that reached out with time, kindness and creativity to help two strangers and their lost dog, according to Brynna Ledyard of Somerville, Mass.
“I felt like it was just me against the forest,” Ledyard said by phone Monday. “But there were dozens of people who were concerned for her, and actively putting on rain slickers and looking for her. People who had this wonderful hope that she was going to come back. That she’ll be OK.”
Ledyard’s longtime boyfriend, Paul Overgaag, had taken their 6-month-old rescue dog Ruby on a hike on the Frohock Mountain Trail in Camden Hills State Park in Lincolnville two weeks ago. She was off-leash and walking behind Overgaag and Ledyard’s nephew when they came upon another hiker. Ruby got spooked and ran away.
“It was just a horrible feeling, when you call your dog and she doesn’t come,” Ledyard, who searched that day for hours, said. “There’s just silence, and you’re in these endless woods. It’s a horrible, sinking feeling that she’s gone forever.”
But the couple had reckoned without the community of Lincolnville. Ledyard and Overgaag only knew a handful of people locally, but those friends helped get the word out. Nora McGrath, who works at Belfast City Hall, learned about the missing dog from a co-worker and posted the information on the Lincolnville Maine News Facebook page.
“That’s what Facebook is for,” McGrath said. “I don’t want to know what you had for dinner. I want to help find an animal.”
Right away, people started looking for Ruby and photocopying missing dog posters and putting them up around the region. Some offered the use of game cameras. Others hiked the mountain to search for the dog.
“People in Lincolnville are the best,” McGrath, a resident, said. “We’re just a very tight community.”
The locals kept looking, even though Ledyard and Overgaag had to return to Massachusetts after a few days to get to an appointment.
“We were just desolate, leaving Maine without our dog,” she said.
But the encouragement and caring messages they received over Facebook helped. Ledyard came back to Maine the weekend after Ruby disappeared and spent two more days searching and hanging more posters. She posted a $500 reward for the puppy’s safe return.
Then, on the afternoon of Sunday, June 30, Ledyard learned something devastating. She was still in Maine when she heard from a man who told her that several days before he had seen an accident on a section of Route 52 known as “Dead Man’s Curve.” A woman in a minivan had struck and apparently killed a little black dog with a white patch.
A dog that looked just like Ruby.
“I was sure in my mind this was what had happened,” Ledyard said. “It just seemed like it all added up. It just felt awful. I drove back to Massachusetts, crying the whole way. I felt so bad — all these people had done so much, looking for her in the rain, bringing extra leashes, food and contacting me. … It really was a lesson to me. It was an awful week [searching], but we had such support and such amazing response from the community of people there.”
And then, on Monday, July 1, Ledyard’s phone rang again. It was a woman in Maine, wondering if she was speaking to the person who lost the dog.
“I answered in a depressed way. And she said, ‘We’ve got her! We’ve got her right here. She’s fine,’” Ledyard recounted.
Lincolnville sisters Jennifer and Kristy Gerry had spotted the skittish pooch on the side of Route 173. They told Ledyard they remembered seeing Ruby on missing dog posters around town and wanted to catch her, which wasn’t simple. Because they were worried she’d run into the road, one of the sisters went onto Route 173 to put her hand up and stop traffic. Other motorists got out of their cars to help corral the dog. Eventually, they used a bag of popcorn to lure her in.
Ruby, though skinny and hungry, was finally on her way home. Ledyard said that she gave the reward to the Gerry sisters, whom she said were like “heroes,” and she was thrilled to see her playful, sweet and wayward puppy once more.
“She’s a very special little girl,” Ledyard said. “We’re lucky to have her.”
Although the dog doesn’t seem to have suffered any lasting ill-effects from her weeklong wilderness adventure, one thing has changed for her.
“She is not going to be hiking in the woods off-leash anytime soon,” Ledyard said.