Perhaps one of the most well-orchestrated campaigns to find a missing dog is underway in Wilmington, and volunteers on the look out say they will leave no stone unturned until Coby is found.
About two dozen enthusiastic searchers formed “Team Coby” when the puppy disappeared on Memorial Day weekend, and they communicate several times per day in a shared text thread with information about where flyers have been posted, possible sightings, and suggestions for expanding the search. They also have started a Facebook page called Get Coby home!
This past weekend Team Coby set up a headquarters in the dining section of Seasons Pizza on Maryland Avenue, where volunteers can pick up maps with search sections, flyers, tape, industrial staplers, and directions on what to do if a volunteer thinks he or she has spotted Coby.
Coby is a 6-month old labrador mix with a distinctive white stripe on his chest, who was last seen about eight days ago on Wilmington’s Riverfront. That is in fact where Coby got spooked and jumped from the lap of one of his owners and made a dash toward the Christina River. The dog was wearing a collar with the rabies identification and was attached to its leash. He is also micro-chipped so that if he turns up at a dog rescue facility, he will be matched with his owners.
There is a $1,000 reward for anyone who finds Coby and reunites him with his family.
When Coby disappeared, owners Julie and Joel Friedlander swung into action by contacting as many dog lover friends as they could think of and invited them to a special conference call with Team Louie Animal Rescue, a volunteer business that serves as a resource for pet owners in Wilmington and Philadelphia who are searching for lost dogs. So many friends of the Friedlanders joined the call that they exceeded the capacity of the call-in line.
Julie and Joel are so grateful for the extraordinary support they have received in their search to find Coby. “This has been a heart wrenching ordeal,” said Julie. “But the one positive is the incredible support we are getting notably from friends and family, but also from complete strangers.”
In fact, as passersby have seen Julie and her friends posting flyers, many offer to keep an eye out for Coby and ask what they can do to help.
On one particular day Julie met 9-year-old William who offered to help Julie post the rest of the flyers in her batch. William told Julie, “I have a dog, and so I know how much you must miss yours.”
Over the course of a few days, Friedlander friend Rebecca Collins emerged as the team leader. She created a detailed map that is divided into 26 search zones within a 3-miles radius from where Coby was lost and last seen.
Collins spends most of her days – sometimes with her young daughter – at Seasons updating zones maps, replenishing supplies, and coordinating the flow of communication among volunteers. She also makes sure that volunteers work in pairs or groups as they distribute flyers and search for Coby.
The work space at Seasons was a gift from yet another family friend – Donna and Angelo Halakos, who own the area franchises.
“What we find works well is dividing the search area into smaller, more manageable sections and allowing volunteers to search and post flyers when they have the time,” said Collins. “It has created a steady stream of people who can help when their schedules permit, allowing us to cover a large area without volunteers burning out.”
Anne Butler has been out every day distributing flyers and looking for Coby since his disappearance. She and a friend posted more flyers along Union Street over the weekend, where they also asked the Wilmington Fire Department to keep a lookout for the puppy.
It turns out the firefighters were already aware of the search and were doing their part. “We all have been looking for Coby. We know there is a huge effort out there to find him and we have been searching areas where we think he could be,” said one.
Claire Coggins and her son have posted flyers, Ann Elise Bouchard has told her friends at dog parks about the search, and Julie MacWilliams, Jen Marvin, Debbie Ashley and Becky Allen have helped spread the word at local animal shelters, bus stops, neighborhood associations.
Those familiar with lost dogs say searches can take several weeks but that most dogs are reunited with their families.
If you think you see Coby, please do not chase him. Please call Julie Friedlander immediately at 302-593-3006 and try to keep Coby in your sights. If you also want to assist with the search, please call the same number.