Last Wednesday, I was heading home from doing an interview when my phone started blowing up. Friend after friend was making sure I knew about a local dog that had run away from its groomer.
The dog’s name was Winston and he belonged to long-time Lake Forester Elizabeth Gamber. Elizabeth and I share a number of mutual friends, and I was lucky enough to work for her late mother when I was a rookie media planner at Leo Burnett.
Elizabeth dropped off her two dogs at a local groomer on Wednesday. Mid-afternoon, she received a call that Winston had gotten away through an open door at the back of the shop.
“My heart literally sank,” says Elizabeth, who immediately went to the shop so she could begin looking for her six-year-old Shih Tzu. He didn’t love going to the groomer and was easily spooked. When Winston saw the open door, he just took off.”
Not sure what to do, Elizabeth posted a notice on the “Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Lost Pets” Facebook page, as well as her own. And to say the news of Winston’s disappearance went viral would be an understatement at best.
“The post was shared more than 500 times,” Elizabeth says, having also papered the town with 200 flyers with Winston’s photo and her cell number. “I just couldn’t believe how the community really rallied around me to find him. I was getting texts from people I didn’t know saying they were looking for Winston. The police, city workers, local children–everyone was on the lookout.”
When almost a day had passed with no sign of Winston returning, Elizabeth knew it was time to make a big ask. She visited the grave sites of her parents and pleaded with them to bring Winston home. “I really never ask them for anything,” she says. “But I needed my Mom and Dad them to work their magic for me. I didn’t think I could take another loss.”
Then, early Friday morning, after Winston had been missing for nearly two days, Elizabeth received three text messages from different people saying they had seen Winston near the viaduct at Woodland and Western in downtown Lake Forest.
“This was the news I had been hoping for,” she says, even though she was concerned he had been spotted so close to the train tracks. “One of the people who sent me the text showed me where he saw Winston peeking through the brush. We went up there and called around. I finally saw him, said his name, and he ran right into my arms. I’m not kidding when I say it was something out of a movie. It was an out-of-body experience. Winston was covered in burrs and had hurt his leg a bit, but otherwise he was just fine.”
Elizabeth quickly shared the happy news on Facebook that Winston had been found and was soon receiving messages from numbers she didn’t know expressing their heartfelt relief.
“One mom texted me that her five-year-old burst into tears when she heard that Winston was back,” Elizabeth says. “She even asked if she could bring her over to see him. It was so sweet.”
On Friday night, Elizabeth and her boyfriend went to The Lantern for a celebratory dinner, only to be greeted with a round of applause when they walked in the door. “Someone yelled ‘that’s the dog lady,'” Elizabeth says with a laugh. “I was just so in awe of how many people had been following Winston’s story and were invested in it.”
Elizabeth wishes she could personally thank everyone who had a hand in Winston’s safe return–from those who looked for him, to those who shared her post, and to those who said some prayers.
“I have always loved this community so much,” Elizabeth says. “But I can’t express what it was like to feel this love in return when Winston ran away. I’m so happy our story has this amazing ending. We sure all needed it this year.”