From the streets of Puerto Rico, to an animal shelter in Salem; a loving home in Saugus; the woods of Lynnfield; a backyard in Melrose.
For most of his life, Bailey, a shy, rusty-brown Labrador mix, has traveled to find a place to call home, and a web of volunteers are working hard to help.
The search for home started last June when Bailey, a “sato” — Puerto Rican slang for street dog — was rescued and flown to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem with the hope he would be adopted.
A Saugus family brought him to their home in September to see how he got along with their dog.
They never found out.
Shortly after arriving, 6-month-old Bailey escaped on Sept. 17 from the family’s unfenced yard on Walnut Street. With a ripped portion of his extend-a-leash still attached to his collar, and a Northeast Animal Shelter tag, Bailey was spotted running across Route 1, disappearing in woods near Suntaug Estates, a large condo complex in Saugus.
Immediately, a dramatic search began, along with the worrying.
“You go to a place you don’t want to go,” said Marianna Massa, coordinator of Northeast’s sato rescue and adoption program.
“We put posters up everywhere,” Massa said, including online postings to Craigslist and Granite State Dog Recovery’s Facebook page.
“Social media plays a huge part in search for lost dogs,” said Beth Corr, a Newton resident and Granite State volunteer. With over 13,000 Facebook followers, the nonprofit, based in Manchester, N.H., has a wide reach.
Granite State volunteers help in countless ways, from setting up humane traps and food stations, to posting fliers, transporting traps and cameras, sometimes miles away, even into Maine. Last year alone, Corr said, Granite State reunited 600 lost dogs that came across their page.
“It takes a village,” said Bella Travaglini, a Peabody resident and North Shore journalist who began volunteering with Granite State two years ago after Daisy, a border collie mix from Stoneham, went missing (and has not been found).
“I never expected to do this, but am hooked,” Travaglini said.
Calling Northeast to offer assistance when she heard of Bailey’s escape, Travaglini quickly organized “Team Bailey.” After a sighting in the woods behind the Christmas Tree Shop in Lynnfield came in a few days later, Travaglini led almost 40 volunteers — including members of the Saugus family from whom he escaped — on a five-hour search. Large search parties are not typically recommended because it can scare a dog further, but the woods were dense and the dog a puppy. Humane traps and cameras were set, and food left.
Then the volunteers waited, sitting quietly in the woods for hours.
Travaglini returned later, for a couple of nights.
While resuming the search on a smaller scale with Massa, Travaglini said the Saugus family continued searching, too. A report 10 days into the search at the Lynnfield Woods Office Park, where Bailey was spotted sunning himself on the lawn, gave them hope.
But when office workers chased him, hoping to catch him, Bailey ran again. To where, no one knew.
Additional sightings were made of look-alike dogs as far away as Cumberland, R.I., and Newton. But no Bailey.
Then, fortune stepped in.
Five miles away, on Thanksgiving morning, Melrose resident Laura Castergine was raking leaves in her front yard on Orient Avenue, unaware of the months-long search. Her labradoodle, Jerry, kept running to their backyard and barking at the back corner, stopped by an invisible fence. Known for his friendly barking to people passing by from their front yard, Laura thought it unusual Jerry kept running to the backyard.
“We call it ‘no man’s land,’ ” Castergine said of a wooded, overgrown intersection of her and three neighbors’ backyards.
Spotting a dog, she thought nothing of it, figuring it was one from the neighborhood. Then Griffin, her fourth-grade son, noticed his football was ripped. He found his soccer ball in a neighbor’s yard.
“That’s when I figured it must be a puppy, it was so playful. I put some of Jerry’s dog food out in my neighbors’ yard, so Jerry couldn’t get it,” Castergine recalled. She saw Bailey two more times, when he’d eat the food and leave. She realized the pup might be lost.
On Dec. 5, Castergine called Diane Kurkjian, Melrose’s canine control officer. Kurkjian remembered hearing about Bailey from other local animal control officers. She also follows Granite State’s Facebook page, so she contacted the rescue group.
“I don’t want to get your hopes up,” Kurkjian told Corr, “but I have a lost dog here in Melrose and there’s a possibility it’s Bailey.” Continued...