BOZEMAN, Mont. - "All excited about the other dogs and a new place," said Melody Wells-Minthorn, about her dog Daisy's first trip to the Gallatin County Regional Park.
Wells-Minthorn and her two sons took their white great pyrenees for an early spring walk around the park's pond. The pup, who's just over a year old, drew quite the attention from passerby.
"Is that Daisy?!" said one woman. "Yes!" Wells-Minthorn replied, with a laugh.
Daisy is a local celebrity. Her missing posters went viral online after she accidentally got loose and ran away in November From Wells-Minthorn's Gallatin Valley home.
"We went on social media, and posted on Facebook," she said. Wells-Minthorn's friend, Joy Baker, set up the Facebook page, "Finding Miss Daisy" soon after Daisy disappeared.
The search spread like wildfire, as people from other areas and even states rallied online to help.
Months later, an Arizona resident who followed the Daisy Facebook page found a Washington Craigslist post for a found dog, 700 miles away from Bozeman near a small town called Graham.
That dog turned out to be Daisy.
Melody and her family reunited with Daisy in February.
"It's our miracle," Wells-Minthorn said. "I really believe we got a miracle."
But the story doesn't end there.
An investigator tried to help Wells-Minthorn track Daisy down after she first ran away. Wells-Minthorn said his search dogs picked up Daisy's scent, but the trail went cold.
"They told me that she was taken alive by car," Wells-Minthorn said, of the search outcome.
The investigator concluded Daisy may have been stolen. That's how they think she ended up in Washington.
"I didn't want to believe that someone would just take my dog," Wells-Minthorn said.
The more research they did, the more they found other stories like Daisy's- dogs thought to be lost, until they turned up hundreds of miles from their homes.
"Other people have had dogs stolen and taken to Washington State," Wells-Minthorn said.
That's where social media comes back in.
The "Finding Miss Daisy" Facebook page wasn't just for Daisy anymore. Wells-Minthorn and Joy Baker started using it and the page "Bozeman Lost Pet" to connect other lost or stolen dogs with their owners.
"We've actually had two dogs on our page that we've helped their owners connect with them because of connecting the dots," Baker said.
One of those dogs was thought stolen from a farm in eastern Montana, and ended up in Washington. Another, she said, disappeared in Washington and was found in Butte.
Those dogs, like Daisy, are now happily back with their owners.
"People want to see those little happy fur babies make their way home," Baker said.
Though there's no way to know just how Daisy got to Washington or why she was brought there, there are steps dog owners can take to prevent their dog from being stolen- and help track them down if they do disappear.
Ron Murray at Montana Murray Kennels suggested purchasing a trail camera to place in your yard, and post "camera in use" signs around your property or house.
"Security systems can be expensive and not practical for most people," he said, in an email. "Trail cameras can be purchased for $100 to $200 for a good one."
Murray also said make sure gates have good locks and are dog-proof.
Plus, "If you live in a neighborhood, talk to your neighbors find out how your dog behaves when you are not home," he said. "If the dog is a nuisance neighbors are not going to be much help."
Though micro chipping might be helpful, Murray said it "only works if someone takes the dog to a facility that scans them."
He went on to say, "I know some companies offer GPS tracking devices for pets, but these only work if the collar is still on them." And if someone steals a dog, Murray said the collar is usually the first thing the suspect will get rid of.
If you think your dog has been stolen, Murray said call police, animal control and animal shelters.
Check sites like Craigslist frequently to see if the dog was found or is being re-sold.
"If the dog has been stolen to be resold most times it is a crime of opportunity and will not usually travel very far, maybe a couple of hundred miles," Murray said.
Plus, post on social media- like on the "Bozeman Lost Pet" page on Facebook.
Finally, don't give up on the search. Murray said the first 48 hours are the most important, but if time ticks on with no sign of your dog, he said keep actively searching and don't lose hope.
"If someone has taken a dog and knows the owners are very active in trying to locate the pet they are more likely to drop it off some where," he said.
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