In January, when Ellicott City resident Janet West realized her dog, Winston, was missing, she did what any concerned owner would do—wrote on her Facebook page.
"I felt helpless, so I posted on my page that my seven-year-old dog was missing and asked people to repost it," West says.
The post gained so much traction that a client of West's suggested she start an event page, which ballooned to 250 members.
"People I didn't know were joining," she says. "And they were doing things like going out and looking every night."
West also used more traditional methods to look for Winston, like posting fliers around the neighborhood and contacting Dogs Finding Dogs, a group where rescue dogs try to sniff out missing animals.
"Every time we heard about a sighting, the rescue dogs were able to confirm or deny whether it was Winston," she says. "From there, we could determine a path."
That path was heading west, and pretty rapidly. West began to lose hope when two weeks went by without a sighting.
"At that point, I was just hoping he maybe found a great home," she says.
But, in March, the silence broke when West's friend saw an ad on Craigslist from a woman, Katie Cox Engels, who posted that her family found a dog in Damascus.
Engels was then led to the Facebook page, where she saw a photo that looked uncannily like the dog she found. Engels contacted West, sending both photos and videos to prevent any false alarms.
"When she sent me the video of him playing with a ball, I became 90 percent sure that was him," West says. "His mannerisms, how excited he was."
So West and her son, Colin, pictured, drove the 33 miles west to Damascus to pick up the dog they hoped was Winston.
"When I first opened the door, I was hesitant because I didn't want to scare him," she says. "I was holding my emotions until I was totally sure. As he started doing tricks, there was no more doubt."
West brought Winston back home, and though he needed to be housebroken again and had a new tendency to dig through the trash, he was much like his old self.
"The only thing we know for sure is that he kept running," she says. "He was beyond where our fliers were, but not beyond this huge online campaign we created."
Now, Winston's page is home to other owners with lost pets, who hope to have the same outcome as West.
"People told me miraculous stories about finding their pets, and I kept those in my heart," she says. "I believed that soon it would be my turn."