KITTERY, Maine — Annie, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, emerged from the pet transport trailer Saturday afternoon, wriggled free of her collar and bolted from the Irving gas station.

Andre St. Laurent, who arranged for her transport from North Carolina, planned to bring her home to his wife, Liane, in Londonderry. Instead, he spent the next two days searching for her.

Making matters worse, the coupled learned Maine State Police had cited them for an animal violation. The dog apparently crossed Interstate 95 several times after running free.

The couple finally got some good news Sunday night. Portsmouth police called to say Annie was found injured but alive in a Portsmouth garage. She was taken to a Portsmouth animal hospital to recover.

“It was awful,” Andre recalled Monday. “I went to pick up the dog, and I’m thinking ‘I’ll bring her home and introduce her to the family and this will be wonderful.’ But in the space of a couple seconds she was gone.”

The couple, who are in their 50s, declined to comment on the citation. Attempts Monday to reach Trooper Steven Stubbs, who issued the summons, were not successful.

Andre found Annie through the pet adoption website Although her background is unclear, he believes she was surrendered to a high-kill shelter somewhere in Mississippi. She was fostered in North Carolina before they agreed to adopt her.

They paid $125 and arranged for All Paws Transport Service to carry Annie to Kittery. Although the dog was leashed, it’s not clear if the collar was placed tightly enough around her neck before she left the transport trailer.

The handler “is trying to hand me the leash and the dog immediately backs away from us, wiggles out of it and bolts,” Andre recalled Monday. “She darts off like a rocket. These kind of dogs can run for miles at high speeds and, sure enough, she did.”

Attempts to lure the dog back weren’t successful. Andre and the transport handlers spent several hours looking for her. Andre went home distraught, but started the search again Sunday morning. Contact information for the transport service was not available on its website.

He placed fliers throughout the area, reached out to animal control officers and contacted the Maine Lost Dog Recovery, a Facebook network that spreads the word about missing animals. Several volunteers who saw the Facebook notice joined the search, including Tammi Searle, who owns a Kittery pet services company.

“The new dog dad and I were trying to coordinate this,” Searle said, “and (Annie) is literally trucking down the middle of the southbound lane of I-95 and concerned citizens are pulling over and trying to help.”

Sightings were reported throughout the day, but the dog eluded capture. Finally, Andre and the volunteers called off the search.

The dog apparently crossed the Piscataqua River and was found in the garage of a Hillcrest Drive home, according to Portsmouth police. Officers gave the animal dog treats and water and brought it to an emergency vet clinic.

Andre and Liane, who are in their 50s, couldn’t believe it. The phone call ended more than a day of worrying about whether Annie was sick, injured or worse.

The dog suffered a deep laceration, bloody paw pads and a chipped leg bone that doctors think was caused by impact from a car. Several teeth also were chipped. Vet bills exceeded $1,200.

The St. Laurents met Annie for the first time Sunday night at the animal hospital. They planned to take her home Monday night.

“She was so good at vet. So sweet and so willing to let herself be examined and handled,” Liane said. “She was just a sweet dog. I am really excited to get her.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services