Paisley, the 8-year-old English bulldog, is back home in Wells after being missing for nearly two weeks. Credit: Submitted photo courtesy of York County Coast Star

WELLS, Maine — The grit and tenacity of a lost little English bulldog named Paisley was matched by the love of thousands of friends and strangers who searched and prayed and ultimately helped return her home safely last week after being lost for nearly two weeks in harsh winter conditions.

“It’s quite a miracle really,” said former state senator Ron Collins of Wells.

Collins and his wife Linda were settled in for the night last Thursday at their home on Harriseckett Road.

“It rained hard that day and Linda got up and looked outside to see if it was still raining. She turned to me and she just couldn’t talk, she kept pointing,” Collins said.

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

There, soaking wet from the rain, curled up on a mat in their open breezeway was Paisley.

She had been missing from her home on Dwight Drive off Coles Hill Road since Jan. 12.

Paisley’s owner Barbara Dean said a beeping smoke detector caused her to run off. Dean, along with an army of friends and strangers searched every day for her beloved 8-year-old English bulldog. She shared Paisley’s photo on Facebook and canvassed the neighborhoods near her home, handing out flyers door-to-door.

The days dragged on, the weather worsened, and there were no confirmed sightings of Paisley. Dean hired a dog tracker out of Rhode Island and he and his black lab tracked Paisley to the Merriland Farm Golf Course through the woods, but they didn’t find her.

[Travel site names Wells Maine’s top nature destination]

Hundreds of people shared Dean’s lost dog post on Facebook, and thousands were praying for her. Complete strangers were on the lookout for her, many driving slowly up and down Harriseckett Road and other nearby roads looking for any signs of the lost dog. Flyers asking shoppers to be on the lookout for Paisley were posted in local stores.

“I was so exhausted. We were out searching for her every day. I chased every lead,” Dean said.

“Someone would call and say they saw something, and then you would go, and then turn around, because it turned out to be a boxer instead of a bulldog, or something else.”

Dean never gave up hope, but she worried endlessly. A week after Paisley went missing, the Nor’easter hit, with snow and sleet blanketing the Seacoast, followed by bitter cold temperatures. Local animal communicator Angie Morin of Arundel told Dean she felt that Paisley had not been taken in, and that she was still alive and in the area.

[Wells woman reunited with great-great grandfather’s beloved 1955 Buick Special]

The Collins’ were thrilled to be able to reunite Paisley with her owner, whom they’ve known for years. She turned up roughly two miles as the crow flies from Dwight Drive, and nobody knows how she spent the 12 days she was missing. Dean said Paisley lost 12 pounds during her ordeal, but didn’t suffer any frostbite or injuries. The vet said she must have found shelter. Collins wonders if maybe she discovered the old abandoned dog house he had built for one of his dogs years ago. The dog passed, and he moved it to the back of his property where it has been for years, out of sight. Perhaps she holed up there out of the elements, and then finally moved to the breezeway where he and his wife found her, he guessed.

Whatever Paisley’s story is, it has a happy ending. Collins had the flyer that Dean brought to the house still on the counter the night Paisley turned up on his doorstep. His wife was able to make that happy phone call and bring an end to her scary adventure.

“The vet said, never underestimate a bulldog,” Dean laughed.

[Musher reunited with lost sled dog in Eagle Lake]

Dean offered Collins the $500 reward, but he turned it down. Instead, she is donating it to the Wells High School football and wrestling teams in memory of Ron and Linda’s son Ryan Patrick Collins, a former member of both teams, who passed away two years ago. The money will go to a student athlete who can’t afford the proper equipment.

Paisley is recovering from her ordeal, sleeping and eating a lot and slowly regaining her strength. Meanwhile, Dean is planning a party to thank the community of volunteers who searched and prayed for her safe return.

“Please join us in celebrating this miracle and getting the chance to meet Paisley in person. I would also like to have the chance to personally thank each of you for your support. We may have started out as strangers in this journey but we are now a community of friends,” Dean said in a Facebook post announcing the party.

The welcome home party will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Wells Community Center, 113 Sanford Road.