PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — It took the efforts of an entire community to bring 1-year-old Luna the pug home exactly a month after she ran off into the woods on the upper end of Academy Street in Presque Isle on March 5.
“We were going to drop off a car,” said Luna’s human mom Charlotte Grotton, explaining that it was below zero and very windy that day. “The wind blew the door open and all the dogs ran out. I lost three of them.”
But Luna’s buddies, Caesar, a 9-year-old border collie, and Eddie, a 2-year-old Boston terrier, turned around toward home. Luna kept running into the woods. An odd move, because Luna always followed Eddie, Grotton said.
When Luna ran off, Grotton got in the car, rushing to find her. But Luna was always a few minutes ahead.
“I’m not sure if she was afraid or looking for an adventure,” Grotton said.
What may have started out as an adventure must have quickly turned into fear for the tiny pug with temperatures dipping below zero most nights and little or no food available.
And so the search began with the help of one person who lived on the edge of the woods Luna entered. He had a pair of snowshoes, but a bad heart, So, he could only go a short distance to look for her. The search grew each day as hundreds started sharing information about Luna sightings on several social media sites and some actually searched every day for the lost puppy.
The Grotton family drove the streets for four or more hours every day in hopes of finding their girl.
Six days after Luna ran off, she came back to the Grotton house in the middle of the night, but everyone was in bed. Her paw prints were everywhere in the snow, Grotton said. And in the hopes she would come back again, they set a trap. But Luna never returned.
Grotton’s husband Michael put up flyers around the city and they had her information at the police station and on three lost dog sites.
And while there were only sparse Luna sightings, there were enough to keep the search going in targeted locations. On the Concerned Citizens of Presque Isle Facebook page, residents noted they hiked the different trails when a sighting was mentioned. Some even took days off from work and others looked for her on the weekends.
A woman from Fort Fairfield and her son would drive to Presque Isle every day and search for Luna, often using the posted sightings as clues. Others set traps, called out for her at night and kept tabs on whether she was found.
Still, as time passed, Grotton said she would get a sinking feeling every time someone said they had just missed her.
“It got to the point I couldn’t sleep or eat,” she said, adding that the whole family — mom; dad; Jonathan, 17; Nicholas, 20; Kayleigh, 14; the dogs who first ran off with Luna, plus pugs Mr. Muggles and Sophie; eight cats; eight hamsters and six rats — was devastated. “I love her to death.”
By mid-March, the requests for help from the family increased on Facebook and on those days there were more than 80 comments and 260 shares. Grotton said they hoped that the more people who saw it, the better their chance of finding Luna.
Marlene McEachern, owner of the Braden Theater, put it on the theater’s marquee. Without McEachern and so many others, Grotton said she is sure they would not have made much progress.
Initially, the Grottons posted a $500 reward for Luna. But a $500 gift toward the reward from Linda D. Shaw who works at A.R. Gould, doubled it to $1,000.
By March 23, still no Luna. But she was spotted on the bike trail heading toward Mantle Park. Each time they thought hope was fading, a new sighting got everyone back on Luna’s trail.
On April 5, perhaps Luna was too tired, too cold and too hungry. No one will really know. But she wandered up to a home on Centerline Road, about a quarter of a mile from her own home. Luna let the woman pick her up and that was it, Grotton said.
The rescuers did not want the $1,000 reward, they were just happy she was found and back with her family, she said.
Grotton worried that Luna might not recognize her after being gone for so long. But as soon as Luna saw her, she let out several of her quirky pug squeals. And that night the family treated Luna to a hamburger Happy Meal. Despite being very thin, Grotton said she is well.
“She is stuck to me like glue,” she said with a laugh.