A dog named Pua, missing since June, has captivated a small Piscataquis County town.
Pua, named after the cuddly pig in the Disney animated film “Moana,” is a Great Dane and German shepherd mix. He is black and gray, 3 years old and running wild, but toward whom or what, nobody knows. Some have called him the unofficial mascot of Dover-Foxcroft and referred to him as something like a folk hero.
Pua ran from his new owner the day he was adopted, was caught two weeks later and escaped again after just a few hours. A Facebook page dedicated to sightings of the dog helps townspeople track his whereabouts, which have ranged from the McDonald’s parking lot in town to PJ’s Bait Shop in Dexter to somewhere on State Route 150 in Guilford just a few days ago.
Something about the chronicles of Pua, perhaps his largeness, swift nature and how long he has managed to survive in the rural Maine woods, has enthralled the town. People like to feel part of something, and this dog has given hundreds a cause to rally around. His bolt for freedom has also sparked spats among locals online, mostly criticisms about the response to his escape and the best ways to catch him.
But at the heart of this story is a dog that deserves love and a good home, as all pets do. The longer he remains missing, the more people worry about his survival as winter in Maine approaches.
“Last I heard, he was on the railroad bed up toward Guilford,” said resident Kevin Farr, who spotted Pua on outer Essex Street in July and tempted him with dog food, but to no avail. “Them long legs are hard to catch.”
Rebecca Maxcy, 25, adopted Pua from a woman in South Paris in early June. She had grown up with a Great Dane and was excited to bring home a new pet for her three children. When they met in Mercer to pick him up, he barked and puffed out his chest, particularly at Maxcy’s father, but he seemed to warm up a few minutes later, she said.
During the drive back to Dover-Foxcroft, Pua gazed out the back window, and Maxcy’s father warned it was a sign he was attached to his previous owner. As soon as they pulled up and opened the hatch, the dog bolted.
This map was created based on sightings in the Pua Sightings Facebook page to give readers an idea of his whereabouts. It does not encompass the dog’s entire journey since he went missing in June. Scroll to view more locations.
Maxcy’s friend caught him two weeks later at Foxcroft Academy. But after a few hours, Pua escaped his harness and ran away again — this time, for months.
A local resident on June 20 created a Facebook page to track recent sightings of Pua, which was also meant to weed out the finger-pointing and negativity swirling on other pages, Maxcy said. Nearly 500 people had joined as of Friday, sharing photos and security camera footage of his visits.
Area residents have sent well wishes and prayers to Pua. One woman claimed she had a dream about saving the dog. Some have searched for him, offered donations and left food on their porches, hoping he might stop by for a midnight snack and consistent visits could lead to his capture. Others have suggested humanely trapping him or shooting him with a tranquilizer gun as a last resort.
Some have blamed Maxcy for being an irresponsible pet owner and the animal control officer, who set a trap the first time Pua went missing, for not doing his job. Other attempts to set a trap have not panned out. There was even a woman, a stranger to Maxcy, who claimed online to be Pua’s owner, which caused an uproar, she said.
“I’m just as frustrated as everybody else about this poor dog,” said Joe Guyotte, Dover-Foxcroft’s animal control officer. “I don’t know how to catch it because you can’t get close enough with a catch pole or anything like that. It’s just scared.”
Guyotte is willing to try setting another trap, which the state owns but currently is in town. But it will only work if placed in the right location, and Pua has been everywhere, he said.
Another option might be to get the dog comfortable enough to go into a garage and trap him that way. He heard from Maxcy on Friday that the dog was recently spotted near Parkman.
Thinking back to Pua’s adoption, Maxcy sees red flags, like when the previous owner handed her his daily anxiety medication, which had not been previously disclosed. In the short time she had him, she noticed Pua’s nervousness around men, and she wondered if he took off in search of his litter mate who he spent the first three years of his life alongside. She also learned during one of the previous owner’s visits to search for the dog that clearing a 6-foot fence is no big deal for him, she said.
When Pua first escaped, Maxcy searched for him before and after work. She and family members have walked through the woods and checked trails, swamps and local ATV paths, and a few times they came close to nabbing him, but he would dart and seems generally afraid of people, she said.
The searches have died down because they took a toll on Maxcy’s health, she said. She works night shifts as a certified nursing assistant and has an 8-month-old child at home. The last time she searched for Pua was about a week ago.
“I’ve told everybody, ‘I’m not going to give up on this dog until he is found,’” she said.
Her plan as of Friday was to coordinate with animal control locally, borrow a trap available in Levant or buy her own in the coming days.
“There has been a lot of controversy. It’s easy to point a finger until it’s your dog that runs,” said Shari Sage, Modern Image Salon owner, who hears about the dog from her clients. “I have just always hoped that the dog is OK.”
Everyone wants to be the hero who catches Pua, and Jon Knepp, resident and Thompson Free Library director, thought he was close when he spotted a large dog with a black coat running along Main Street in mid-June. He bolted after it and caught it, only to discover a tag identifying him as Theodore. Probably six or seven people drove past and shouted in amazement, thinking it was Pua, he said.
Pua’s escape has brought more awareness to missing animals and the idea that “Dover-Foxcroft is a loose dog town,” Knepp said. But his story is fascinating because it seems that on one hand, Pua wants to be wild and roam among the community. On the other hand, it isn’t a healthy way for a dog to live, he said.
Knepp, like others in town, feels powerless in this situation. He doesn’t have time to scour the woods, hoping Pua will run past him, and at times it’s easier to detach, he said.
“Sometimes I think of Pua as some kind of folk hero and wanting him to keep running because he seems impossible to catch,” he said.
Pua’s breakout has shown Maxcy that his needs are greater than she realized, and her home isn’t the best place for him, she said. When and if he is finally caught, she plans to involve him in a rehabilitation program where he can heal and eventually go to a loving home. He deserves to be healthy and happy, she said.
“We’re just voyeurs in this crazy story that is also sad when you really think about it,” Knepp said.