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Virginia community helps to find lost puppy from New Kensington

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 10:14 a.m.
Joni and Brian Marcy spend time with their golden retriever Zoe in their New Kensington home on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. The couple lost Zoe at a gas station in Virginia on Nov. 17 after she was scared by the noise of a truck and ran off. On Nov. 23, they were reunited. They say many strangers helped them find their dog.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Joni and Brian Marcy spend time with their golden retriever Zoe in their New Kensington home on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. The couple lost Zoe at a gas station in Virginia on Nov. 17 after she was scared by the noise of a truck and ran off. On Nov. 23, they were reunited. They say many strangers helped them find their dog.

When Joni Marcy lost her golden retriever puppy some 300 miles from home, her dearest wish was to find her.

But when Marcy was reunited a week later with the dog named Zoe, she had found a lot more.

Marcy and her husband, Brian Marcy, were on their way home to New Kensington from Myrtle Beach on Sunday, Nov. 17, when they stopped at a gas station along Interstate 77 in Bland County, Va., near Bastian.

The couple had two of their four dogs with them — Amore, a Pomeranian, and Zoe, a retriever born April 1 they've had since the end of May.

They had the dogs out for a bathroom break when a truck pulled up next to them. It revved its engine and scared Zoe so badly that she pulled the leash out of Joni's hand and ran into the woods.

“We searched for six hours that day,” Marcy said. “We didn't have any luck finding her.”

What they did find right away were people willing to help them look. Among the first were a group of kids in a van, who got hot dogs from the gas station in hopes of attracting the pup.

Searching the woods, Brian encountered a local hunter, Steve Sluss.

“That man was our angel,” Joni said. “He looked every single day and night with deer spotting lights trying to find her. He got other hunters in the area to look. He checked with loggers.

“He would call us every evening to see if we'd heard anything.”

Sluss said he thought Brian Marcy was the one who was lost when he encountered him.

“Brian and Joni were super nice people, and it really broke my heart when they had to leave and Joni was crying. I'm a dog lover, too,” Sluss said. “I really felt sorry for them. I was going to do everything I could possibly do to find this dog for them. I know that terrain very well.”

Fliers went up, and word quickly spread around the area of the distraught woman from Pennsylvania who was desperately searching for her lost puppy.

A dog was found that Wednesday, Nov. 20, and the couple made the drive back to Virginia.

It wasn't Zoe.

“People there just galvanized around us,” Joni said. “There were hundreds of people looking for this puppy.”

Kathy Weaver lives in Cherry Tree, Indiana County, and has never met the Marcys. Her sister, who lives in Saltsburg and works with Joni's aunt, told her about Zoe being lost.

Seeing a picture of Zoe reminded Weaver of her own dog, Natalie. She started a “Find Zoe” page on Facebook, hoping it would help.

“I thought, ‘If this was Natalie, what would I do?' That's kind of what inspired me,” Weaver said. “Within two days, it had close to 300 friends.”

Christy Cline, a Bland County native, lives nearby in Princeton, W.Va. She had seen messages on Facebook about Zoe and joined in the search.

Bland County had about 6,800 residents as of the 2010 Census; that's about half the population of New Kensington.

“Bland is such a caring community,” Cline said. “If one is hurt or having problems, everybody's there for everybody. It's just the way the county is. Everybody comes together.

“(The dog) ended up lost in a caring community.”

Cline drives through the area where Zoe was lost every day. She stopped a few times to look, but had no luck.

The Marcys were getting discouraged.

On Saturday, Nov. 23, a man called the Marcys and said he had seen a small golden-colored dog near the same gas station where Zoe ran off. Within 20 minutes the Marcys were in their car, starting the five-hour drive to get there.

Cline saw online that the dog had been spotted and that the Marcys were on their way. She gathered up some dog food and treats and got there well ahead of the Marcys.

Others had seen Zoe, but were not able to catch her. Cline said she drove around the backside of the gas station and immediately saw the dog.

“I got out of the car, bent down, hollered for her and she came right to me. She was in my arms,” she said. “I called Joni and said ‘I have Zoe.' She started crying immediately.”

Cline met the Macys at the Princeton exit on Interstate 77, where they were reunited with Zoe.

“She was very glad to see us, just as much as we were to see her, I think,” Marcy said.

Zoe got checked by a veterinarian and was found to be OK. In fact, she was so healthy, the vet believed she may have been taken in during the week she was missing.

In addition to having her name and the Marcys' phone number on her collar, Zoe has an implanted microchip that can be used to identify her.

There's the belief that whoever had scooped up Zoe got the idea she could be tracked with the microchip and, combined with the attention from the search, got scared and released her back near the gas station.

That Zoe had not been seen for six days reinforces the theory, Marcy said.

“We will never know if it was true or not,” Cline said.

Joni Marcy doesn't care. “They kept her out of the weather,” she said.

The couple is hosting a gathering for those who helped find Zoe on Dec. 14 at Ringer's Pet Dog Training in Tarentum.

“Everybody put so much effort into finding her and they don't know me or my dog,” she said. “So many people went out of their way and spent so much time and effort to find this puppy.

“It really restores your faith in humanity.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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