By Jessica Isaacs
Photos courtesy of FIND ADDIE Facebook group
After two weeks of braving harsh winter weather on her own, 4-year-old mini dachshund Addie was reunited with her family in Georgia thanks to a massive network of local residents on a mission. Not only has Addie’s story touched many hearts since she first went missing, it’s strengthened a bond and created new friendships in the already tight knit community of the High Country.
Atlanta residents Charles and Emily Heuer were spending the New Year’s Eve holiday in downtown Blowing Rock when their beloved Addie disappeared from their rental property. Devastated by the separation and scheduled to return home on Jan. 1, the Heuers extended their stay to look for her.
As temperatures continued to drop and the first big snow storm of the season set in, Addie, weighing in at just six pounds, was still out on her own. Over the course of the first week of January, she was spotted occasionally at the Food Lion in Blowing Rock and then in the Ski Crest community along Dameron Drive, although she fled from search volunteers every time.
Broken hearted, Charles and Emily had to return to their home in Atlanta on Jan. 5 and leave the rescue operation in the hands of new friends.
Addie’s story gained traction the following week when her owners enlisted the help of the public Facebook group called Watauga County NC Pets Lost and Found. The Heuers posted her information and it was shared among the group’s more than 1,100 followers. From there, the group’s administrators — animal rescue volunteers Janet Myers, Susan Slings and Judy Berongi Vincent — were among the many, many local residents who helped spread the word and encourage people to look for Addie.
After following the Heuers’ story on social media, local rescue volunteer Erin Shelnutt ran into the couple by happenstance and was moved to organize a search team.
“Really, what got me, was the look of loss on their faces. That was it for me, and I had to step it up. I know it’s a look you don’t want to see on anybody,” Shelnutt said. “It’s a loss of a family member. At that point, I decided to group people together who were looking.”
From there, Shelnutt created a separate Facebook group called “Find Addie” to help streamline communication and organize the concerted effort. Group texts were coordinated with the Heuers and volunteers in Blowing Rock, where updates were shared as traps were checked around the area.
Sightings were reported and shared and volunteers gave many hours to setting up trail cameras, splitting up watch areas and setting live traps that were loaned to the effort by Trapper Mike and other local folks.
“Every person had a part in it. I think it’s like a puzzle, and we were looking for the right pieces. I’m telling you what, we were group texting 24 hours a day,” Shelnutt said. “I spent at least eight hours a day relaying messages back and fourth. Every person was important to that rescue.”
Soon, an army of magnanimous friends and neighbors were pooling their resources to scour the town of Blowing Rock and pinpoint Addie’s location. Local agencies were on board, too, including the town’s police and fire departments, its chamber of commerce, nearby veterinary hospitals, the county animal control agency and the humane society.
Neighbors who knew little to nothing about one another beforehand were suddenly hiking the area together, swapping stories and moments of hope as they watched for the missing dachshund. Even Florida residents Tony and Ruth Brus spent their vacation in the mountains trekking through the Dameron area looking for her. People who would have never crossed paths otherwise were building friendships, sharing emotions and investing together in the life of a family of strangers and their cherished little dog, Addie.
Then, after nearly two weeks of constant searching, volunteers Jessica Clearwater and Gary Samson checked a trap they’d set earlier in the crawlspace of a burned down home in Ski Crest. This time, Addie was there!
“It was Friday night, and we were on the porch and Charles was showing me how to delete something from my phone. I remember him walking over to me. I had just gotten home from work and was trying to answer everybody that had private messaged me throughout the day and to read over everything,” Emily said. “He was bending down to show me his phone when he got a message. We looked down at it and it said, ‘We got her, trap two.’”
The Heuers waited on pins and needles for confirmation that the pup they found was actually their Addie, and were elated when they saw her photo pop up next on the screen of Charles’s phone.
“That was around 7 p.m. and we just went ballistic,” said Emily. “The whole neighborhood probably heard us.”
While the Heuers made arrangements to travel to the High Country, Clearwater and Sampson transported Addie to the Animal Emergency and Pet Care Clinic in Boone for medical attention. Charles and Emily immediately hit the road and were reunited with Addie at the clinic.
Panoramic Hospitality arranged an overnight stay for the reunited Heuer family in a pet-friendly room at La Quinta Inn and Suites of Boone, where search party volunteers and local businesses joined for a celebration in Addie’s honor.
“I gotta tell ya, this is not my first rescue, but it’s the biggest one I’ve seen where a whole group came together, and the reason that I saw Addie was because of the Lost and Found page,” Shelnutt said. “I’ve been getting phone calls and texts from Colorado, California and all over from people just saying how much they’ve been watching this story and it’s helped them in their own personal life. Even for a lot of people in our group, it has helped them with some personal things going on right now. It’s pulled on a lot of strings for everyone.”
Still amazed at the organized effort to rescue their precious Addie, Charles and Emily have become even more attached to the High Country, a community that was already close to their hearts.
“It is absolutely incredible. It still touches my heart. If we didn’t have them, we would have never found her, I don’t think,” Emily said. “Gary told us that if we hadn’t lost Addie on New Year’s Eve, then none of those neighbors would have ever become such close friends. That’s going to stay forever with us.
“We got married at the Inn at Crestwood three years ago, and after the wedding we just fell in love. We don’t have kids now, but we always thought that area would be a great place to raise children, so we just came home and went back to life. After this, we’re actually looking to move up there, eventually.”
Addie survived the coldest and most severe winter weather we’ve seen all season, and now she’s back to enjoying the comforts of home.
“It’s just an amazing experience,” said Charles. “Everybody got behind us to help find her, and, now that she’s home, we can settle back into a new year and move forward. Finally, we can actually relax and know that our family’s complete again.”
Check out the public group FIND ADDIE to learn more about the numerous kind hearts that helped her get back home.
“If you believe in a higher power, that’s what brought us all together,” Shelnutt said.
Now that sweet Addie is back with her family, local rescuers encourage the public to stay connected to that Lost and Found page and keep an eye out for other pets in the area who are missing from their homes. Click over now and see if there are any missing pets in your community, like Summer, the Golden Retriever who has been missing from Boone since March. You could be the reason that a family is reunited with their loved one!