Ellen McCormick’s love for dogs began early.
Her parents found a stray when her mother was pregnant with her, and Moocher the pooch immediately took to watching over baby Ellen.
McCormick, now 32, recently took that love for man’s best friend and converted it into a social networking website that reunites lost dogs with their owners.
The Lost Dog Project, which McCormick began in August, surged with activity in March after a Husky named Blaze was lost and last spotted in Plains Township.
The site currently has almost 2,500 followers and, at one point during Blaze’s adventure, had nearly 7,000 people sharing the dog’s picture.
Just last month, McCormick’s site help reunite more than 40 dogs with their owners.
“It’s nice to see how the community comes together,” McCormick, originally of Forty Fort and who currently lives in Scranton, said. “It’s good to see so many good people working for a good cause.”
McCormick started the social networking page in August while volunteering at the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter in Clarks Summit.
During her 45-minute drive to and from the shelter, McCormick began to spot stray dogs on the road, in neighborhoods and saw dozens come in and out of the shelter.
“I started realizing just how many lost dogs there were. I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to help,” she said.
McCormick, who owns a black lab/chow mix named Mack, said if she saw a dog walking along the side of a road – including the interstate – she’d pull over to try to get them, not even thinking about her own safety.
She’d go to the shelter every day to walk dogs because she knew they wanted to be out and with their families.
“You could see the sadness in their eyes,” McCormick said. “You could just tell they were lost.”
And so, the Lost Dog Project was born – and people began posting, sharing and “liking” McCormick’s page.
Galley of missing dogs
Before McCormick started the Facebook page, she would get photos of missing dogs from people and hang them up in her room.
“It looked like a police crime room, where they have all the suspects photos everywhere,” McCormick said. “I would stay up until 4 a.m., trying to match them with dogs at shelters or rescues.”
McCormick began seeing a need for the page after she was flooded with photos and began sharing them to help reunite lost dogs.
There’s Boomer and Snoopy and Diamond. McCormick can name nearly every dog she’s seen a photo of and has helped reunite with their family. When Blaze went missing in March, McCormick took it personal.
Her parents, Daniel and Mary Ellen, owned two Golden Retrievers – Sadie and Boru – and Boru was hit by a car and passed away in February, a few weeks earlier. Sadie is now 3 1/2.
McCormick began searching for Blaze in Plains Township – where he had been spotted - asking businesses if they’d seen him, seeking out help from a mailman and walking miles in search of him.
“I didn’t even know (Blaze’s) owners, but I knew I had to reunite them,” she said.
Blaze was ultimately found in Plymouth and reunited with his owner, Bianca Jancewicz, of Forty Fort.
“Without (McCormick’s) page we never would have found Blaze,” Jancewicz said. “The amount of people that reached out and wanted to help was incredible. Literally hundreds of people called and texted me asking how and where they can look for Blaze because they saw it on the (Lost Dog Project).”
“I can’t thank Ellen and all the volunteers enough for their amazing help and support,” Jancewicz said.
“It was the greatest day,” McCormick recalled of when Blaze was found and taken home. “I kept getting calls and texts – everyone knew Blaze was missing and everyone was watching for him.”
McCormick, who uses Blaze’s photo as the Lost Dog Project’s “poster child,” jokes that Blaze will never get lost again - everyone in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties will recognize him.
His picture was shared about 7,000 times during the time he was missing.
Web page in works
McCormick now is creating a web page – www.nepalostdog.com – and hopes to get the word out to as many people as she can about the page.
She also hopes to eventually make the Lost Dog Project a non-profit organization, but is far away from making that a reality.
“We have about a 90 percent success rate,” McCormick said. “The hardest part is keeping up with the page. We get so many photos.”
About 30 dogs were reunited with owners in March with the page’s help. McCormick typically posts photos of dogs missing in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
Users post photos of dogs they see or own that are lost, and other users can share them. Photos then gets posted on the users’ own Facebook pages, where their list of friends can see the photos.
McCormick said her goal is to reunite every dog with their owner – one way or another.
“I just want (the owners) to have closure,” she said. “I always try to tell them to stay positive (when their dog is lost). No news is good news.
McCormick said timing is everything when searching for a dog and posting their photo while hoping it reaches as many people as it can.
“I’ve gotten to know dogs just from talking with their owners, and I’ve made a lot of good friends,” she said. “I’ve gotten amazing support and I’m so thankful.”