York community rallies in successful search of lost dog

Contact Reportermobrien@dailypress.com

The New Year started off with an adventure for York County’s Terry and Bill Kennedy and their dog, Oban. It began with a firecracker at the stroke of midnight to start 2018, the sound of which startled Oban and sent him racing into the darkness.

That began a 32-hour search in freezing temperatures that the Kennedys feared would end in heartbreak. Instead, it concluded with the 15-week-old Goldendoodle’s rescue on a frozen marsh that gave the Kennedys a heightened appreciation of their neighbors and the power of Facebook.

“I can’t say enough about the people in York County,” said Bill Kennedy, a retired Marine and elementary school teacher. “It’s amazing how many people came together just for a puppy.”

Oban was found by a neighbor, and taken to a vet, where he was given a clean bill of health. The Kennedys used Facebook to fuel the search-and-rescue effort.

The Kennedys commenced the search for their missing dog from the moment he bolted, spending much of the early morning hours outside in temperatures below 20 degrees and a wind chill below 0. In those few minutes they went inside to warm up in their Harwoods Mill-area home, they posted about Oban’s disappearance on the “York County VA 411” Facebook page.

They soon were getting responses from hundreds reacting to the post or commenting about the missing dog, as well as scores of people who came to the neighborhood to look for him.

“I’d say there were at least 20 cars of people who drove into the neighborhood to look for him and more than 20 people on foot searching,” said Terry Kennedy, a surgical technician at Walter Reed Hospital in Gloucester. “The response was overwhelming.”

The photo posted of their rust-colored golden retriever-poodle mix on the Facebook page and in the fliers certainly helped. The Kennedys brought Oban into their home Nov. 9, less than three months after their 13-year-old golden retriever Dallas died.

They named him Sir Oban Guinness and call him Oban after the coastal town on Scotland’s west coast. He’s been, Terry Kennedy said, well-behaved and so loving he always wants to be near her.

As midnight approached on New Year’s Eve, she took him out into the front yard for a bathroom break and to wish a neighbor a happy new year when the firecracker exploded nearby. She did not have Oban on a leash because he had never attempted to run away from her while in the yard.

“He’s just 26 pounds,” she said. “I didn’t think he could survive in that cold with so little fat, so I thought we’d never see him again.”

Sleeping little over the next 32 hours, as she, Bill and the volunteers searched, her fears grew. Then Tuesday morning she received a call from Kathi Kruse.

Kruse’s neighbor, Jane Stergin, recognized Oban, who stood 30 yards from her backyard on the other side of the frozen marsh about a mile from the Kennedy’s home. Stergin recruited neighbor Tim Baba to kayak across the marsh and rescue Oban, while Kruse called the Kennedy’s phone number that been posted on the York County VA 411 Facebook page.

“The marsh (about five feet deep) was pretty frozen, so I had to use the paddle to chop the ice,” said Baba, who is retired from the Air Force and works as an environmental scientist. “I slowly worked my way across (in about 12 minutes), got to the other side and the dog was so happy (licking Baba’s face), he almost capsized us on the way back over.

“I had to calm him down. When we got back to the other side, the owner (Terry Kennedy) was so happy to see the dog, she lost it.”

It was emotional for Bill Kennedy, too.

“I was very relieved,” he said. “A dog is like a child and it was bad enough to have lost Dallas in August.

“If we’d lost another child, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

O’Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963 and on Twitter @MartyOBrienDP

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