Woman uses Facebook to match lost pets, owners

10/12/2012 7:15 AM

10/12/2012 9:54 AM

Lesa Hiebert is a doggie detective of sorts.

Well, she’s sniffed out cats and birds, too.

Hiebert operates the “Wichita Area Lost and Found Pets” page on Facebook, which attempts to match up lost and found pets and return Fido and Fluffy to their families.

She spends her days scanning classified ads in The Eagle, notices on the Craigslist website, photographs on www.petharbor.com and sites such as lostdogwichita.com.

She essentially aggregates lost and found pet ads. Someone found a yellow lab in west Wichita? Hiebert remembers seeing on Craigslist that Suzy lost a yellow lab. With the click of a mouse, she connects the two.

“If one of my pets were lost, I’d want someone to do whatever they could,” she said.

She starts as early as 4 a.m. some days when she can’t sleep, using her laptop computer to spread word about missing animals. Surrounded by dogs — Sally the miniature schnauzer, Frankie the standard schnauzer, Foxy and Flower the brother-and-sister chihuahuas and Kitty, a 9-month-old Affenpinscher that she is fostering — Hiebert jots down information and gets on the phone.

From a manila file folder, she pulled out a picture of a Rottweiler missing now for about a year. She pointed to the dog, snuggled up on a sofa in the photo, and promised she wouldn’t give up.

The work breaks her heart sometimes.

Called to help

Hiebert’s mission started more than a year ago.

She was watching a news story about a Boston terrier and pug mix — she called the dog a “bug” — that had been stolen.

She felt called to help.

“I got on the Internet, started looking around at different sites,” she said. “I started copying every post I could of lost and found pets.”

At the time, someone else was running Wichita Area Lost and Found Pets.

He noticed all of her posts and asked her, she said, if she wanted to be the page’s administrator.

She did.

Since April 2011, she’s been the face behind the page.

“It’s kind of like a good neighbor thing,” she said. “The more hands, the more eyes, the better.”

Animal lover

Hiebert has been bringing animals home since she was 5 years old and found a kitten with a tail that had been ran over.

“I had that kitty till I graduated from high school,” Hiebert said.

In second grade, she brought home a little black dog she named Punch after a friend whose dog had had puppies said she could have one.

“He said it was a Saint Bernard, but it really was a cocker spaniel,” she said.

Hiebert works out of her home, a neat and tidy ranch house that smells of scented candles and is decorated with Dreamsicle figurines and family photos.

She considers her dogs four-legged children. She shrugs and admits she spoils them and whispers that maybe she isn’t the best foster mother because she lets her dogs get up on the furniture and sleep with her and her husband.

A measure of solace

Andrea Guerra has found some small measure of solace in Hiebert’s Facebook page.

Her daughter’s dog, Bailey, a Yorkshire terrier, went missing Sept. 11 from the 135th and Maple area

Guerra placed her own ads, looked for Bailey at the Wichita Animal Shelter and posted on the Wichita Area Lost and Found Pets page.

“The website kind of feels like a support group,” she said.

Hiebert, Guerra said, lets her know anytime someone finds a Yorkie, just in case.

“She continues looking even if you’ve lost hope,” Guerra said.

Guerra wrote in an e-mail that her daughter, Madelynn, 7, has cried and “asked me if we would ever see Bailey again. All I could say was ‘I’m not sure.’ ”

Guerra has offered a reward for Bailey, and said her daughter offered all of her money — $132, including coins — if that would help.

She “asked me if pennies would work too,” Guerra said. “It just breaks my heart to see her so sad.”

Success story

Andrew and Jami Rutherford’s two dogs, a German shepherd and a Labrador retriever and pit bull mix, went missing Tuesday.

Andrew Rutherford noticed they weren’t home when he got home from classes.

They drove around looking for the dogs, and in the morning, printed fliers to put up around the neighborhood.

Jami Rutherford posted on the Facebook page of Wichita Area Buy, Sell and Trade. Someone on that page referred her to Hiebert’s page. So she posted there.

Soon, Hiebert was calling, saying the dogs were at the Wichita Animal Shelter.

“I think it’s great,” Jami Rutherford said of Hiebert’s service. “I see dogs every once in a while and now I can say ‘Hey, this dog was here.’ ”

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