Clock is ticking to find critically ill dog in NW Philadelphia

Now 12 days off of her necessary medications, Shirley, a three-year-old Great Dane who went missing on Aug. 29, is running out of time.

Her owner, Alissa Gravelle of Germantown, was getting her out of her own car when the dog was hit by a car traveling down W. Coulter Street near Queen Lane Station. The collision caused the dog to flee.

Due to Addison’s disease, which affects the adrenal glands, Shirley requires daily medications and a monthly injection.

“I want Shirley back more than anything. I have never been so distraught than I am right now,” said Gravelle after returning from another unsuccessful search effort on Monday night. “Shirley has helped me in more ways than I think I’ve helped her through life so far – we’ve got an extremely close bond, one that I am not ready to say goodbye to yet.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Community pitches in 

With almost 600 ‘likes’ on the rescue effort’s Facebook page, the search for the missing dog has united people from all over Philadelphia who are eager to help.

Jocelyn Robles of Northeast Philadelphia is the lead organizer of the search and rescue team. Initially, she learned of the search through Whispering Woods Animal Rescue (WWAR), which helped to flyer the neighborhood and search for Shirley.

When the owners decision was made to end WWAR’s involvement, Robles stayed on and created a blog page for Shirley.

“Alissa is in graduate school in the medical field and her husband is in the army – he leaves for Afghanistan in two weeks. It’s a lot of stress to lose your dog on top of that. I just know if one of my dogs went missing I’d want someone to help me,” lamented Robles, who is a positive reinforcement dog trainer and owner of three dogs.

She explained the effort has caused an overflow of calls, emails and texts as well as Facebook posts that are unrelated to finding the dog. Robles hopes the blog will better centralize the search effort.

The rescue strategy

Conducive to the latest tips that she has received, Robles believes Shirley is roaming around the trail areas of Wissahickon Valley Park.

“We last heard that she was seen near Henry Avenue near Kitchen’s Lane,” said Robles.

Throughout this week Robles is setting up designated “observation stations” marked by biodegradable twine in the park where volunteers will take shifts to “watch” for Shirley.

“The stations will enable large portions of the park to be covered,” said Robles, who says scaring the dog off is the main reason why the owners don’t want people perusing the woods and calling for the dog in loud tones. 

She says because Shirley is a “nervous and anxious” canine, the dog has fled during the five-or-so sightings, even fleeing a cyclist on the trail.She hopes that volunteers will contact her with a sighting tip as soon as it happens so that they may anticipate the dog’s next move.

“Time is running out,” admitted Robles, “we’re in the third week now. It’s a critical time, we’re really pushing to find her this week.”

Gravelle says the overwhelming support from the community has been amazing but adds that she has also been flooded with “hurtful judgement and criticism.”

“To those individuals, traumatically losing a dog can happen to anyone, anytime,” she said. “Please keep your thoughts to yourself because this could very well happen to you just as quickly and unexpectedly as it did to us and when it does, you will want pure support and regret the negativity. Please respect our wishes during this sensitive time, we just want our Shirley back!”

On the blog page, Robles has asked volunteers to flyer and inquire at the Sunoco at Walnut Lane and Henry Avenue, Saul Agricultural School and all along Forbidden Drive.

To find out how you can help, go to Shirley’s rescue page.  If you spot Shirley, call 507-358-5547. 

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to include responses from Shirley’s owner, Alissa Gravelle, who was not available for comment at the time of original posting. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal