When longtime Germantown resident Judy Hall strolled down Washington Lane one March afternoon, she was surprised not by what she saw, but what she didn’t.
She and volunteers with the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team had posted more than 200 flyers in the hopes of someone — anyone — helping locate her family’s missing dog Bonnie. But, all those signs had disappeared, too.
“I was just floored,” Hall recently told NewsWorks. “I was very upset.”
Thing was, the missing signs were just the latest in a series of upsetting discoveries that Hall has made since her family’s home caught fire in February, killing one of their two blue-nose pit bulls.
Judy Hall, her three children and brother Tom lived in the 100 block of W. Washington Lane until the late February night when faulty wiring led to a blaze that leveled their home and damaged two others.
“We’ve lived there all of my life. It’s been a family house for over 50 years,” she said. “I had just had a settlement and had just put in a new kitchen and bathroom and dining room in there. We lost all of it, everything but the clothes on our back.”
The loss went beyond possessions.
Their male pit bull, Clyde, perished in the fire, but not until his barking alerted Hall’s children who were sleeping at the time.
“[Clyde] slept in the bed with my daughter. He barked to wake them up,” she said. “He died saving my daughter’s life. So, this is almost like a child to me.”
Tom Hall said the missing signs, and subsequent investigation, only made a bad situation worse.
“It’s enough that we lost everything in the fire. That’s tough in itself. And, one animal already perished in the fire,” he said. “Now, it’s like having a child missing.”
While Bonnie was initially thought to have perished as well, that would not be the case. Folks from Red Paw and the Mt. Airy Animal Hospital only found Clyde in the charred rubble.
A week after the fire, hero dog Clyde was cremated — thanks to donated funds from the Mt. Airy Animal Hospital — and the family began their quest to find Bonnie.
Red Paw Emergency Relief Team founder Jen Leary said her group helped the Hall family launch their search by posting information on Twitter, creating and distributing flyers and reaching out to local animal shelters and animal-control centers.
But, they could only help the family to a certain extent: The organization’s mission is assisting displaced pets during disasters, not searching for lost ones.
“We do what we can,” Leary said. “We’re not dog catchers so we can’t really pursue it forever.”
Judy Hall has since increased the reward for finding Bonnie from $1,000 to $4,000.
The lone lead
So far, the family has only received one tip.
Judy Hall said she got a phone call from someone who’d said they had seen her dog at a home on West Duval Street in Germantown.
Following that lead, she went to a home there that had several pit bulls behind a gate. Judy Hall said the dogs appeared to be shivering cold, filthy and hungry.
So, she reported those “unfit conditions” to the police and the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who came to the home and removed one of the dogs. (Several NewsWorks attempts to contact the home owner, including knocks on the front door, were unsuccessful.)
Judy Hall had hoped the SPCA visit would lead to the return of her dog, which the tipster said was there. It didn’t.
SPCA officer Greg Jordan declined to comment about any visits or open cases related to the Duval Street home, but said the agency has “no indications that this is, in any way, related to her missing dog.”
Waiting for answers
While Judy Hall has strong feelings that the house, and perhaps its owner, are somehow connected to the removal of her “Help Find Bonnie” fliers, she lacks any solid proof.
So, six weeks later, she remains at square one.
Leary said she empathizes with the Halls, but is at a loss to help them get their dog back.
“I would say to never give up hope, but it’s definitely hard because Bonnie’s owner really believes that somebody has her,” Leary said. “I don’t know if that’s the case, and I don’t even know how to tell her to go about getting her.
“You would think a $4,000 reward would entice people but, sadly, this city is full of pitbulls and some people do bad things with them.”
To address the missing-signs issue, Hall has printed an additional 200 fliers. She and her daughter will distribute those throughout Germantown this weekend.
She said she’s not giving up hope anytime soon.
“We’ll just keep putting up posters and waiting for some answers,” she said. “As long as I have breath in me, I’ll still be looking.”
Anyone with information about the missing dog is encouraged to contact Judy Hall at (215) 678-4091.