WHEN Harry the much-loved golden retriever went missing from Rye on New Year’s morning, his human family could not have predicted the incredible and heart-warming community response that would follow.
Harry’s disappearance and eventual recovery gripped communities across the country, highlighting the power of social media and the amazing connection between people and animals.
Soon after one-year-old Harry broke free of his leash and ran off from his “mum” Leonie Jarrett at the Rye shops, his devoted family took to social media to alert the community. For days Harry remained elusive and there were no firm sightings, with Jarrett and her husband and four children beginning to fear the worst.
By the end of day two, the family – including Harry’s mate, two-year-old retriever Albus – were fretting, and the Jarretts were starting to believe the beautiful, gentle pup had been stolen and spirited away to another location.
But by then, something remarkable was happening. Complete strangers were driving around Rye searching for Harry day and night, trolling social media in case he ended up on a selling site, and checking shelters and council pounds.
Facebook posts reached more than 50,000 people and were shared about 1000 times. A Tik Tok video was viewed 1800 times.
Messages of love and support came from everywhere, and once his story was aired on 3AW, tens of thousands of people across the state knew of Harry’s disappearance.
There were many unconfirmed sightings, but Jarrett said each phone call or text buoyed the family and showed them that the community was behind them.
So, when a call came through around 8.30 on Wednesday morning saying a dog matching Harry’s was seen near Woolworth’s in Rye, not far from where Harry had disappeared three days earlier, the family jumped into action. But, almost as soon as Jarret hung up another call came through from someone who had just seen a golden retriever in nearby Hygeia Street.
“We called our adult children who arrived in their cars and we all walked around the area for an hour or so. Then around 9.20am a call came through from a third person who said a scared dog was in the foreshore bushes across from the cafe Harry had bolted from three days earlier, and they were trying to keep him there until we got there.”
Jarrett said as soon as she arrived at the foreshore and saw Harry, she collapsed on the ground crying and holding on to him.
Another stranger came out with a bowl of water for the thirsty pup.
Jarrett said the “goodness of people” has amazed her family, and she wanted to thank every one of the thousands of people who shared Harry’s story or joined in the search.
“My take home from this experience is I’m going to get a tracker for him so it never happens again, and for everyone with a dog out there, give them a big cuddle.”