Plight of Maggie, missing Shetland sheepdog, goes viral

Plight of Maggie, missing Shetland sheepdog, goes viral


A poster on Route 216 in Charlestown, one of hundreds offering a reward for the return of Maggie, a sheltie that has been missing from her Charlestown home for three months. | Cynthia Drummond, The Westerly Sun.

CHARLESTOWN — It’s almost impossible to miss the posters. There are hundreds of them attached to utility poles throughout southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. Each one bears a photograph of a 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog, or sheltie, named Maggie. And word has spread as far as Canada.

On the evening of April 1, Maggie’s owner, Susie Fehrmann, let her out into her fenced yard. Fehrmann, her husband, Carl, and son Greg had just finished dinner.

“We were celebrating my birthday, so we had eaten later than usual,” she said. “We were eating and having a good time and she was right there, begging away and part of it all. We’d finished eating, my husband had cleaned up the kitchen and she usually gets a plate to lick and treats and all of that stuff.”

Maggie usually did her business quickly, came back inside and went to bed, but on this night, she didn’t.

“She didn’t come back, and I said ‘did anybody let Maggie in?’ and so I went and opened the door and called her, and she didn’t come, and so I walked out and called again and she didn’t respond,” she said.

The family went outside and walked the perimeter of the yard, but found nothing.

“She wasn’t anywhere, so then we began to panic a little bit,” Fehrmann said. “This is not her at all, and there was no way for her to get out.”

The search expanded into neighbors’ yards, and finally Fehrmann returned to the house and called the Charlestown police to report her dog missing. She also put the word out to her network of neighborhood friends. The next morning, friends and neighbors also began looking for Maggie.

“Everybody knows Maggie, because we’re on the beach and we’re out and around,” Fehrmann said.

Fehrmann believes her dog was stolen and rejects the theory that she might have been taken by a coyote.

“She’s long-haired, so if something had happened to her — people keep saying ‘a coyote,’ she’s too big, really, for a coyote — but there would be some evidence,” she said.

The Fehrmanns began putting up posters. They did not mention a reward at first, but have since offered $2,500 for the return of their dog.

When Fehrmann heard about Marge Lineweber of Mystic, who has a tracking dog that searches for lost pets, she asked her to bring the dog to Charlestown. Lineweber’s dog searched the perimeter of the yard, but was unable to pick up any scent of Maggie.

“It was her conclusion that she’d been taken over the back wall — the back wall is a stone wall — that she’d been taken over the stone wall to the new construction behind us and that she had left from there,” Fehrmann said. “She looked all over the area. We went back to the woods where coyotes would be, where there aren’t any houses, no sign of her anywhere that the dog reacted to.”

The family printed and posted hundreds of fliers everywhere they could think of. Fehrmann also started a Facebook page entitled Missing Maggie — A Call to Action. That’s when she began hearing from people in other states, and even Canada.

“The whole project took on a life of its own,” she said. “It’s all over the country. People are horrified. It’s very violating that somebody came into your yard and took your dog, but she’s not the only one. This is not unique to us.”

Fehrmann said dogs are stolen more often than people realize. Sometimes, in a crime known as dog-flipping, they are sold by thieves to unsuspecting buyers through networks like craigslist.

Maggie is microchipped, but Fehrmann said veterinarians do not routinely scan the chips to make sure they match the names of the people bringing dogs in.

“You pay money to put a chip in your dog, and it’s essentially useless,” she said. “Vets do not check chips.”

Despite Fehrmann’s outreach efforts, there hasn’t been a single sign of Maggie.

Susan Fuller, who used to walk on the beach with Fehrmann and Maggie, has been monitoring social media and sheltie rescue websites, but after three months, she’s beginning to pull back.

“I think even for myself, I can’t do it every day,” she said. “It’s three months, and it’s hard to stay hopeful. My part in this has been looking at Facebook posts. I’m on every sheltie site and at the beginning, I was posting a lot.”

Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey Allen said he hadn’t received a single lead on Maggie’s disappearance.

“I have no idea what happened,” he said. “The dog’s missing. She’s been doing a phenomenal job getting the word out. We took a police report, and there’s been absolutely no leads. Nothing.”

Fehrmann said she was making an effort to spend less time online and taking calls about her dog, but she said the pain of Maggie’s disappearance is as fresh as ever.

“I convince myself that she’s happy someplace, but I just miss her to the very core of my being,” she said. “If I had one message for people, it’s that you don’t know what you’ve got till they’re gone and that things can happen at any moment. I’ve lost old dogs and it’s horrible, but she’s 3½ years old. You just don’t think that somebody’s going to take her away and you’re never going to see her again.”


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