After six months, Molly returns to her family

February 27, 2012 12:00 am
  • Eliza, Jami and Bruce Estabrook with their dogs, Molly, left, and Naia.
    Eliza, Jami and Bruce Estabrook with their dogs, Molly, left, and Naia.
  • Reunited after six months, Jami Estabrook and Molly
    Reunited after six months, Jami Estabrook and Molly
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If a dog's life were a movie, Molly would be Tom Hanks' character in "Castaway."

Confused when her family went away for a weekend, the shepherd/border collie mix ran away Aug. 17 when a family friend let her out in the yard of their Mt. Lebanon home. Within a week, she found herself in the wilds of Beechview, living off the kindness of strangers but never letting anyone close enough to read the ID tags on her collar.

Her family, meanwhile, combed the woods near their house and posted 400 lost dog fliers on telephone poles in Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Castle Shannon and Bridgeville. Jami Estabrook posted her photo on www.telephonepole.org and checked it every day. Whenever someone called, she immediately left work or wherever she was to check it out.

After several sightings near the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center -- including a man who reported a "fuzzy bear" sleeping in his yard -- she was filled with hope. She borrowed a humane trap from Animal Friends and baited it with food and blankets from home. But all it caught was a raccoon. She was certain the search was over when some boys living near Hoover Elementary called in October to say they had captured a fuzzy black dog. Then she was crushed to discover it wasn't her fuzzy black dog.

Meanwhile, in Beechview, Molly was getting fuzzier, putting on her winter coat and adapting to life on the run. For six months, Dave Walchesky, a Pittsburgh Allderdice High School teacher and coach, fed her and tried to win her trust. In January, he borrowed a trap from Allegheny County dog warden Steve Stoehr and closely followed his instructions to "think like a dog," gradually moving food from the yard to inside the trap. On the morning of Feb. 16, he awoke to find Molly inside and immediately called Mr. Stoehr. Mrs. Estabrook recounts their phone conversation like dialogue from a favorite movie:

Kevin Kirkland: kkirkland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1978.
First Published 2012-02-28 10:15:57
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