Our Happy Holidays Story about the Power of Social Media, A Real Life Story of How Staying Connected Brought our Dog Obi Home
During the week of December 6th, two weeks before the holidays, my parents and our dog Obi started their annual trip from PA to FL. It’s a long drive but my dog doesn’t like to fly. On the way, they stopped in Florence, SC to break up the trip and give Obi some time to stretch his legs. That’s when it happened. My parents went to get takeout at a restaurant right next to their hotel. Obi waited patiently outside, watching the world go by as they grabbed their bags of supper. When my parents walked back outside, minutes later, Obi was gone. According to the waitresses inside the restaurant, a man ran up, grabbed our Portuguese Waterdog and threw him into a large maroon SUV and sped toward I-95.
As you can imagine, my family was devastated. The area in which Obi was abducted was fairly transient with a lot of hotels and rental properties, which meant little help in the way of “locals”. My parents spent the entire night filling out police reports, checking surveillance cameras, searching the area by foot and by car, but no luck. After 24 hours they had no choice but to leave, without knowing where Obi was, if he was safe, or even alive.
When I received the news that someone had stolen our family dog the next morning, our dog that has been a huge part of our family for the past 8 years, I decided to join the hunt. I uploaded Obi’s picture to Facebook, wrote his story and then started posting. I posted on all my liked pages, in groups and on contacts Facebook profile walls. My Facebook friends followed suit and so did their Facebook friends. Obi’s story went viral and before we knew it, 1,000s of people fell in love with him and began to follow the updates from their mobile phones and computers.
I posted Obi’s story on local Facebook FAN pages for SC businesses, shelters, pounds, communities, everywhere I possibly could that had a Facebook page or profile. The very next day, we started receiving phone calls and the Obi sightings, tips and leads began to roll in. We knew which leads were valid when they described Obi’s red collar, a detail that no one would have known without having seen Obi in the flesh. With hope in his heart, my Dad hopped on a plane and flew back to South Carolina.
As the leads came in, I spread the word through all social media channels from my phone including Twitter and Facebook. We had people who wrote in with their support, we had people who were spreading the word through their social media networks, we had people in SC turning over ever rock and shrub, hunting for our Obi.
People were on the move all around the region where Obi was last sighted, calling me from the wooded area where he had just been seen, calling me from a local burger joint where he stopped by, calling me from a local mall where he was perceived to be. Each of these good Samaritans’ were calling a virtual stranger, from their personal cell phones, taking their own time to find a dog they had never met. These were the kindest, most sincere people I had ever spoken to. As the calls continued and support for my family and the hunt for Obi grew, I started to realize how powerful it was to see all of these people come together for a stranger in need. From a network of online “friends”, I was truly becoming friends with these people, they were now a part of my life.
The following Thursday morning, over a week later, I received a call and wasn’t sure what to think. It had been so long, and despite all the Obi sightings, we still didn’t have our dog back. We had begun to lose hope, but this call seemed different than the rest.
I called my Dad and told him that a gentleman had just called and said, “This might sound strange but are you still missing your dog?” I told him that we were. He let me know that he worked at a local hotel and that he thought my dog had just tried to enter through the front doors. This man had seen my Facebook post a few days ago and thought he should give me a call. He pulled up the Facebook post where he remembered seeing my cell phone number and called me.
Hearing the news, my Dad drove over to the hotel, went around to the back and noticed off into the distance a wooded area. He hiked over, stopped at the tree line, yelled out for Obi, not really expecting to see a result. Amazingly, incredibly, who comes running out, but our Obi. A little dirty, a lot hungry, and overjoyed at seeing his “Dad” again!
We had the Christmas miracle we were all hoping for. Our dog Obi is home for the holidays and this happy fact is due to the power of social media combined with the goodness at the heart of the people our story reached online. I will never forget each person that reached out to us, I will be forever grateful to each and every one. Thanks to the dozens of people who went on a hunt for our Obi, following updates and posts on their mobile phones as they scoured the South Carolina town where Obi was abducted, our family dog was found while most of his family sat waiting, hundreds of miles away.
The moral of the story: Whether for your personal goals or those of your business, staying connected with mobile and social media networks can not only result in awareness, it can and does produce real, far-reaching, positive results!
~ Sasha England, MLS Coordinator