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Wantagh family looking for dog that fled sitter’s house

Buddy, a 1-year-old beagle Labrador retriever mix, escaped

Buddy, a 1-year-old beagle Labrador retriever mix, escaped the Massapequa home of his dog sitter on Sept. 20, 2017 while his family was on vacation. His owners and a group of volunteers are now searching for him. Credit: MaryEllen Humphrey

A Wantagh dog is the focus of a search after he escaped the Massapequa home of a dog sitter while his family was on vacation.

The search for Buddy, a 1-year-old beagle-Labrador retriever mix, went viral after his family posted about the incident on Facebook on Wednesday. So far, search parties, flyers and even drones haven’t been able to reunite him with his owners.

“A lot of people are looking for him,” said Buddy’s owner, MaryEllen Humphrey, 52, of Wantagh, citing neighbors and friends who have mobilized small groups to look for him. “I’m happy so many people are so kind.”

Humphrey said her family left Buddy with a pet sitter booked through the pet-sitting app Wag! earlier this week while she took her 4- and 9-year-old children to Disney World.

Instead, she said their vacation was interrupted Wednesday with the news that Buddy had run away. Buddy is easily spooked, she said, and something frightened him at the dog sitter’s house.

“I feel bad that this happened. It’s one of those things that can just happen,” Humphrey said Friday. “I don’t think it’s her fault.”

Buddy, who had been resting in his crate with the door open, suddenly bolted and pushed open a door, running out into the sitter’s Massapequa neighborhood, said Dini von Mueffling, a Wag! spokeswoman. He did not have a collar, just a harness for walks that he was not wearing at the time he escaped.

“I was hoping he was close by and he’d come right back,” Humphrey said, adding that they cut their vacation short to fly home and join the search.

A Facebook post Humphrey made Wednesday about Buddy’s escape went viral, garnering more than 2,000 shares.

Humphrey said she got a number of tips from people who said they saw a dog matching Buddy’s description running along Merrick Road toward John J. Burns Park in Massapequa. One person told her they saw the dog get clipped by a car, then continue on into the park.

Buddy is about 50 pounds and mostly black, with patches of brown on his back legs. He does have a microchip, an implanted identification chip that can be scanned by veterinarians, she said.

Wag! is offering a $1,000 reward for Buddy and has sent out at least 30 representatives to hand out flyers, search neighborhoods, call animal hospitals and fly drones over the park to help locate Buddy, Von Mueffling said.

Von Mueffling could not say how frequently pets escape sitters and walkers booked through Wag! The company screens its walkers and sitters and tests their handling skills.

“It’s an unfortunate accident,” she said. “Wag! is doing everything it can to reunite Buddy with his family.”

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