Siobhan is a sweet natured pit bull mix who has twice depended on the kindness of strangers to save her life.
She’s one of the "Dublin Dogs," saved two years ago from a ring of cruelty in Dublin, Ga., in a rescue effort that was covered by local and national media.
A coordinated raid by the Laurens County Sheriff’s office and a private investigation firm freed Siobhan and 96 other dogs from what investigators called “atrocious conditions." The dogs were hidden in the woods on a large property in East Dublin and all were chained or in cages. They were malnourished and ill. Authorities took the dogs to an undisclosed location for their safety and to evaluate them.
Fewer than 40 survived their ordeal. Siobhan was one of those survivors.
A joint effort between rescue groups Friends To The Forlorn Pitbull Rescue and brought the surviving dogs to Atlanta to be treated, rehabilitated and put up for adoption. Most were housed at LifeLine. While the sudden influx of a large number of abused canines and their immediate and long term needs stretched the resources of the Avondale nonprofit, they never gave up on any the Dublin Dogs, including Siobhan.
She slowly started to trust people, gained weight to 40 pounds, and got her health back. Her brindle coat grew glossy, her eyes got brighter. She discovered what dog toys were for.
Happy endings were happening for the Dublin Dogs as one by one they were adopted. By the beginning of 2011 only a few remained at LifeLine and the still shy Siobhan was settling happily into a foster home.
That's when every pet owner’s nightmare happened.
She was spending the Easter holiday with her foster parents in Beaufort, S.C., when she accidentally got loose from a vacation home.
Debbie Setzer and Gene Stamey from LifeLine’s staff immediately drove to South Carolina to organize a search.
On the loose in an unknown area, a terrified Siobhan ran frantically around the town. She was too timid to approach people who tried to help her. One person saw her run across a busy street and get hit by a car.
It appeared she then tried to find a place away from the confusing hubbub of people and car-filled streets. She found it. Someone reported seeing her head into one of the many salt marshes surrounding Beaufort.
Setzer and Stamey and her foster parents kept searching. Days passed and their concern grew. They knew she wasn’t alone in the marsh and that there were both alligators and poisonous snakes in the area.
Frustrated by the enterprising raccoons that kept showing up in their safe traps and tired from long and dirty days of searching the marshland, the crew from LifeLine grew depressed. But the team never gave up.
When Siobahn’s trail went cold they were fearful that the gentle 3-year old with the sweet demeanor might have survived her ordeal in the Dublin woods just to die in a marsh in coastal South Carolina.
Enter Facebook and LifeLine's online supporters.
Siobhan's photo and plight was posted on LifeLine’s Facebook page with an urgent plea to share the information with anyone in the Beaufort area, even as Setzer and Stamey continued combing through neighborhoods and talking to residents.
Four days after Siobhan went missing, Setzer’s phone rang. It was a local nursing student, Faith Wade. She had re-posted the original plea to help locate Siobhan and had just gotten a lead from a business in the area. They saw her post and told her they had seen a dog fitting the description in the last hour in a nearby marsh.
Wade, the spouse of a deployed Marine, immediately purchased rubber boots and called Setzer. She took Setzer to the targeted area and they went in. As they slowly searched through the water and marsh grass Wade quietly pointed out places where a scared, injured dog might try to hide.
They navigated through the roots and vines, calling out Siobhan’s name. Soon Wade heard a bark. She made her way down a bank and saw Siobhan. Stepping back, so not to scare the dog, she told Setzer, who clawed through the thorny vines and reached out to the scratched up and dirt encrusted dog who appeared as exhausted as she was.
As she put a leash on Siobhan, Setzer’s relief turned to tears.
“I was seriously down when we couldn't find her,” Setzer said later, reflecting on the series of events. “I have learned that every once in while, when you really need it, some incredible person will step in to keep you going.”
Setzer has nothing but praise for Wade and says without her, she doubts that Siobhan would have been found. She also credits “the awesome Facebook fans” for keeping the search going.
Now back at LifeLine, Siobhan is on her feet, healing from fractures to her pelvis and legs and recovering from various scratches and bruises.
Her safe return was celebrated on Facebook.
A post proclaiming, “Found!” was put up with a photo of Setzer and Siobhan taken by Wade just moments after being re-united.
“Am bawling tears of joy,” one woman posted in response to the news. Another posted: “Woo hoo! Welcome Home Siobhan!”
“Thank God,” someone else wrote.
Wade posted too, sharing details of the search and rescue and crediting the Facebook community for their help and determination.
“Thank you for caring so much about Siobhan that you didn’t give up. You got the word out and you kept looking.” she wrote, “I’ll never forget hearing Siobhan answer my calls with her beautiful deep bark or her pretty eyes just calmly looking at me through the marsh grass when I first saw her. It was a wonderful day.”
While not every animal rescue is as dramatic as Siobhan’s, every homeless pet at LifeLine has been removed from a dire situation, cared for and given another chance at life.
See their database of adoptable dogs and cats, including Siobhan, at www.atlantapets.org