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Lost Dog Brings Community Together

Layla found after eight days missing

Photo Provided Photo Provided Layla poses for a picture at Play N Stay Pet Camp in Wheeling.

After eight days on the loose, Layla the black-and-white boxer was reunited with her “pack” last Sunday morning after a Good Samaritan spotted her hanging out near her own “lost” poster on Water Street in South Wheeling.

On Sept. 1, 2-1/2-year-old Layla slipped her collar outside Centre Market, where her owners Betsy and Steve Helmick and their children Zeb, 10, and Lily, 15, own and operate Zeb’s Barky Bites dog treat shop in the Upper Market House.

In the days following Layla’s disappearance, the Helmicks put out a $1,000 reward and saturated social media with pictures of the pooch, along with posting more than 350 posters and yard signs around Wheeling.

After scores of false sightings, Betsy Helmick said Haley Hynes called her around 7:30 a.m. last Sunday morning saying her father, Robert Bell, spotted Layla sitting near one of her own “lost” signs posted on Water Street in South Wheeling. Haley kept Betsy apprised of the situation by phone while Steve and Zeb grabbed Layla’s litter mate, Liam, and went to meet Robert. By that time, Layla had followed a grass path down to the river, out of sight, but she soon made her way back up to her waiting family.

Betsy said they wondered if Layla found the sign by following her nose because Liam had lain on the posters in the back of Steve’s car.

Betsy thanked everyone for sharing the social media posts and taking to the local streets and trails looking for Layla. She was in good condition when she was found.

“We were literally amazed at the number of people who helped look for her,” she said. Her personal post and the post on Zeb’s Barky Bites page were shared more than 9,000 times, she said, and the Facebook analytics showed the business page post reached more than 250,000 people.

In addition, she said, she used other social media sites, called and texted friends and family, notified every local law enforcement and fire department and took out a classified ad in The Intelligencer and News-Register. She said dozens of people messaged her that they were looking for Layla during their lunch breaks or on their morning runs.

Betsy got choked up when noting her friend, Corey Kidd, made a surprise visit home from cake decorating school in New York City to visit her family but instead spent her time searching for Layla. April Veltri, whose husband works at UPS, handed out Layla’s pictures to the local drivers. Katie Marino of WheeRun dog walking business, joined the daily search. Employees of the UPS Store on Washington Avenue created, printed and delivered posters and flyers.

“We’re not the kind of people that ask for help, but when it came to this, I didn’t care,” Betsy said.

The day after Layla returned, the Helmicks took her, Liam and their third dog Lucy to get fitted for new, anti-slip collars from Jessica Barclay, owner of Play N Stay Pet Camp.

Betsy said she has two bits of advice for all dog owners. First, have your pet microchipped for easy identification if they are turned into a shelter. Layla was chipped but never made it to a shelter. Second, ensure you have a good, clear photograph of your dog. The Helmicks didn’t have a good picture for the “lost” posters and ended up using ones taken when she had been a “camper” at Play N Stay. Ironically, the reason she had been outside Centre Market the day she disappeared was to have her picture taken.

Haley and Robert — who found Layla — refused to collect the reward money, despite Betsy’s insistence. Rather than keep it, the Helmicks donated the $1,000 to the Ohio County Animal Shelter.

“I know it’s cliche to say it makes you believe in humanity, but my land, it did. To have this many people come together for a stranger’s dog, it was incredible,” Betsy said.

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