NEW CASTLE — The late night phone call relayed the worst news a pet owner can receive.
Ashley Claypoole and her family had taken a vacation to Florida after Christmas. They were nine hours from their Mahoningtown home Monday night when word came from the animals’ caregiver that he had accidentally left the door open and the dogs had run out.
Zena and Zeke were missing.
Claypoole, who was frantic, immediately got on Facebook and asked for help finding her dogs.
“Is anyone awake in Mahoningtown?” she asked.
The community came together quickly, even in the wee hours of the morning. About 20 people formed a search party.
Zena, a blue pit bull, was located about two hours later on a curb near the caboose in Darlington Park.
She had been struck by a car and left for dead, Claypoole said. The caregiver immediately took the dog to Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center. Zena had sustained a broken leg, jaw and pelvic bone and a fractured skull and fractured spine.
But Zeke was still missing.
When Claypoole arrived home after being in the car for 23 hours, she started looking for him. Exhausted, she almost gave up, but decided to try one more time and that’s when she found Zeke under the caboose. After being struck by a car, the dog had a broken hip and leg, and there was a big laceration on his chest.
That was about 13 hours from when he had escaped from the house. Claypoole got back in the car and drove the dog to the same clinic.
The bills quickly mounted.
Claypoole never asked directly for financial donations but soon learned that animal lovers on both her personal Facebook page and others were willing to help.
Many were strangers to her, she pointed out.
One of them was Diane Mangino, who started the Facebook page, Lawrence County Animal Helpers, which assists in locating lost pets. This time, Lawrence County Animal Helpers spread the word about the injured dogs and ask members to make donations at the clinic at (412) 366-3400.
“I didn’t want to handle money so I’m glad it can be done directly through the vet.”
Thursday night, Claypoole started a Facebook page called saving Zeke and Zena, which provides updates on the dogs.
So far, at least another $2,500 is needed to pay the more than $8,000 veterinary bill. Promises for Pets donated $500, Claypoole has spent more than $1,500 of her money and there has been more than $4,300 through donations.
Zeke had surgery on his hip and Zena, who had been abused and was from a no-kill shelter, underwent surgery yesterday to repair her spine and pelvic bone.
At first, Claypoole was angry a driver would hit two dogs, and not take responsibility for getting them proper medical care, but now she just wants them to get home. She also has no way of knowing whether both dogs were struck at the same time.
“These are someone’s pets,” she said.
Zeke went home yesterday. But Zena still faces two or three more days in the animal hospital.
Claypoole is grateful for everyone’s help with the search and donations.
“There are good people out there. The response has been amazing.”
(Email: lhudson @ncnewsonline.com.)