In 2018 Elissa DeMaria Battista, who lives in Fairfield, rescued “Fisher” from True North Rescue Mission. He was just 6 months old.
Last July 4, Elissa and her husband Matt and family brought Fisher with them for a holiday in Ocean City, MD.
While they were away at the beach, Fisher got out through a screen door.
The 22 lb Boston Terrier is a black, brindle and white cutie whose tongue pops out when he smiles, which is all the time.
Elissa said her family was devastated. While the story ends with a reunion that will melt your heart, for anyone who has ever loved a dog, the family’s persistence over the course of 9 months is equally moving.
“We were heartbroken at the idea that our Fisher was out there, scared, hot and alone,” recalled Elissa, who had always wanted a dog growing up, but a family member’s allergies meant it was not possible.
The very first thing the family did was inform Fisher’s microchip company to register him as “lost” in case he was found and brought to a vet, shelter or the pound.
“Within 10 minutes of noticing he was gone, we had three bikes, two cars and another five people on foot out searching for him,” Elissa recalled, adding that she called Animal Control and every shelter nearby, only to learn everything was closed for the holiday weekend.
She let the police know the situation.
She joined all the local Ocean City Facebook groups, Maryland lost dog groups, and almost any “lost pet” group within 100 miles.
A Baltimore TV station shared a feature about the missing pup.
Elissa set up a special email and offered a large reward, with no questions asked.
The family contacted shelters up and down the eastern seaboard, put up fliers in Ocean City multiple times, created an animal Amber Alert, got on every website that shares lost dogs, and contacted veterinarians.
They even started a own “Find Fisher” Facebook group that now has over 9,000 members and today features many other missing dogs.
Elissa said someone commented on Facebook they had spotted Fisher at a bar late at night, but hadn’t been able to get him to come her before her ran off.
The family hired a dog tracker from Virginia who was able to track Fisher’s scent from the bar where he was spotted to the Coastal Highway, where it stopped cold.
Elissa surmised that that was the point someone might have picked him up and kept him.
The family asked local hotels, rental, banks and businesses if their surveillance cameras might have caught the moment, but that was a dead end.
“If you can think of it, we tried it,” she said. “Above all else we never gave up hope.”
Elissa said that after several months – 290 days to be exact – she was contacted by someone on the Find Fisher Facebook page with a screenshot of a lost dog from a different Facebook group.
“Many, many people shared it with us almost instantly,” she recalled. “From the moment I saw the photos, I knew it was him from the markings and his little tongue sticking out.”
“After a bit of an adrenaline rush, we got in contact with the original poster, verified it was him because of his microchip number, called family friends who live in Maryland asking if they’d go pick him up so he was with people we knew and I packed a bag to go get him,” Elissa said.
Family friends drove to pick up Fisher in Baltimore and brought him home to Annapolis with them.
“It was a 5 hour drive to get to Annapolis from Connecticut and it was worth every second,” Elissa recalled.
Elissa said the man who found Fisher, Wayne Horn of Baltimore, spotted the dog roaming around his neighborhood with a collar but with no tags.
He brought him inside and put him up on Facebook.
“I will never be able to thank this family enough,” Elissa said, adding that despite a paw that was likely injured while roaming, Fisher was healthy and happy.
On April 20, Mr. Horn posted on his Facebook, “I was working on my motorcycle changing the brakes and headlight, Fisher now that we know his name, came up to me panting and thirsty. We gave him some water and he didn’t want to leave. He just played next to me while I worked on my motorcycle.”
Horn said a good friend posted Fisher on several sites and people with a chip scanner came to his home.
“We got so many hits saying that’s Fisher. The markings all matched. They scanned his chip and, yes it was Fisher,” he added.
“He didn’t want to leave my side,” said Mr. Horn who has a large beard.
Elissa has a guess as to why Fisher chose Mr. Horn to approach.
She surmised it had to do with his beard. Elissa’s husband, like Mr. Horn, sports a beard.
For his part, Mr. Horn told local Baltimore TV station WMAR that it was pure joy to bring happiness to the Battistas.
“There are good people left in this world,” Elissa said of Mr. Horn.
The guess is that Fisher, who had a collar on when he was found, had been taken in by a family who cared for him before he got loose in Baltimore.
“He looks very well taken care of,” Elissa told WMAR. “He looks like he was loved. He doesn’t look like he was hungry. He looks happy.”