WAUSAU (WAOW) – A Wausau man has turned his love of dogs into a way to volunteer and help hundreds of people across central Wisconsin find missing pets.
For those efforts working with Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, David Woods is recognized with a Jefferson Award.
Woods spends countless hours searching for lost animals and helping families post information on their pets on the nonprofit’s web site and Facebook.
"It is a great feeling to have an animal return home," Woods said.
Two weeks ago, Dr. Hajira Yasmin of Weston lost her family pet.
"Our dog Rocky ran off while we were on Rib Mountain. We searched for hours and gave up when the sun went down. Then a friend told us about David Woods. We contacted him and he told us what do to about the missing puppy, how to approach him and to expand our search," Yasmin said.
The family posted information about Rocky on the Lost Dogs website and Facebook.
"By the next morning, Rocky had 600 shares and we were getting calls about people seeing him," Yasmin said. "One of the calls came from a woman who saw Rocky near the fire station in Rib Mountain. She mentioned it to her daughter in Madison who found Rocky’s picture online and told her to call us."
A short while later, Rocky returned safely to his family.
Woods says the power of social media is transforming the search for missing animals.
"It is amazing how people want to help," he said. "They send out shares and the animals can be found quickly. Plus, they provide information on where the animals was spotted so we can narrow down the search and get the owners into the area in hopes of finding them."
Woods remembers a time when it wasn’t so simple.
Ten years ago, his daughter’s dog vanished.
"At the time it was very frustrating. There were few avenues you could turn to to find a missing pet," Woods said.
He went online and found the Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and he was hooked.
"I get a great feeling from helping people out. There is nothing worse if you don’t know what happened to an animal. Not all the stories end happily. Sometimes the animals are found deceased. But at least we can give owners closure," Woods said.
In 2016, Lost Dogs of Wisconsin helped return nearly 3,000 missing dogs to their families.