Ernie, a white and tawny English bulldog, is missing from his home. But you may already know that.
The 3-year-old, 45-pound dog ran out the front door of his home near the Del Webb neighborhood Saturday. And although his owners Bill Garland, 31, and Vicki “Vee” Glowczynski, 26, handed out fliers, searched on foot and called local animal agencies during the first 24 hours of Ernie’s wanderings, it wasn’t until their friends started posting pictures on Facebook that the search for this much-loved pup took off.
The story of Ernie’s escape is “spreading like wildfire” now because of social networking, Garland said. Hundreds of local people (Bill went to Minooka High School) have posted pictures of the small and friendly dog seeking sightings or help in bringing him home.
Glowcyznski, a pretty and peppy Facebook regular, was at first wary of writing a plea on the social networking site. But when she saw the many “shares” of a recent Ernie picture a friend had posted, she had a change of heart and wrote her own “find Ernie” status update. Soon her wall, newsfeed and inbox were full of offers to join the search.
“That helped a lot to know that people really do care,” Glowcyznski said. “People were showing up at our house. I just couldn’t believe people were so willing to help.”
Tuesday the couple announced a $1,300 reward and made a “Help Find Ernie” fanpage on Facebook. Within two hours the “likes” had climbed to more than 300, and the “reshares” were growing every few minutes.
“It’s just amazing,” Garland said. “There are people I just know their name on Facebook … and they are bending over backward for us.”
Acquaintances called, emailed and showed up at the couple’s door to offer support.
“People are going on jogs with fliers, putting their kids in strollers (to help with the search),” Garland said. Bulldog lovers have called radio stations, newspapers and shelters. One woman even said her father was searching on his UPS route.
The response has given the couple new hope in a desperate time. They call Ernie their “son” and describe him as the “life of the party.”
Garland’s friend of 15 years, Elliot Nazos, said Ernie is an integral part of the family.
“Bill and Vee are visibly upset and you can tell they will not be OK until they know what happened to their baby,” Nazos said.
He also noted that with more than 1,000 fliers distributed, “friends have played a major role in helping them spread the word.”
Ernie was lying in the sun around 2 p.m. Saturday near the couple’s front door when he spotted an animal in the bushes and pushed the door open to chase it. Glowcyznski held back their other, much larger, dog, thinking she’d have time to catch the friendly and slow-moving Ernie.
But by the time she had a chance, he was gone.
Last seen heading east toward Jefferson and River roads, Ernie likely ambled up to a few neighbor’s houses before getting turned around and lost.
If spotted, Garland said Ernie will be “your instant best friend.” He loves other dogs, and would cuddle with anyone he meets.
In the meantime, the couple is holding out hope that social networking will bring home their beloved bulldog.
“It kind of just … puts everything into perspective,” Garland said. “As much as people post random things it’s like, Facebook can really be for good.”
If you’ve seen Ernie, contact Bill at 815-600-2996 or Vee at 815-999-7665. The Facebook page dedicated to Ernie’s rescue is named Help Find Ernie. At last count it had more than 400 “likes.”