VANCOUVER, Wash. – The power of social media helped reunite a blind Vancouver man with his missing guide dog, after the yellow lab vanished from their front porch a day earlier.
Blake Hardin, 28, was worried that his special companion, Beethoven, was be lost or hurt when he disappeared on Sunday.
Photos: Beethoven the guide dog
Turns out, the dog had spent the night only a half mile away, in the home of a new friend. A family said they took the dog in, after he showed up on their front porch around 2 a.m. They considered keeping him until they saw a popular story circulating on social media about a man who was desperately searching for his seeing eye dog.
Then, they called Hardin and invited him to come pick up his pooch Monday afternoon.
"I gave him a big doggie hug," Hardin said. "I'm just glad he's safe and nothing happened to him."
Hardin has been blind since birth. He just recently moved to Vancouver from Alabama so he could learn to tune pianos for a living, at the School of Piano Technology for the Blind.
He said he had just ordered new ID tags for Beethoven, that listed his Vancouver address. But they had not yet arrived in the mail, which is why the dog's collar didn't have tags when he went missing.
Beethoven vanished just after 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. He was sitting next to Hardin on the front porch of their home at 2500 E. Evergreen Boulevard when Blake went inside just for a moment to get something.
"I came back out and went, ‘Uh oh, he must have wandered off,'" he recalled. Beethoven was not wearing his guide dog vest - only his collar. He does have a tattoo inside his ear that indicates he's a seeing-eye dog.
Hardin immediately grabbed his cane and began walking through the neighborhood, calling Beethoven's name as loud as he could.
"I walked around, because I know the way around, for a couple hours with my cane looking for him," he said.
Eventually he had to return home without Beethoven and prepare for school the next day. Hardin said he was able to attend his classes and make his way around pretty comfortably without his guide dog, but he certainly missed having Beethoven by his side.
"He is a pet but he is also a working dog, too. He is very mellow," Hardin said.
Friends put up posters with Beethoven's photo around the neighborhood, hoping someone had seen him.
Late Monday morning, Hardin got the first bit of uplifting news. A dog tracking company out of Longview, offered to donate their services to try and find Beethoven. Hardin wasn't sure if they would find him, but appreciated any help he could get.
By 2 p.m. on Monday, two experienced tracking and rescue dogs were on the job. Willow and Tyler, led by owner Harry Oaks, were using their noses to try to find his trail.
"We have found his footprints and his poop," Oaks told KGW just before 2:30 p.m., feeling confident his dogs were following Beethoven's scent. "He has gone completely around Pearson Air Park. So far, he is just trucking along."
The tracking dogs lost the scent at a Mini Mart near Hardin's school. As it turned out, that Mini Mart was also just across the street from the house where Beethoven had spent the night.
But ultimately it was Facebook that brought Beethoven home around 3 p.m., Monday.
"They wanted to keep him because he's such a good dog," Hardin said, after meeting the family who rescued his dog. "But obviously they were happy to give him back when they learned about me on Facebook."
As for Beethoven, Hardin said he'll probably get steak for dinner tonight, but he won't be setting foot outside the house without his tags or vest again.
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