HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – It's every pet owner's nightmare: you put your beloved animal in a stranger's care, only to find out it has escaped. That's the story of Shelby, the three year-old Malti-Poo, whose owner took her to the Short Pump PetSmart Tuesday to be groomed and hasn't seen her since. The dog ran away. Sheila Vaughan and her family called NBC12 for help.
Vaughn and her son rescued Shelby in a neglect case when she was just a puppy. They brought her in for grooming Tuesday. PetSmart told NBC12 that Banfield Pet Hospital vets were checking out the Malti-Poo when somehow she slipped from the lead and ran out the automatic doors.
Vaughan went into shock when store staff broke the news.
"I couldn't believe it," she recalled. "I think I made her repeat it a couple times and then just sheer terror."
The dog had to navigate parking lots and either heavy brush or four lanes of heavy traffic to end up where she was last spotted.
Corporate offices of Banfield Pet Hospital and PetSmart said Friday that they have teams helping with the search. They've sent out fliers and contacted local animal shelters, but still, no sign of Shelby. Vaughan has been combing the woods across Pouncey Tract Road from dusk 'til dawn for days.
With every flicker of white that moves in the wind there is a ray of hope... until a closer examination reveals a simple plastic bag and not a fluffy dog.
"She's little," Vaughan said. "She's scared. You yell in here and your voice gets swallowed up by the highway."
Vaughan brought out Shelby's brother Patch, which they also rescued, in the hopes the dog might respond to a bark, if not a yell.
She still isn't sure what she's going to tell her son, who returns from vacation Saturday. Now she really believes this could happen to anyone.
"It's been devastating," Vaughn said.
NBC12 wasn't able to get our hands on the waiver Vaughan had to sign when she dropped off Shelby. She remembered reading about injuries but nothing about what would happen if the dog went missing.
If you spot Shelby, call 740-4753.