When Piper Below lost her dog, Jack, on a morning walk, the last thing she expected was to find him with the help of hundreds of strangers on the Internet.
But since Below was desperate to track him down, she did just that -- by going to popular Internet forum Reddit and posting a plea on the Houston board for residents to look out for her dog. After an outpouring of people offered to keep an eye out, one Reddit user found Jack wandering in the parking lot of a grocery store and reached out to let Below know.
"REDDIT HE'S FOUND!!!! AND YOU DID IT!!!!! I have to leave to take him to the vet but he seems like maybe he's ok. I COULD KISS YOU ALL!," Below wrote on the forum after it happened.
Below, a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, told HLN that she was originally worried that she couldn't dedicate the time to Jack that he deserved. After finding the dog wandering dazed in the middle of the street in early September, she took him in and tried to do what she could to nurse him back to health.
"He had skin infections, eye infections, he was filthy, malnourished, you name it," she said. "He seemed sweet for a dog that didn't seem coherent. I have never owned a dog before, but I did my best to nurse him back to health."
After a few rounds of meds and some good rest, Jack seemed to be making a speedy recovery ... but Below's plan to find him a home elsewhere was quickly eroding.
"I kept seeing this incredible personality come out of him," she told HLN. "When we went to the vet to get his issues addressed, he just set his chin on my knee and waited calmly while he got prodded and poked. He had only known me for a week, and he had stolen my heart."
Below had made the decision to keep Jack in early October. Below, Jack and a neighbor were walking in an empty lot near her home on December 1 when Jack slipped through a gap in the fence and took off. Below watched as he ran into the street and was hit by a big, white truck.
"He bounced off the truck, got up and ran back towards us. I thought he was coming back, but he darted off instead. And I knew I had to find him," she told HLN.
That night, Below decided to take to Reddit to see if she could spread the word to look for Jack. She posted in several different forums and went to sleep after spending time with supportive friends. The next morning, she woke up to hundreds of messages. A Reddit user put her in touch with a man that maintains a large email list of people involved in animal rescue, which eventually led to one of the people on the list finding Jack.
Below was at work at around 3:30 p.m. Monday when she got a phone call from a woman who said she had her eyes on Jack nearby. Below darted as fast as her legs could carry her to find them.
"A man came up to me when I was running to meet her and asked if I had seen a dog, and I said "I'm looking for my dog!' and he said 'I'm from Reddit!' It was crazy and amazing," Below said.
Below finally found Jack with the woman who had contacted her, and when she did, the reunion was nothing but tears and palpable relief.
"I saw his body relax as soon as he saw me," she told HLN. "So I had this scared, filthy dog in my arms, and I was crying. There just aren't words."
Below said that the support from Reddit stunned and amazed her.
"I got emails from people that said 'I go on a walk every day, I'll reroute near where Jack was lost and look for him.' One woman said she was stuck at home with an injury and had nothing to do, so she would go look for him. And even when we found him, we met someone who was out looking for him," she told HLN.
While not a heavy Reddit user before now (Below describes herself as more of a "lurker"), she said that the site is an incredible tool for gathering information and that she uses it daily to keep an eye on what's going on in the world.
"It curates the entire Internet for you," she told HLN. "And thanks to it, I found my dog."