It all started when a bullish mastiff tangled with a porcupine, then went missing for a month.
Zeus's Friends, Lost and Found Pet Network, was born after the missing mastiff, named Zeus, was found on a ridge near Asotin Creek after fending for himself for 32 days, said the group's founder Tammy Falcon. Falcon coordinated the search for Zeus over Facebook and networked with a variety of volunteers who spent a month combing the hills near Asotin looking for the dog in December 2014.
After the dog was rushed to a veterinarian and eventually reunited with its owner, Falcon was encouraged to keep the Facebook page up and expand its reach to all lost pets.
Three years later, the online grass-roots group has a network of volunteers who post pictures of stray pets and try to reunite them with owners. With around 8,600 members in the Facebook group there are eyes all over the community keeping track of the various - and frequent - loose pets. Group member Rita Leslie said most pets are quickly captured and held in volunteers' homes until an owner can be located, or the pet is taken to an animal shelter. Animals are held for as long as 30 days, and if no owner is located the pets are taken to a shelter.
Falcon said about 18 of the members actively help search for lost pets with another 60 she can call as needed.
"It's really neat the way people have been willing to step up and help each other," Falcon said.
The nonprofit group has 20 volunteers who foster animals, some for the short term and others for long-term care. Falcon said the group has no paid staff, and 100 percent of donations go toward caring for animals.
The group also operates a pet pantry that offers limited food, toys, beds, kennels, collars and leashes to those who have come up short and can't afford a pet's needs.
The group utilizes its donations to provide emergency and long-term veterinary care to needy pets, but sometimes that comes with a tough choice. Leslie said the group will pay for emergency care for pets at the various veterinary clinics, but if a vet advises that the animal may be a lost cause the group members usually make the hard choice to have it euthanized.
"We try to be conservative on care where we can. If they need help, we will help them," Leslie said. "But we've euthanized cats that were found alongside roads; we'll pay the emergency care fees, but we'd rather they go peacefully than suffer through the night."
Falcon said she has volunteers in Lewiston and Clarkston as well as Grangeville, Kamiah, Potlatch and Kendrick.
"I get up in morning, get my coffee, get on the computer and then I'm on the phone all day or on the computer all day It's almost a 24-hour job," Falcon said. "But it's great, and we are continuing to help families missing their family members."
> Donation info
P.O. box 1681 Lewiston, Idaho, 83501
Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/PetFoodPantry/
Holm may be contacted at email@example.com or at (208) 848-2275. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.