RED BANK: DOG FOUND 80 MILES FROM HOME

Wanda greets Jennifer May, center, and her children Bryn and Dennis Tibus on their reunion in Red Bank Saturday. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A dog who wandered off in Warren County on Wednesday and wound up in Red Bank later that day was reunited with her owners Saturday.

How the 15-year-old black Lab-border collie mix turned up 80 miles from home remained a mystery, however.

Wanda with Dennis Tibus in Red Bank Saturday, above, and at the borough Animal Welfare Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday night, below. (Photos by John T. Ward and Sue Viscomi. Click to enlarge)

The dog was found by two young women along Route 35 in Middletown sometime Wednesday, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Menna chanced upon all three in the parking lot of borough hall that evening as he was heading into the first working meeting of the newly formed Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

The women told Menna they had already been to the Middletown police station and Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, but neither would accept the animal, said Menna.

One of the women, Paige Conners, declined to comment Saturday.

The dog was wearing a collar, but no identification tags. Menna said he invited the women and dog into the meeting, where members scrambled to get it food and water. One, who works in an animal hospital, gave the dog a quick checkup, and found that other than hip problems common to Labs, she was fine, Menna said.

Animal Control Officer Henry Perez would then have taken the dog to the ASPCA, Menna said, “but we figured this dog had been traumatized enough.” So while committee members took to social media to get out word that the dog had been found, member Debbie Marks volunteered to care for her. She called the dog Nicki.

At the high-rise Grandville Towers, where Marks resides, the placid and ever-wagging dog became an instant attraction in the lobby.

“She loves everyone,” said Marks.

Meanwhile, 80 miles north, in Allamuchy, a family was frantically searching for its lost dog.

Jennifer May, of Newton, said the dog, named Wanda, lived with her son, Dennis Tibus, in a heavily wooded area alongside Interstate 80. But Tibus had been away for a few days, and the dog was in the care of a friend.

May speculated that Wanda was wandering the woods near the highway, looking for Tibus, when a Good Samaritan picked her up.

“She loves people, loves car rides. She even tried to get on the school bus” with a little girl who lives near Dennis, said May. But over many years of living in Utah, California, Arizona and New Jersey, Wanda had never wandered off before, she said.

Searching the woods and marshes, May and her children worried that the dog was lying injured somewhere.

“The entire neighborhood, we were all out looking for her,” said Bryn. “We spent six or seven hours in the woods looking for her yesterday. We had people we don’t even know out looking for her.”

Meanwhile, May and her children were also leveraging social media. Then, late Friday, the two searches overlapped, when a stranger sent May a link to a photo of Wanda that had been posted on multiple Facebook pages, including redbankgreen‘s, and shared some 500 times.

“She said, ‘is this your dog?'”

“As soon as we saw the picture last night, everyone started crying,” said Bryn.

The second reaction was: “What? Wait a minute: how’d she get down there?” said May. That’s a question that remains unanswered.

On Saturday morning, the family talked by phone with Marks, who was at first skeptical she was speaking with the true owners. But she said May described the dog “to a T,” including a hard-to-see dot on her nose and a two-color nail on a rear paw. Their Facebook posts verified that they’d been looking for a dog.

Oh, and the dog she’d been calling “Nicki” responded to “Wanda,” Marks said.

The family drove down to Red Bank Saturday morning for reunion filled with canine wags and face licks, as well as a few and homo sapien tears.

Menna said he plans to recognize Conner and the other woman who found Wanda at next Wednesday’s council meeting for “going the extra length” in trying to safeguard the dog. May said she hopes to be there, with Wanda.