Runaway dog found safe days after crash

April 25, 2014
Snickers is safe and sound, days after she disappeared following a car wreck on Interstate 70 in South Strabane Township.

Hours of patient waiting and watching ended Friday morning when a young terrier who ran off after her owner’s vehicle crashed Easter Sunday was caught, unharmed, in South Strabane Township.

Brett Vermeulin was traveling with his two female terriers, Bear and Snickers, on Interstate 70 near the Beau Street exit in South Strabane Township, on their way to Vermeulin’s home in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, when the 41-year-old apparently dozed off. His Ford Escape went off the highway, hit a hillside and rolled over. Vermeulin was flown to UPMC-Presbyterian hospital for treatment of a back injury.

When Lew Marchand arrived to tow away the vehicle, he found a small dog wedged under the smashed dashboard. Witnesses at the crash scene told Marchand there was a second dog, but it ran away. Marchand took the dog he recovered back to his family’s repair garage on Statement Avenue in South Strabane. His wife, Marci, called her aunt Marcia Hupp, who runs Marcia’s Muttley Crew animal rescue.

Hupp took Bear and launched the search for Snickers.

“We didn’t have a description until I talked to Brett,” Hupp said, adding that his sister gave her a photograph of the dog. “Bear had been thrown under the dashboard. She had a bruised lung, so I took her to the vet for treatment.”

Compounding the difficulties in the search for the skittish Snickers was the dog’s fear of strangers. Hupp said Vermeulin recently rescued the 2-year-old terrier from a puppy mill.

Hupp was joined in the search by her sister, Joyce Donaldson, and Amy Shuster of Canonsburg. Vermeulin’s friends and family also stopped to help search for the dog, and South Strabane police and firefighters were on the lookout. Posters with the dog’s photo were made and passed around the area.

Snickers had been seen several times in the parking lot near Lowe’s at Strabane Square, particularly at night. Hupp spent several nights until the wee hours of the morning hoping to catch the dog, to no avail.

Then, the Pittsburgh branch of Reuniting Lost Dogs with Family provided Hupp with a trap that was set Thursday night near Lowe’s in the hope of capturing the elusive terrier. When Shuster checked the trap about 6 a.m. Friday, she found Snickers safe inside.

“It just shows what can happen when people work together. It was just wonderful,” Hupp said. “Those two dogs were so excited to see each other.”

Vermeulin’s sister, Bonnie Fulton, picked up both dogs and was taking them back with her to Ohio. She will care for them until Vermeulin can be reunited with his pups.

Hupp admits she is an animal lover.

“I’ve dedicated my life to animals,” said Hupp. “I rescue strays and abused animals. I get them back on their feet and adopted.”

Hupp is in the process of getting nonprofit status for her shelter. All donations are used solely for the care of the rescued animals, she said. Donations can be made through Paypal to Marcia’s Muttley Crew or directly to Steel Veterinary Services, in care of Marcia’s Muttley Crew, 2524 S. Main St., Washington, PA 15301.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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