If the white handmade “lost dog” signs that are posted all around Winter Garden don’t call attention to the missing pup, Linda Rock is hoping the reward fliers might. Or the business cards she had printed and is putting on vehicle windows in local shopping areas. Or the newspaper ads or the “FIND Abbott” Facebook page.
She even held a 24-hour prayer vigil last week.
Abbott is a chihuahua mix, between 12 and 15 years old, and his owner is heartbroken wondering what might have happened to him, hoping he isn’t cold and wet, praying he’s getting food and water.
He has been missing for nearly six weeks. She suspects he ran off from their Winter Garden home after he briefly was let outside Dec. 30 and became frightened by fireworks.
She refuses to give up on the toothless little rescue dog that won her heart about four years ago.
“The first day I met with him I knew immediately I would adopt him,” she said. “I met him at Polka Dogz (Pet Rescue). … He looked at me with those eyes and with that tongue hanging out, and I said, ‘I’m fostering that dog and adopting him.’”
Rock thinks someone might have seen Abbott wandering the street and thought he was neglected based on his appearance. But Rock said he came to her with his teeth missing and his lower jaw receding so much that his tongue constantly hangs out the side of his mouth.
“I picture him just walking up to them on the street, and they scooped him up,” Rock said. “And we just have to find that person.”
Abbott is not afraid of people and most likely befriended someone in search of food.
“That’s why I think he’s in someone’s home,” she said. “He’s cute and funny looking, and it doesn’t take a lot to take care of him.”
Rock is turning to the community for help in bringing her beloved Abbott home.
The night of Abbott’s disappearance, Rock drove around her neighborhood and the surrounding streets until about 4 a.m. There was no sign of her pet. She posted a lost-dog message on Facebook and continued combing the streets the next day.
She placed her clothing near her house and in other locations hoping Abbott will follow her scent and return home. A kind stranger met Rock with a rotisserie chicken, and they walked a path from a grocery store to Rock’s home, hoping to entice him with the aroma.
A pet psychic and an online volunteer from New York both have contacted Rock, but those haven’t panned out. She said a woman called and told her she had Abbott, but it turned out to be a scam. Luckily, Rock wasn’t comfortable with the situation so she didn’t give the scammer any money.
She has received several messages from people saying they spotted Abbott behind a grocery store or running across a street, but that turned out to be another lost white dog.
People have been sending her photos of rescued dogs that resemble Abbott, but it’s never him.
“Being in rescue myself, I know that we find our fair share of dogs and we assume that they’re dumped, but that’s not the case,” Rock said. “Even if a dog is in bad condition … it might have been missing for a month or more.”
If someone does, indeed, have her dog, she wants that person to know that Abbott is very much loved and wanted back home. She said his companion, another chihuahua named Layla, senses Rock’s sadness and misses her buddy.
She has reached out to rescue groups, shelters, pet stores, veterinarians and groomers, thinking Abbott might be taken in for a checkup or nail trim eventually.
She has distributed about 10 signs around Winter Garden and is in the process of making some sturdier ones to place along the roadways. She is creating a mass mailing — in both English and Spanish — for Winter Garden residents in her vicinity.
She bought 4,000 business cards with Abbott’s photo and her phone number and has been distributing them in the parking lots of shopping centers. She hired a company to make phone calls to people in a 20-mile radius.
Rock estimates she has spent $200 in her efforts to bring her dog home. To help offset the costs, she set up a GoFundMe fundraising page in case animal lovers want to make a donation. So far, she has received $225.
She is appreciative of all the help and the love the community has shown her since Abbott disappeared.
“We’re just not giving up until everything is exhausted,” Rock said.
She wrote on one of her Facebook posts: “It often feels hopeless, but I remember a conversation I had in the parking lot of Aldi with a vet tech just yesterday. She said, ‘Don't give up. We reunited a Husky with their owner after four months missing.’”
So Rock refuses to give up hope. She will keep distributing fliers and making sure her signs are up. And she will answer each phone call with anticipation.
“We are planning this big party if he is found,” Rock said with hope in her voice. “Everybody wants to meet him. And Abbott would love it, frankly. He would love it. He would be strutting around meeting everyone.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.