METHUEN — A spunky 5-year-old beagle stolen from a shelter was returned yesterday as mysteriously as he disappeared the day before, after igniting an Internet alert across New England, a news media frenzy and an avalanche of outraged Facebook postings and Tweets demanding his return.
“He’s a little overwhelmed, as you can imagine,” said Michael Keiley, director of the adoption center at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Nevins Farm, as he described the theft to a first shift of news hounds who converged on the Broadway shelter yesterday from as far away as Boston to tell Pete’s story. “And he smells like someone put baby powder on him.”
Pete’s return capped a monthlong saga that began when a Minnesota breeder shipped him by plane to a Massachusetts man who responded to an Internet ad offering him for adoption. The adoption lasted eight days, until March 26, when the man dropped him off at the MSPCA.
“He said the dog was kind of nervous,” Keiley said. “He thought he was duped into adopting him.”
Two weeks later, an elderly woman still recovering from the recent death of another beagle she owned came to the shelter looking to adopt. She wanted Pete.
The shelter approved her application and told her she could pick him up Thursday. When she arrived, Keiley went to an outdoor exercise pen to fetch Pete, who was gone.
The shelter immediately posted news of the theft on its Facebook page, along with a photo, which was reposted by about 500 people over the next 24 hours. The shelter alerted Granite State Dog Recovery, a Salem, N.H., organization that maintains what it calls “expert search teams to locate lost or stolen animals” and operates an Internet site monitored by dog lovers across New England.