Finding Chloe: Pet rushes away after accident in Methuen

Courtesy photoChloe, a 6-year-old goldendoodle, was lost for two days while her family vacationed on a cruise ship. A collaborative effort assured she'll be home in Danvers to greet her loved ones when they return.

METHUEN — Chloe was scared. She did what most 6 year olds would do. She ran.

The trouble with finding Chloe was that dogs don't always answer to calls like little boys and girls usually do.

A 45-pound, bronze-colored goldendoodle, Chloe took off after the car she was in crashed Saturday evening near the intersection of Route 213 and Interstate 495, police said.

Her 19-year-old dog-sitter, Ashlin Koontz, was behind the wheel.

Chloe's family, the Gargiulos of Danvers, were aboard a cruise ship thousands of miles away.

It took a day and a stream of hurried calls to police about a dog crossing the highway before Chloe was safely returned home.

The crash was minor, police said, but the dog slipped out of its collar when someone at the hectic scene opened a car door. No one was fast enough to grab Chloe before she bolted.

"We utilized the entire shift to try to get the dog back that evening," Methuen police Capt. Randy Haggar said. "We kept getting reports of her running around (Route) 213."

Koontz, uninjured from the crash, was panicked.

She teamed up with police and folks at a non-profit organization called Missing Dogs Massachusetts to assure Chloe was home to greet her family from vacation.

"It was a day when I didn't want to go the way I always go to their house," Koontz said. "I wanted to go a different route, where there was less traffic."

It was a blur after a car traveling next to her a moment before crashed into her, she said.

Within minutes, she was watching Chloe dodge vehicles traveling at highway speeds. She braced herself for the worst but was unable take her eyes off of the dog she has cared for and trained on-and-off for three years.

When dogs wander, the best thing to do is distribute photos on flyers and on social media, Koontz was told by the non-profit dog experts.

Word inevitably spread across nearby communities. Well-wishes flooded from Methuen, Dracut, Salem, New Hampshire and even Texas, where a Facebook user said she has Merrimack Valley roots that could prove helpful.

But Koontz said she felt discouraged as she rushed to areas Chloe was spotted to find out she was too many steps behind.

All it took was one lead after four failed ones to work out. It landed Koontz up against a fence abutting a yard and the highway, she said.

Some soft coaxing in a familiar voice and a handful of treats reunited them.

"She looked like a deer in headlights at first," Koontz said. "I inched closer, stopped, and she stared at me. When she realized who I was, she got so excited. She knew she was going to be safe. She pinned me down and started licking me."

From Vancouver, British Columbia, Stephanie Gargiulos and her husband, Michael, dished out money to pay for spotty cell phone connection that allowed them to check in with Koontz and others involved. They have a hard time describing the nerve-wracking experience.

"The last two days of vacation were kind of gone," Stephanie Gargiulos said. "There were no flights out earlier."

"We just can't wait to see her," she added.

The couple and their sons, 13 and 11, say they are grateful for everyone back home who assured their girl was safe in the end.

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