LAMOINE — Many youngsters — and adults alike — cannot make it through “The Incredible Journey” without shedding a tear or two. The book-turned-movie from the early ’60s chronicles three pets in their trek through the wilderness as they make their way back home after accidentally getting separated from their owners.
Leisa and Wade Welch and their children had their own reunion on Sunday after their white pug, Poppy, who had been missing for over three weeks, finally returned home. After escaping through their fence alongside their Lab, Sugar, Poppy eventually ended up at a home on the Washington Junction Road. While the home was 6 miles away from the Welches’ home in Lamoine, Leisa suspects Poppy traveled much farther due to the several reported sightings of her throughout her zig-zagged journey.
During the afternoon that Poppy broke free, Leisa did not notice that the 2-year-old pug (who Leisa calls “an indoor girl”) was missing until two to three hours had passed, at which point she began her “frantic search over the neighborhood.”
After learning from a neighbor that a lynx had been spotted on Birchlawn Drive chasing two dogs, Leisa assumed that the dogs were Poppy and Sugar. While Sugar returned home alone, Leisa guessed that a frightened Poppy just kept running.
“I traversed miles and miles every day putting up flyers,” Leisa recalls. While Wade used the family’s vehicle to get to work, Leisa had to search for Poppy on foot. She also reached out to animal rescue groups online.
After a week and a half without any sign of Poppy, Leisa finally spotted her on the Buttermilk Road and chased her in excitement. Poppy kept running and in the following days was spotted behind Pat’s Pizza in Ellsworth. Knowing Poppy to be “a pizza girl,” Leisa kept checking local pizza joints, putting up flyers and responding to callers who had seen Poppy all over town, including near Hannaford and the Acadia Village Resort.
On Sunday, after another two weeks without Poppy, Leisa got the call she had been waiting for.
“I just screamed. I couldn’t believe it,” Leisa says after learning that Poppy had been spotted on the Washington Junction Road and was being held in a nearby yard. She drove immediately to Poppy who began “yelping and crying,” when she and Leisa were reunited. “It was awesome.”
Throughout Poppy’s journey, the little white pug lost weight, received a cut under her leg, braved dropping evening temperatures and was even thought to have rolled under a neighbor’s car.
While Leisa cannot remember the names of the people who eventually stopped Poppy’s excursion, she calls them “my favorite people on the planet right now.”
Leisa and Wade moved to Lamoine from Ellsworth three months ago and despite still getting to know their new neighbors, Leisa says “so many people reached out,” and did what they could to help search for Poppy, including putting up flyers. One neighbor even set up a field camera and sat outside until the early morning hours looking for Poppy.
“I just want to thank everybody for every call, every email, the rescue groups in Maine, the animal control officer, the [town] of Lamoine, [which] provided some color flyers for me to put out,” Leisa says of the help she received from her community. She notes that it is especially meaningful during these times where she is constantly hearing negative news on television.
Poppy had a vet appointment scheduled for Monday. After starting her journey at 29 pounds, Leisa is not sure what Poppy weighs today.
After all the excitement, Leisa says Poppy is not back to her old self just yet but is “happy to be home.”