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The Search for Bridgett
Confusing rules about signage make finding a lost dog more difficult

How long would you look for your dog if he went missing? A week? A month?

Pat Panek of Littleton, Mass., has been searching for Bridgett, her lost Husky, for nearly four months. Thanks to tips from the public, she is not giving up—but her “lost dog” posters are causing conflict. Panek says some of the signs have been torn down almost as soon as they go up, and town laws are confusing regarding public signage.

“Every one of the last bunch was down in under three days,” she said last week via e-mail. “It’s discouraging. I believe that had I not been hampered in my posting, Bridgett would have been home long ago.”

Panek’s persistence isn’t just wishful thinking. She received phone calls reporting Bridgett sightings throughout the winter. Springtime weather is here, and the calls continue: The latest information puts Bridgett in a conservation area near the town of Acton.

It’s not certain who, exactly, is tearing down the signs. One Littleton citizen complained that a poster and sandwich board were obstructing vision in the town common; those signs were removed by police. Panek says she was then instructed to apply for a signage permit with the town, but was denied because she’s “not a town organization.

She’s struggled with town officials in nearby Acton, too. Panek told a Boston CBS affiliate that some local business owners have declined to post her flyers due to worries about fines. She said that she dates her posters to keep them from staying up too long, but they often are torn down quickly anyway, possibly by residents who just don’t like them.

The director of Acton’s Planning Department, which enforces signage laws, told the station that his team hasn’t removed signs—he said Panek is allowed to post them as long as she removes them in a timely manner. One of the town’s selectmen admitted that Acton’s laws on the matter are often confusing and contradictory, and that changes are underway.

Panek doesn’t have much time to wait, however. Bridgett, a seven-year-old rescue, tunneled out of Panek’s backyard on Nov. 27, 2011. She’s been spotted dozens of times since then, and has apparently survived the winter. Bridgett’s background is part of what’s kept her from being caught: She spent the first six years of her life in a puppy mill. After living in a crate for most of her life, getting her into a trap is nearly impossible.

Despite the poster problems, Panek says that the community’s reaction has been “fabulous.” Granite State Dog Recovery, a volunteer group from New Hampshire, offered its services to Panek, giving advice and lending her Hav-A-Heart traps and a trail camera. She has a Facebook page and hands out flyers, brochures and business cards looking for information on Bridgett. The calls keep coming.

“I know she is out there,” Panek says. “I believe she will come home soon. But if I am wrong, I don’t know when that cut-off”—the end of the search—“comes. I just know it’s not now.”

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Kathleen St. John is a freelance writer for target The Denver Post and The Onion's A.V. Club, and a lifelong dog lover. She lives in Denver, Colo., with her husband, John, and her dog, Daisy, who's a mix of just about everything. avclub.com
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Submitted by Tricia | March 23 2012 |

It is really a sickening thought that a resident would be so heartless to voice a complaint on a lost dog flyer. What is wrong with these people???????
I will be praying that your Bridgett is found soon. Don't give up hope. When found, you may want to move to a town that has a heart

Submitted by AnonymousPam Wi... | March 24 2012 |

Are you kidding me? EVERYONE KNOWS finding a missing person or canine or feline child is an EMERGENCY to the person trying to find them. The more people who are alerted, like an Amber alert, the better the chances are of finding their loved one before a horrible tragic event occurs! These signs are not for money and profit they are for HELP! How callus and hateful to take down a sign like this. There are a lot of good people in this world and there will always be a few demons who try to ruin and break people's hearts. This is a total lack of respect at the basic level of life. You should all be helping not creating more hurt and pain, shame on these people!

Submitted by Meagan | March 24 2012 |

Pat, I just know she will come home. I am sure she misses you and Buster. Even though I am to far to physically help, we are family and you will always have my support! Bridgette honey play time is over go back to Mommy and your family!

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