Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

‘It took a village’: How hundreds of strangers brought home a lost sled dog

Zhing (left) and his mother Siri
Zhing (left) and his mother Siri are sled dogs at Point's Unknown in Hovland.
Courtesy of Linda Newman

It is always stressful when a pet goes missing. That is especially so when they get lost in an unfamiliar area, hundreds of miles from home. That’s what happened when Linda Newman took some of her dogs from her home near Hovland to the veterinarian in Ely. She relied on social media and the kindness of hundreds of strangers to find her prized Hedlund Husky named Zhing after nearly a week of searching.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: You know, we're going to take time for another episode right now in our "Thank You, Stranger" series. This particular story is going to take us up to northern Minnesota and introduce us to some sled dogs there. Our producer, Ellen Finn, has more.


CATHY WURZER: Linda Newman loves dogs and dog sledding. She has 23 dogs, in fact, that she takes on trips across the state with her company in Hovland, Minnesota. A few weeks ago, Linda took six of her dogs out for a vet visit in Ely. She was about to set off for the three hour drive back to Hovland. But in the parking lot, one of the young dogs, Zhing, slipped his collar and started to run away.

LINDA NEWMAN: He just took off from there. My assistant and I took off running after him.

ELLEN FINN: But they couldn't catch him. Within minutes, Zhing was gone.

LINDA NEWMAN: I posted on social media right away. And it was an amazing response. People were sharing it. It seemed like it went viral. And people were calling in with sightings day and night. They were just so willing to help. The community just came right together.

ELLEN FINN: After that first day, thousands of people had reacted to and shared her posts. Friends and strangers from Ely, Grand Marais, Bemidji, and Minneapolis gathered to hand out flyers with Zhing's face around Ely. Strangers were even setting up their trail cameras to get a glimpse of Zhing.

A day passed, then another. After three days, Linda's posts on social media had received hundreds of comments and messages. And she was fielding dozens of calls from strangers with tips about Zhing day and night. But she still hadn't caught up to him.

LINDA NEWMAN: What I didn't realize is that dogs become feral once they feel lost. They don't recognize their name. They don't recognize the voice of their human. But they do recognize scent.

So I picked up Zhing's mother. So if I could get Siri out there, he'd be able to hopefully recognize her. And I could use her to lure him in.

ELLEN FINN: Linda was spending all of her time driving around the area with Zhing's mother in tow following each clue she was given.

LINDA NEWMAN: I was just going to check a sighting around one of the lakes. And I got a phone call saying, we just saw him. And he's at mile marker I think it was 271. And I looked on the map. And I thought, wow, that's 14 miles away. I thought, that can't be.

At the moment, I didn't give it much stock. But then two minutes later, I got another call saying, we just saw Zhing at mile marker 271. And they texted me a photo, and it was him. So I at that point just drove out there with his mother, Siri.

And I told him, well, if you have some food or something, spread it around the area. That should keep him in the area. And when we got there, she was spreading Dinty Moore stew all over the road [LAUGHS] to get him to come back and stay in the area.

And while we were there, we got another call that he had just been seen at the end of this little trail. So he was still in the area. So we drove out to that area and got another call saying he just went into this path that connects to another road. So as I turned from 169 onto the next road, I looked, and there he was.

ELLEN FINN: Linda grabbed Zhing's mother, Siri, and a bowl of food. She sat facing away from the dogs, shaking the food bowl while the dogs got acquainted again.

LINDA NEWMAN: [LAUGHS] I remember just sobbing, thinking, gosh, I really hope he doesn't pick up on me doing this [LAUGHS] because I really need him to come close.

ELLEN FINN: Linda's friend, who had stayed in the car, was filming the entire thing while on the phone with another friend.


- He's coming, though. I mean, he came forward again. Yeah, he looks so damn wolfy, it's nerve wracking. He knows Siri, that's for sure.

[GASPS] Now she lowered her ears [GASPS] like she's being sweet. Oh, my God. He's coming towards her. Oh, please, baby. Come, come, come. Oh, my God.

[GASPS] He's coming closer. He's coming. She's wagging his tail. [GASPS] It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. He's eating the food right now. She might be able to grab him any minute now. She got him. She's got him.

- She got him?

- Yep, she's got him.

- Oh, my God.


- Can you even believe it? She's got him.

- I'm crying.

LINDA NEWMAN: Finally, I grabbed him, and then I felt his body just drop like he felt relief. It was surreal. It was just surreal.

ELLEN FINN: After five days of wandering around unknown territory, Zhing rode with Linda back to Hovland to be with his pack again.

LINDA NEWMAN: It was quite the reunion. He was so happy to be back. Our bond has grown a little deeper because of it, I think. He behaves a lot more playful. He's pretty grateful to be found. [LAUGHS]

ELLEN FINN: Linda says she can't thank the dozens of strangers that led her to her lost dog enough.

LINDA NEWMAN: And the community just launched into find Zhing mode. It was quite amazing. It was such a remarkable story about everybody that got involved that knew nothing about us or Zhing, just saw it on social media and wanted to help. It is quite amazing, very heartwarming. I appreciate you, all of you. It took a village literally to get him back.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, my gosh. That was producer Ellen Finn. If you have a story about the kindness of strangers, we want to hear about it. You can call us at 612-361-1252 . Or you can email us at minnesotanow@mprnews.org.

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