Ready for some good news? This is Ashley's story.
If she were asked to list one of the worst days of her life, Brittney Novickis likely would say March 7, 2020, the day her beloved husky, Ashley, disappeared.
Hands down one of Novickis’ best days would be March 22, Sunday, the day she got a telephone call from Daytona Beach, Florida, saying that Ashley had been found.
How the dog ended up nearly 300 miles away from Novickis’ Garden City home is a complete mystery. But Novickis and her fiancé Paul McCarthy are only grateful and relieved that Ashley was found. She credits social media and the help of caring friends and strangers for a happy ending to a sad story.
As soon as she got word that Ashley was missing, Novickis began scouring her neighborhood calling for the dog and looking everywhere.
“I was out walking until 2 a.m. looking for her,” she recalled. “It was awful.”
On that fateful day, both Novickis and McCarthy were working. She was in Rincon and he was across town in Savannah. They figured that the dog sitter left the door open around 2 p.m. and Ashley wandered away. McCarthy came home around 7 p.m. and saw that the door was ajar. He immediately began trying to reach his bride-to-be. He and Novickis adopted Ashley five years ago he knew it was going to be a challenge to find her because the dog had a huge head start.
Novickis had been giving softball lessons and hadn’t checked her cell phone.
″(McCarthy) had called me about 57 times,” she explained. A former college softball player, Novickis came to Savannah to enroll at Savannah College of Art & Design where she earned a master’s in painting.
After discovering that she “really missed softball,” she started offering lessons, fell in love with her students and their parents and decided to make softball a career.
“I can’t even call it a job because I love it so much.” She has her own business called A2B Mechanics and averages working with 100 athletes a week. She travels to nearby counties and into South Carolina to teach softball mechanics. She often takes Ashley to the lessons.
Ashley is one of four dogs owned by Novickis and McCarthy. For a long time, they only had Ashley and Mavis, who began grieving soon after Ashley disappeared.
“She stopped eating and laid by the door,” Novickis said of Mavis, who is a Labrador rescue. (Their other two dogs are Banner and Rae Belle.)
Immediately, Novickis posted Ashley’s picture and information on various Facebook lost and found pages. As the days and weeks dragged on, Novickis continued with her Facebook comments. On March 20, she wrote: “I just can’t help thinking where she is and what she’s doing. If someone has her I hope you’re taking care of her and giving her the love she had in our home.”
Novickis and McCarthy regularly canvassed their neighborhood and talked to both the Garden City Police and truck drivers passing through the nearby port. The couple, as well as softball parents and players in other counties, put up fliers and spread the word on Facebook. Friends of friends shared the post and put the information on numerous lost and found pages.
Meanwhile, the young couple was baffled that nobody had even spotted Ashley. It was almost as if the dog had disappeared into thin air. (The couple theorizes that Ashley must have gotten picked up by a concerned truck driver who saw her on the loose. Ashley then may have escaped from the truck driver around Daytona.)
On March 22, Novickis received a call from Hailey Lingo, a Daytona Beach pet advocate who regularly checks Facebook’s lost and found pages.
“I have my own pet sitting business and I’m big in the fostering community,” Lingo explained, adding that she has two rescue dogs of her own. “I had just gotten off the Halifax (County) Humane Society Facebook page and then read about Ashley on a lost and found page out of south Georgia,” she recalled. “I said, ‘hey that looks like a dog I just saw on the humane society page.’”
Lingo reached out to Novickis and told her she thought the dog was Ashley. Novickis, in turn, called the humane society in Daytona and explained the situation to the person who answered the phone. The woman told Novickis that the dog had been found nearby without a collar, was turned into them on March 13 and listed as a stray. (Ashley was wearing a collar and tags the day she disappeared.)
“I asked her to go back to the dog and say ‘Ashley’ and tell her to sit and speak,” said Novickis, who was put on hold for what seemed like forever.
The worker finally returned to the phone and told Novickis that she approached the kennel and said five or six names before saying Ashley. When she did the dog recognized its name and started jumping up and down.
Novickis couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She and McCarthy gathered Ashley’s veterinarian records and jumped in the car to drive to Daytona. When they arrived, they were led to the kennel.
“I was so excited. I knew it was her instantly,” Novickis said. “I saw her goofy little grin and just knew.” The heartwarming reunion was filmed by humane society personnel, shared on its Facebook page and went viral with than 500,000 views.
Novickis and McCarthy couldn’t be happier. “We are thrilled,” she said.
And what would she tell other pet owners whose fur babies are missing? “I prayed,” she said. Don’t give up hope and keep sharing (on social media). Let people help you and, overall, just don’t give up.”
To view the reunion video go to facebook.com (@halifaxhumanesociety).