BOWDOIN — Losing a pet is a heart-wrenching experience for just about anyone. But for Lisa Nazarenko, finding her lost 12-year-old yellow Lab more than three weeks ago has become something of a mission.
A very expensive mission that she hopes will pay off with the safe return of her beloved Cappuccino.
“I’ve had her since she was a puppy. Her eyes were still blue,” Nazarenko said through tears Tuesday night, begging the public to help her find her pooch. “I’m out in my woods — 8 acres — every day.”
Nazarenko, a traveling cardiac nurse who lives on Lewis Hill Road near the Sabattus town line, is offering her 2007 Buell motorcycle, valued at $13,000, as a reward for anyone who finds her missing dog. And that’s just the reward.
She has already spent between $4,000 and $5,000 on fliers in the newspaper, professional dog trackers and banners, among other things, in hopes of bringing Cappuccino home safe and sound.
“I cure hearts for a living, but I can’t fix my own broken heart,” Nazarenko said. “I’ll do anything to get her back.”
Nazarenko returned home May 3 from a shift at Central Maine Medical Center and discovered her dog was nowhere to be found. At first, she didn’t panic because her home has a built-in automatic dog door that operates by a sensor in Cappuccino’s collar.
She thought her longtime four-legged companion was out for a stroll in her backyard. But after Cappuccino didn’t return when she called — which was unusual for the dog that usually stayed close to home — Nazarenko became worried and began the search.
Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors scoured the countryside in Bowdoin, Sabattus and Lisbon looking for Cappuccino. Nazarenko printed up 1,200 fliers and covered everything from car windshields to telephone poles in hopes that someone would recognize the missing dog.
And then, the phone calls started rolling in.
Some people called her with leads about her dog’s whereabouts; others called with horror stories about losing their own pets. And some called to tell her Cappuccino must have wandered off into the woods to die.
Mortified by some calls but optimistic about others, Nazarenko decided to hire a professional dog tracker from Maryland in hopes of at least discovering Cappuccino’s movements.
“This woman was amazing. Her tracking dog was amazing,” Nazarenko said of tracker Sam Connelly and her dog, Salsa, with Pure Gold Pet Trackers. “There’s no service like this in Maine at all. None that search for dogs.”
The tracking effort led Nazarenko to an unlikely meeting with Peter Ruby, owner of Sabattus Disc Golf, when she and the tracking team made their way onto his property. Initially coming over to ask them to leave because dogs were not allowed on the course, Ruby quickly changed his mind when he encountered a tearful Nazarenko begging him to allow the search to continue.
A dog lover, Ruby was immediately struck by Nazarenko’s plight and the 43-year-old business owner decided then and there that he had to help bring Cappuccino home.
“It was just a simple thing that I could do that could make a huge difference in finding that dog,” Ruby said of helping in the search for the past two weeks. “I’m a dog owner. I’m passionate about animals and I’m really connected with my own dogs.”
So connected, in fact, that Ruby said part of what drew him to Nazarenko’s situation was that he’d lost his own dog about the same time last year. And while his pet was missing for only one day, he said he still vividly remembers the anguish he went through as he frantically searched for his dog.
Together, Nazarenko and Ruby have spent the past several days putting up large banners near heavily trafficked areas, such as Interstate ramps and state routes around Bowdoin, Sabattus and Lisbon. The two have also been using motion-sensor security cameras that Nazarenko bought specifically to set up at a location the tracking dog kept returning to in hopes of catching Cappuccino on video.