A Hutchison, Minnesota pet owner used a series of classified advertisements in area newspapers to aid in the search for a family pet that went missing between Foreston and Milaca a few days after Christmas.

Ann Dovenmuehle had dropped off Stella, her family’s 4-year-old mixed breed, at her daughter’s residence before leaving on vacation with her husband and youngest daughter over the Christmas holiday.

“Our daughter, Lindsey, who lives in Milaca, was watching Stella while we were gone,” Dovenmuehle said. “She works at the St. Cloud Hospital. Her boyfriend came home for dinner on Dec. 27, and let Stella and their dog out for a bathroom break.”

That’s when things started to get interesting. Dovenmuehle said that Stella saw either a rabbit or a squirrel, and took off on an adventurous romp, getting lost in the woods.

Repeated calling and an afternoon-long search for the now missing dog were unsuccessful.

“They did not find her, and that Friday, they were still looking for her. Stella was lost for five weeks,” Dovenmuehle said.

Shortly after Stella went missing, Dovenmuehle took out lost dog classified advertisements in a number of area newspapers, including several weekly publications owned by the parent company of the Union-Times.

“Because of your ad, we did receive two phone calls from two separate people in the Milaca area,” Dovenmuehle said. “We had flyers all over in Milaca, too.”

About two weeks ago, a woman in the Mora area sent a message on Facebook through the Mille Lacs County Animal Control website, where Stella had been listed as missing, Dovenmuehle said. Stella also was listed on the Lost Dogs of Minnesota website.

“She sent a message twice that she had seen a dog matching Stella’s description by a cemetery in Mora. Every time we got a possible siting, we would drive up to your area,” she said.

The search for Stella narrowed significantly when Dovenmuehle received a call from a city of Mora employee who reported she had seen Stella running through her neighborhood.

After additional sightings in that area, staff with Kanabec County Sheriff reported that other people were concerned about Stella, especially her well-being during the recently brutal period of cold weather.

Lindsey eventually found Stella near the Kanabec County Fairgrounds, five weeks to the day Stella had been reported missing.

“She was just so happy to see us,” Dovenmuehle said. “She jumped right in Lindsey’s car, because Lindsey had brought her dog, Zara, who is best friends with Stella.”

As soon as the Dovenmuehles were able to get Stella home, she ate a cup of food and drank two bowls of water. A quick check with the vet confirmed that Stella had weathered her ordeal without serious harm or injury.

“Our family is still having a hard time believing that she’s OK. It’s wonderful because there’s so many bad things in the world. It’s nice to have story with a good ending,” Dovenmuehle said.

Between the weather and possible predators, Dovenmuehle said she told herself that a nice family probably had taken Stella in, and eventually, they were going to take her to a vet, because Stella is microchipped for identification purposes.

“I look at her now, and I cannot believe that she has no marks on her,” she said.

Ironically, a movie playing at the Milaca Theatre at the same time Stella was found tells a similar tale.

“A Dog’s Way Home” chronicles the adventures of Bella, a dog that makes an epic 400-mile journey, eventually being reunited with her beloved owner.

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