A woman whose dog went missing nearly five years ago is still on the hunt for her beloved pet and hasn’t lost hope that she’ll find him.
In December 2012, Jackie Vestal, now 39 and a married mother of one in Los Angeles, lost her 8-year-old miniature pinscher named Maddox while visiting her in-laws in Oklahoma City. The family had planned a getaway to a Dallas resort that didn’t allow dogs, so Vestal reluctantly left Maddox in the care of a family friend in Oklahoma. “I really didn’t want to leave him even for a night and had this weird, awful feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Vestal told Yahoo in 2013. “But I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s good time and the fact that this woman owned a dog was comforting. So we left him with her.”
As soon as she arrived at the resort, Vestal received a call that the dog had escaped through the garage, and after falling to the floor in shock, she and her husband drove back to Oklahoma City.
Vestal went to great lengths to find Maddox, driving around the neighborhood until dawn, sending a pet Amber Alert, distributing fliers, enrolling in dog tracking classes, and even hiring a pet detective to track Maddox’s scent using his harness, which still had hair stuck to it. When nothing worked, Vestal went to the media, paying for a billboard ad, and giving interviews to local television, including a dog talk show.
She also launched a Facebook page called Maddox Miniature Pinscher Lost In Okc — which has nearly 5,000 followers — to spread awareness, track possible clues, and offer tips on what to do if Maddox was spotted. For example, the dog has an implanted microchip that’s registered as missing, so when scanned, Vestal would be alerted of his whereabouts. She also offered a $5,000 reward for his return.
“We contacted a few psychics, one of whom told me Maddox was hit by a car, another who turned out to be a scammer,” said Vestal.
Ultimately, Vestal took a 5-and-a-half-month leave of absence from her job as a business systems analyst and moved in with her in-laws during that time, despite her husband returning to Los Angeles, where he worked as a comedian.
Yahoo Beauty checked in with Vestal for an update on her devoted search, ahead of Maddox’s Aug. 13th birthday. “There are people who ask me, ‘When will you give up on finding Maddox?’ but I try to ignore them,” Vestal tells Yahoo Beauty. “I had a deep connection with Maddox. He was my soul mate.”
Now back in Los Angeles and raising a two-year-old son with her husband of seven years, Vestal still runs the Facebook page, although not as actively, and has a support group in Oklahoma — a devoted group of women Vestal has dubbed “Team Maddox.” They organize search parties, manage a phone number that serves as a tip hotline, and visit shelters in the hopes of spotting the dog. “These women keep me going when I feel like giving up. They’re lifelong friends.”
Vestal says she has an inkling of Maddox’s whereabouts. “In 2013, a woman in Oklahoma called me and said she was feeding a dog that looked like Maddox who was hanging out in her bushes,” she says. “But when I brought the pet detective to her house, she denied it.”
In the process of searching for Maddox, Vestal has found a sense of purpose. She’s rescued other dogs when tips turned out to be false alarms, fostering or helping re-home them. And the experience has made her more attentive to her surroundings when she’s aware of missing dog cases.
Vestal has complicated feelings toward the woman who watched Maddox the night he disappeared. “There’s no contact,” she says.
However, she keeps Maddox’s memory alive by hanging photos of him throughout her home and decorating her toddler’s bedroom with a dog theme. “He knows who Maddox is and can even say his name,” says Vestal.
She’s also added two new dogs to her home, a miniature pinscher named Bliss and a Chihuahua-Manchester terrier mix named Brownie.
“I wish I had closure with Maddox and know that he’s OK — that’s the part that keeps me up at night,” says Vestal. “I wish I could hug and kiss him again.”
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