Chance Hampton is an 11-year-old boy with a passionate mission: to help reunite local pet owners with their lost pets.
The Maywood Hills Elementary sixth grader, after noticing lost dog posters around his Bothell neighborhood, came up with the idea to create the "I Lost My Dog – Bothell, WA" Facebook community page devoted to publicizing lost pets in the community.
Since starting the page in late April, 340 people have "liked" his page, and pet owners from all over the Northshore area have used his page to post photos, provide details and ask for the public’s help in finding a beloved pet that’s gone missing.
"I could not imagine losing my dog," Chance explained in an email interview, adding, "Together our community can help lost dogs find their families by sharing each other’s stories."
His family owns a 4-year-old yellow lab named Coda.
His parents, Jason and Kelly Hamtpon, made sure to get Coda properly licensed and micro-chipped so that if she’s ever lost she can hopefully be reunited quickly with their family.
"But I think I don’t have to worry about that, because she loves people so much, she doesn’t ever leave my family’s side," he said.
Chance likened his page to an amber alert page for dogs, although he has shared posts for lost cats, too.
Many of the posts on the page include happy endings when the pet’s owner makes a comment thanking the community for finding their pet.
Chance often asks for updates on missing pets so he can keep his followers informed.
He also does a bit of research when a pet owner posts on his page.
"I try to see if it is a match to any of the dogs posted previously to my site. I also check Craigslist and PAWS (a pet shelter) to see if they are there. If so, I contact the person who posted the story and tell them I have a lead," he says.
Chance said the research is a lot of work, with so many dogs getting lost all the time, but he’s grateful when people who’ve liked his page help him out by offering leads.
Luckily, too, his parents help him out with the administration of the page by monitoring it when he is in school, spending time away from home playing sports, or after he’s gone to sleep.
"It is important that stories get out right away, so the dogs can be found as fast as possible," he said.
And, when they do post a story, the response by Facebook members can make a post go viral.
One chocolate lab named Maddy went missing near the North Creek Forest on May 10.
"Because of my Facebook page 144 people shared the story and 11,895 people were able to see that story," he said.
There are also the stories posted on the page that will pull at any pet owner’s heartstrings. Melaine Thompson’s 2-year-old yellow lab, Harley, has been missing since August 4 when her neighbor took him along with his own dog on a bike ride on the Paradise Valley Conservation trails behind their homes on Crystal Lake in Woodinville.
The dogs took off, but while the neighbor’s dog returned, Harley did not. The neighbor continued with his ride, as Harley had done this before but always found his way home.
The Thompson family has not seen him since that day.
"Since he has been gone I have put up around 250 signs around Woodinville and our reward has gone up to $1,000. I have put his picture on every social media site I can think of: Facebook, Craigslist, missing pet partnerships, etc.
"I have notified all vets about him.
"He is micro-chipped and the microchip company has sent flyers to all local vets and shelters alerting them of his disappearance," Thompson said.
The response, while it hasn’t brought their dog home, has been uplifting. The family has received calls daily with tips or sightings, all unfortunately ending in dead ends.
But they’ve also experienced the generosity of a Woodinville resident they’d never met before, who bought, made and put up 30 neon poster boards with her own teenage sons who attend WHS.
The woman has also spent hours driving around looking for Harley and knocking on doors looking for him in the hopes of reuniting the Thompsons with their beloved dog.
They’ve had complete strangers volunteer to knock on doors where sightings have occurred.
"I have spent hours each day in the car and on foot searching for him.
"In my heart, I know he is out there. Did his collar fall off? Is he living with another family? Is he lost in the woods? We don’t know but are praying for answers," Thompson said.
Her husband Chris, and their children Savannah,14, and Cody, 10, have read that dogs can travel quite a distance when lost, so they ask people living as far away as Duvall, Redmond or Bothell keep an eye out for him and call them day or night if they think they’ve spotted him.
Thompson’s cell phone number is (206) 915-5070.
Chance has received lots of positive feedback about his Facebook page.
"Most people are really appreciative of the exposure they get from letting the community know about their lost dog. The more people that see the information, the more likely the dog will be found," he said.
"People are surprised to learn that an 11-year-old can do all of this," he explained.
However, for all the pet owners who use his page to get the word out about their lost pet and for those who are lucky enough to be reunited, it’s safe to say they feel gratitude towards Chance and his effort to help heal broken hearts.
For a description of Harley, and to see other postings of pets currently missing in the Northshore area, visit www.Facebook.com/ILostMyDogBothell.