NAPLES — She knew the Old Naples neighborhood inside and out.
But when the first firework burst on New Year’s Eve, Frances — an 8-year-old seeing-eye dog — bolted off the porch of her home near the Naples Pier, leaving her owner for days.
“I’ve had guide dogs for the last 28 years (and) to not have my guide dog in my left hand, it’s like my left hand is missing,” said 80-year-old Edith Kling, Frances’ owner. “It was getting really, really terrible minute by minute. You have no idea, when you’re blind, the attachment you have for your dog. It was just terrible.”
Four days and hundreds of e-mails later, Kling and Frances were reunited this week, after someone located the 8-year-old yellow Labrador at Collier County Domestic Animal Services.
“I have never seen such an outpouring of kindness and concern,” said Stephen Kling, Edith Kling’s son. “The entire town rose up to find the dog.”
A Sunday morning e-mail to a perfect stranger may have something to do with the community response.
Around 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Stephen Kling sent an e-mail to Naples resident Paul Frey asking for help. In his e-mail, Stephen Kling said Frey’s name popped up when he searched for dogs and Naples on the Internet.
“I thought you might be able to help put out the word to other Naples dog people,” Stephen Kling wrote. “My mother’s seeing eye dog bolted during the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Old Naples and is still missing.”
Two hours later, Frey — who has played an active role in trying to create an off-leash dog park in Naples — sent an e-mail blast to the more than 100 people he has on his e-mail list.
Those e-mails were then forwarded to friends, and suddenly, Stephen Kling said, his mother was getting bombarded with help in hopes of finding Frances.
“I can’t believe how this community got together,” Edith Kling said. “It was the most unbelievable of the goodness and kindness coming out of people’s hearts.”
All that goodness paid off: Edith Kling said she received word on Monday that Frances was at Collier County Domestic Animal Services.
Amanda Townsend, director of DAS, said Frances came in Thursday night after an officer found her in Old Naples. While they scanned the microchip implanted in Frances, the number that kept coming up was for the guide dog school in New York.
Calls to the school went unanswered, Townsend said, because of the holiday weekend.
“The trail had gone cold (for the officer) there,” she said.
Townsend said she returned to work Monday to find an e-mail — with an animal identification number — about a dog listed on the Web site. That dog, she said, turned out to be Frances.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “It was really exciting. You could tell that Mrs. Kling was so relieved. It was fabulous to see.”
Edith Kling may have been excited to see Frances, but Frances may not have necessarily felt the same way.
“I was feeling indescribably happy,” she said. “She ignored us. She was punishing us.”
Edith Kling said everything was back by normal Monday night, and she appreciated all of the support from the community.
“It was the most amazing (instance) of people coming together and of people helping,” she said. “I have no words to say how they helped me.”
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco