A Dog Is Missing, and Social Media Is On It

Charles, a cream-colored poodle terrier mix, was missing. That, on its own, was not particularly noteworthy.

But Charles, known to his human friends as Charlie, had connections. His owner, Courtney Robbins, is a Tucson musician who was on tour in New York when her dog was lost. And Ms. Robbins has a network.

News of Charlie’s disappearance on Sunday, May 17, spread quickly online. Christabelle Merill, who had been dog-sitting, posted signs throughout Tucson’s hipster community on Fourth Avenue and put a notice on Craigslist. After Ms. Robbins made a Facebook post, her friends shared. Tucson Weekly mentioned Charlie’s disappearance.

By the following Thursday, Charlie had gone national: Kate Nocera, a BuzzFeed News senior congressional reporter and a friend of Ms. Robbins’s, shared word about Charlie via Twitter.

“There’s not much I can do from D.C., but I obviously want to help, and I have a lot more Twitter followers than she does,” Ms. Nocera said, “so I put it out there in the hopes that someone will see it.”

Ms. Nocera has a point: About 17,000 people follow her on Twitter; 137 people follow Ms. Robbins. Ms. Nocera’s tweet about Charlie has been retweeted 25 times. Some retweeters were journalists; others were Tucson natives.

Charlie disappeared on May 17 around 6 p.m. A gate was left open, and adventurous Charlie decided to explore. He wandered around Fourth Avenue, where visitors will find tattoo parlors and an abundance of smoke shops.

A flier about a lost dog.
A flier about Charles, a poodle terrier mix who disappeared on Sunday, hangs on the corner of Fourth Avenue and E. University.Yessenia Funes/NYT Institute

Joy Soler, who owns a local coffee shop, Revolutionary Grounds, was among those who shared the Facebook post on Revolutionary Grounds’ Facebook page. She said that Fourth Avenue is a tight-knit community and that people there tend to look out for one another.

As for Ms. Nocera, she said she did not think much about her tweet. After all, she spends most of her workday on Twitter. “It’s second nature to tweet something out,” she said.

This was not the first time that Ms. Nocera used Twitter for assistance, and the requests are not always so altruistic. While covering the Ted Cruz filibuster in 2013, she recalled, she needed some coffee. It was 6 a.m., when Ms. Nocera could not leave Capitol Hill, and no coffee shops were open there anyway. So she asked her Twitter followers to bring her coffee — and it worked.

A follower was passing a Starbucks on his way to work and also passing her area, so he obliged her request.

With 74 percent of online adults using social networking sites, it should come as little surprise that someone brought Ms. Nocera her coffee. Plus, the Pew Research Center found in 2010 that “Internet users get more support from their social ties, and Facebook users get the most support.”

That rings true for Ms. Robbins. Charlie has not been found as of May 27, but the support has been “overwhelming,” she said. A Facebook page dedicated to lost dogs has also shared her post.
Ms. Robbins, reached by telephone in New York, said that her friends were still pursuing some leads. The most promising lead centered on the last sighting of Charlie on the day he disappeared: A skateboarder had brought the dog into Sacred Art Tattoo Studio, on Fourth Avenue, and asked whether anyone knew who owned him.

“I just want to see my dog again,” Ms. Robbins said.