Service dog search ends in smiles


By Andy Winemiller - [email protected]



Madilyn Kelly is a 4-year-old girl with autism. She has been reunited with her service dog.


Submitted photo

Service dog Zoomi is back alongside 4-year-old Madilyn Kelly after four days missing.


Submitted photo

A search for a little girl’s missing service dog ended well Friday morning.

Melissa Wall said Madilyn Kelly’s service dog went missing from the Cana, Virginia, home of the 4-year-old’s babysitter. Wall is friends with Madilyn’s mother, and Madelyn is autistic.

Wall said on Tuesday the dog, which is being trained as Madilyn’s service animal, bolted, and since then there have been a wide array of efforts to find the missing German Shepherd.

“We have had it all over Facebook, and we have been calling local veterinarian offices,” said Wall.

However, some things just work out. On Friday morning Zumi was scratching at the babysitter’s door. Wall said he hadn’t been harmed and didn’t appear to be malnourished. It seems as if the dog may have been cared for by somebody else throughout his missing-in-action period.

Wall said she and many others breathed a sigh of relief. Madilyn had not been sleeping since the dog disappeared, and Zumi constitutes a large investment which took months to come to fruition.

“We set up a GoFundMe account and had a hot dog fundraiser,” explained Wall. “Many kind people donated money. One anonymous donor gave $500. He didn’t even know us.”

Wall said various local businesses also helped with fundraising efforts.

A trained service dog costs between $12,000 and $15,000, according to Wall. It was evident the cheapest way to score Madilyn a service dog was to purchase a dog and have it trained. About three months ago, the group purchased Zumi for about $1,000, and since then they have invested about $2,000 in training.

Zumi isn’t quite ready for all associated tasks yet, as much training awaits the dog. However, Wall said once all of his training is complete one of the dog’s most important functions is tethering — to keep Madilyn from wandering away, possibly into a dangerous situation such as into a street.

Another role Zumi will perform will be aiding Madilyn in her social environment.

“Zumi will help her in social acclamation,” said Wall, explaining Madilyn is, by nature, a loner, who could use the extra attention Zumi will draw to help form bonds and friendships with other children her age.

Wall said she and others may never know what Zumi was up to for four days. They are simply happy to have him back.

“We don’t no if he had been staying at somebody else’s house and they let him go or what,” said Wall. “We are just so happy he has been reunited with Madilyn.”

Madilyn Kelly is a 4-year-old girl with autism. She has been reunited with her service dog.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/web1_Madilyn.jpgMadilyn Kelly is a 4-year-old girl with autism. She has been reunited with her service dog. Submitted photo

Service dog Zoomi is back alongside 4-year-old Madilyn Kelly after four days missing.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/web1_Zoomi.jpgService dog Zoomi is back alongside 4-year-old Madilyn Kelly after four days missing. Submitted photo

By Andy Winemiller

[email protected]

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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