‘Neighborhood love,’ social media and surveillance cameras bring Fort Mill dog home

Stephen Raiford felt a pinch of panic and frustration when a neighbor on Facebook congratulated him on finding his missing dog several weeks ago.

He hadn’t.

Raiford’s dog Jada, a 9-year-old playful and loving husky, earlier had escaped from the family home in the Knightsbridge community of Fort Mill. But the neighbor was confused.

“We saw a message that said ‘Hey we saw that you got your dog back’ and it was like, no, I don’t have my dog,” Raiford said.

Jada had been “dognapped,” Raiford said.

The neighbor’s little girl saw a man putting the dog in his truck, and the family assumed Stephen and Coree Raiford had found the dog, who was known for bolting out of the Fort Mill family’s front door.

“The community is so good here,” said Stephen Raiford, who has posted missing reports about Jada on Facebook when she has escaped. “She’s out again.”

The neighbors catch the friendly dog “that everyone loves” when she is tuckered out from her ventures outside her yard.

For two weeks, the family fretted over what happened to Jada, who shares a bed and half her name with the couple’s 15-year-old son Jayden.

“It was pretty devastating,” Raiford said. “I ultimately knew we were going to get her back.”

They did.

A whirlwind of phone calls, handing out fliers, and Facebook shares led to discovering who had taken Jada.

It all hinged on the memory of a 9-year-old girl and surveillance footage of the man who lured Jada into his truck.

The man was not a resident of Knightsbridge. He was doing work on a neighbor’s home, Raiford said.

The girl was walking her own dog when she saw the man drive away with Jada, he said. She remembered what the truck looked like.

So the neighbors flew into action.

The Knightsbridge community recently had surveillance cameras installed in two places in the neighborhood. Other neighbors have their own cameras set up to capture images of license plates, just in case a crime occurs.

They got their first hit.

“It just started a mad house of Facebook messaging and camera searching throughout the neighborhood,” Raiford said.

The 3,000 shares on Facebook helped, along with the hours of video and camera footage the family pored through to locate the truck.

“It was a process of putting a puzzle together,” Raiford said. “Facebook was another huge component of us finding her.”

People would call or text the Raifords if they saw another husky in an area of Charlotte or Fort Mill, and other neighborhoods jumped into action to help locate the dog.

“There was a very good sense of neighborhood love there,” Raiford said.

Finally, they found the truck.

Once they had the license plate number, they went to the police. A woman called Coree Raiford around the same time to let the family know she knew who had taken Jada.

They made an agreement that if the man returned Jada, they wouldn’t press charges, Coree Raiford said.

“We just want our dog back” Stephen Raiford said.

Within an hour, the man was at the front door with Jada.

“It happened so fast — it was great, but panicky at the same time,” Raiford said.

“She was home,” he said. “The community was essentially one of the reasons we found her.”

Jada had a surprise when she returned home. She had two cat friends join the family.

The Raifords were in Charlotte at an animal shelter to adopt a kitten at the same time Jada was taken, Raiford said. They came home with two adult cats.

Jada and the cats get along perfectly. Well, almost. She and one of the cats “tolerate” each other, Coree Raiford joked.

Several weeks have passed, and Jada sits on the sofa like a person. She has a regal air to her, with her bright blue eyes and white coat. She watches her owners’ conversation as though she knows what they are saying.

“Are you very wise?” Coree Raiford jokingly asks Jada. The dog tilts her head back and howls something that sounds like “I love you.”