Along came Polly

Injured dog on the run for weeks from NY to Erie to Warren is tracked and rescued

Times Observer Photo by Dave Ferry Polly happy.

To many of us, April 22nd of this year may not seem like that long ago; but, to Polly, it may seem like years.

Dog years, that is.

On Thursday, July 19, Paws Along The River Humane Society received a call from Youngsville police about a stray dog spotted sleeping on a rock underneath the railroad bridge in Youngsville. When Michele Bova and Matt Crouch from Paws arrived on the scene, the dog was still sleeping. As they approached quietly, something tipped her off. Polly bolted.

Later that evening, they returned with some food, only to discover they weren’t the only ones who were looking for her. Paws staff crossed paths with a group who had been tracking her movements for at least 5 weeks prior.

The first reported sighting was on 10th street in Erie.

Times Observer Photo by Dave Ferry Polly resting at Paws Along the River, grateful to not have to run anymore.

The Erie group which dedicated itself to the mission reported following her to Harborcreek; from Wattsburg to Waterford; from Townville to Centerville; and eventually to Youngsville.

Karen Kolos, Director of Paws, made contact with the Erie group to offer resources in a joint effort, but by that time so many people were invested in the effort — from volunteers to ordinary people — that a coordinated plan seemed almost impossible.

“A wonderful group of volunteers” became involved, Kolos said. “People were pulling off to the side of Route 6 trying to lure her with food.”

That was when Paws Along The River got the idea to go back to the place she was originally spotted, on the rock beneath the railroad bridge.

“That was her safe place,” Kolos said.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Deb Gleason with both of her dogs, Polly and Marley — together again.

They left her some food and when they returned, she had eaten.

The next morning, they left more food that she ate that.

On Saturday, they decided to set up a humane trap, but before they knew it, she was spotted near Starbrick. On Saturday evening, there was a Facebook post by a man who apparently hit her with his car near the Dairy Queen in North Warren. She was still on the move.

At this point, Frankie Johnson and Vicki Cusimano, neighbors from North Warren, joined with the Erie group and began working with them, hoping to find her still alive.

On Sunday, July 22 — three months to the day from posting about her missing dog Polly on Chautauqua County’s missing pets Facebook page, Deb Gleason of Ashville, N.Y., saw a post about the dog spotted in North Warren.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry Polly reunited with her human, Deb Gleason of Ashville, N.Y.

“We believe this is our Polly,” Gleason said on the post.

After being hit near the Dairy Queen in North Warren on Saturday, she wasn’t spotted again until Tuesday, July 24. Cusimano decided to go out looking for her, sweeping through the thick grasses along the Conewango River.

“I was inches away from her,” she said.

Polly took off again. Now, although only running on three legs, it wasn’t slowing her down.

By Sunday, July 29, despite a massive search effort on Friday that involved 100 feet of fencing, a 12-person search team and the combined efforts of Paws Along The River staff, Johnson and Cusimano, and other volunteers, hope began to wane that she would be found alive.

Times Observer photo by Dave Ferry An X-Ray of Polly’s hips from Pet Animal Hospital in Jamestown. Her dislocated hip from being struck by a car is clearly visible on the right of the image.

That morning, Sandy Nicholson of Paws decided to take her dog, Shorty, for a walk through the State Hospital grounds. Soon after, Polly was spotted by Ted Carrington, and children, heading up the hill near the Hampton Inn behind the oil tanks.

“That’s when everyone came together,” Kolos said.

What followed was a coordinated strategy that included a humane trap with fresh chicken, 15 bowls of food and water placed along the hillside, and a muskie net.

With all the volunteers spread out to cover the most ground, it was Cusimano who spotted Polly first.

She called the others on her cell phone.

Photo submitted to Times Observer The final rescue team. The search-and-rescue effort involved many more volunteers from Warren and Erie than pictured here. From left are Rick Johnson, Vicki Cusimano, Frankie Johnson, Jenna Blum, Sandy Nicholson, Karen Kolos and Linda Loomis.

“She’s 15 feet away from me, what do I do?” asked Cusimano.

Cusimano patiently waited for the others to get to her.

Finally, around 6 p.m., Rick Johnson was able to net Polly with the muskie net, and Nicholson covered her with a blanket.

Polly was brought to Paws Along the River that night for rest. The next day she was taken to Pet Animal Hospital in Jamestown, N.Y., where she had a full work-up. Bloodwork, Lyme testing, and X-Rays. The X-rays revealed a severely dislocated hip and Polly may require surgery, perhaps even amputation, according to Dr. Todd Swanson of Pet Animal Hospital.

On Tuesday, the Shepherd Sharpei was reunited with Deb Gleason, her owner, who was amazed to be reunited with her Polly after being lost for nearly four months.

“We mourned her loss,” Gleason said, remarking that their other dog, Marley, was so despondent, they eventually brought home a new companion, Tucker.

Gleason brought Marley along for the reunion, and Polly’s wagging tail left little doubt that she was finally with her family and didn’t have to run anymore.

The epic scope of Polly’s journey from Erie is hard enough to wrap one’s head around; but it’s still uncertain how she got from Ashville, N.Y., to Erie, Pa. Most everyone involved believes she may have been picked up and dropped off by someone, but no one will ever really know for sure.

Except for


“She was always very timid,” Gleason said, making it seem unlikely she would have run off on her own.

Although she is finally back home and in good spirits, Polly’s road to recovery will go on a little longer. A GoFundMe has been set up by volunteers to help Gleason cover medical costs.

If you wish to contribute to Polly’s recovery, visit

Google Map submitted to Times Observer Vicki Cusimano created this map which shows the ‘Incredible Journey’ Polly took from her first sighting in Erie, to her eventual rescue in North Warren. The big question mark that remains is; how did she get from Ashville, N.Y. to Erie?