Maria Ginnebaugh knows you should never underestimate the kindness of strangers—because it’s something she’s experienced firsthand.

It all began on a chilly, drizzly afternoon in late March. Ginnebaugh, a Realtor-Salesperson with Coldwell Banker Island Properties, and her two rescue dogs, Mister, an 8-year-old lab mix, and Marley, a 7-year-old terrier mix, piled into the family car and headed to Ginnebaugh’s listing just a few miles away from their home in Nahiku. They’d visited the property a number of times and had established a routine: Ginnebaugh would park at the bottom of the quarter-mile-long gravel driveway and walk Mister and Marley to the house. There, the dogs would play outdoors while she worked inside.

But this visit would turn out to be very different.

The sky was beginning to darken when Ginnebaugh packed up her things and called for her dogs. Mister came running—without Marley. “He had a funny expression on his face,” she recalled. “That’s when I started to worry.” Ginnebaugh roamed the property for nearly an hour, calling for Marley until her voice was hoarse.

Panic-stricken, Ginnebaugh rounded up Mister and quickly drove home, where she called the Maui Humane Society to report Marley missing. Then, she posted a “lost dog” notice on Facebook, printed out a stack of flyers, and headed back to the property with a flashlight. She stayed there all night, unable to sleep, anxiously waiting for Marley to return. “Thinking about him out there alone in the cold and in the dark…it was horrible,” she said.

In the days that followed, Ginnebaugh continued to search the densely vegetated area, distribute flyers, and update her social media posts. And she wasn’t alone. “There were many volunteers from different organizations, including the Maui Humane Society, Valley Isle Animal Rescue, Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation (HARF), MauiWatch Pet Posse, Maui, HI Lost Dogs, Cats & Pets—aka, Paw Boosts—and many local vendors in the Hana area,” she said.

After nine days of searching, there was still no sign of Marley. But Ginnebaugh refused to give up. On that ninth day, a friend, Vicki Tabbachi of Maui International Real Estate Services, suggested hiring a drone photographer to locate Marley. A few hours later, Ginnebaugh received a Facebook message from Janet Becker of Pearl Realty, who had learned of Marley’s disappearance from Tabbachi. Becker and her husband, Craig, are both Realtors and professional photographers with drones. The Beckers offered to bring their equipment to Nahiku the next day. “The last two things Janet said to me were: ‘We are praying for a miracle’ and ‘I will not charge you for the drone service.’ I was so touched by her kindness, since I had never met Janet or Craig before.”

The next morning, Ginnebaugh and the Beckers met for the first time at the Hana Harvest roadside stand. In separate cars, they drove to the property where Marley had vanished. Ginnebaugh parked in her usual spot at the foot of the driveway; the Beckers opted to go further up the driveway and park closer to the house. After she and the Beckers parted ways, Ginnebaugh said, “I hiked on the gravel road [toward the house] with Mister, and at some point, I see the Beckers driving back down towards me. When they stopped, they said they had Marley in the car.”

Ginnebaugh was momentarily stunned. Then, the Beckers opened the car door to reveal Marley sitting in the back seat. “They miraculously found him as they were driving toward the house,” Ginnebaugh explained. It was a tearful reunion she will never forget. She immediately took Marley to his veterinarian; fortunately, other than some scratches on his legs and a minor fever, he was OK.

Today, Ginnebaugh says she still can’t figure out where Marley was for those ten days. She’s beyond relieved to have him home—and eternally grateful to those who helped her through the ordeal, especially the Beckers. “They live in Kahului and drove two hours each way to and from Upper Nahiku just to help a stranger…and they did not want anything in return,” she said. “They are truly remarkable.”

If your pet goes missing, Ginnebaugh says to call the Maui Humane Society at 877-3680 ext. 201 as soon as possible and file a lost report. She also suggests making flyers to distribute and leveraging the power of social media. She says she’s still overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she received—both online and in person—when she was searching for Marley. “Everyone was trying to help,” she said. “It’s amazing how kind people can be.”

Published in The Maui News – May 13, 2019

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