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Xhaiden's Owners Meet Woman Who Helped Them Find Missing Dog

JoEllen Osborn's phone call to police led to Melanie Hill finding Xhaiden

It was the second most important moment of Melanie's and Doug Hill's week.

The first was finding their dog, Xhaiden, on Monday afternoon outside a River Road home in Point Borough.

The second was meeting and thanking the woman who made it happen.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Hills met JoEllen Brady Osborn, who had called police on Monday afternoon to report that she had seen a dog that looked like Xhaiden,

Osborn and her husband, Forman Osborn, visited the Hills, Xhaiden and his father, Tanner, at their home in Point Borough.

It was the first time the two couples were meeting face to face and it was sweet. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of thank yous.

"I just can't thank you enough,"  Melanie Hill kept saying. "Anytime you need anything at all, come here. We're here."

Melanie Hill and JoEllen Osborn first spoke on Tuesday afternoon when Patch visited Osborn at her home, called Melanie Hill and handed the telephone to Osborn so she could talk to Hill.

As Hill talked about how much it meant to her and her husband, Doug, that she had given them the tip they had prayed for, tears streamed down Osborn's cheeks.

Osborn, who taught for many years at and then , grabbed a tissue, dabbed at her eyes and smiled through the tears as Hill said, "I am so grateful, you have no idea."

"Well, that's not necessary," Osborn said into the cell phone. "You've made me so happy, just knowing you got your doggy back."

The Osborns are  also animal lovers, having had numerous dogs and cats over the years, including a number who have lived to be 18 years old. In April, they had to make the tough decision to put down a dog and a cat who had succumbed to illness.

"I know what it feels like to lose an animal, but I've never had one run away," she said. "I would be out of my mind. I just can't even imagine what they were going through."

The beginning of the end of Xhaiden's long, lost weekend came when Osborn saw a dog on the other side of her fence off Maxson Avenue. Her driveway fronts on Maxson, while her home fronts on the Manasquan River, next to the Maxson Avenue Beach and across from

About an hour after seeing the dog, Osborn and her husband were grocery shopping at Stop & Shop on Bridge Avenue. As she walked out into the vestibule, she happened to spot a "Lost Dog" poster hanging on the bulletin board to her left.

"It looked like the dog I had seen," she said. "I thought to myself, I saw that dog at home and an hour later I saw a dog that looked like it on a poster. It's too coincidental. It was a sign. I felt like it was happening for a reason and I needed to do something."

Osborn called when she got home and talked to Dispatcher Steve Grady, who said he knew about the missing dog and would send officers out to her neighborhood to look for the dog.

"And I could tell by his voice that he really was going to send them," she said.

And for good measure, Osborn called Stop & Shop and asked them to read her the dog owner's phone number on the poster and she called that number too.

By the time she called Melanie Hill's cell, she was with police who had been dispatched as a result of Osborn's call to police.

"I didn't realize at the time I was talking to the person who had seen the dog and called the police," Melanie Hill said. "Things were so chaotic that day. I don't even know if I talked to her before or after the dog was found. So many people were calling me."

Melanie Hill said when police told her the dog had been spotted just off Maxson Avenue and River Road, she drove over there with Tanner, Xhaiden's father. She drove up and down various streets, sometimes getting out of her car to search on foot.

At one point, she drove down River Road and stopped at a large home with a long driveway.

"I just had a feeling I should look there," she said. So she ran down, despite the "No Trespassing" sign and not knowing whether anyone was home.

When she didn't see Xhaiden, she started heading back up the driveway, but a shadow caught her eye and she looked more closely.

She spotted a dog, that had risen on its hind legs, in an aggressive stance, "like a bear up on its back legs," Hill said.

"And I heard a growl come out of him, like I have never heard before," she said. "And I thought, that is not my Xhaiden. Xhaiden is the sweetest dog, he's a mush. I just didn't think he could be like that. So I didn't think it was him. And my heart just sank."

But Hill said she had to be sure whether the dog in the shadows was hers before she left that driveway.

"I got down on my knees, so I would look less threatening, and I called out his name a few times, like I usually would," she said. "And then he whimpered, came down and ran towards me. He jumped up on me and was licking me and I was crying.

"It was a moment like I have never had before," she said. "I was so happy. It was surreal."

She immediately called her husband.

"I was screaming into the phone, 'I got him, I got him,' " she said.

"My husband was so happy," Hill said. "He worked harder than anyone trying to find the dog. He got no sleep from Friday night til Monday night. He was walking up and down every street looking for Xhaiden every day."

Hill said she sat with Xhaiden in that driveway for a good 20 minutes, just to make sure he would be stable for the ride home. When she walked out of the driveway onto River Road, people in cars and on foot realized she had found her beloved pooch.

"People were crying, honking and yelling, 'It's Xhaiden, it's Xhaiden,' " Hill said. "A lot of them had been out looking for him. I have never seen a community have the amount of compassion, to take time out of their busy schedules to do that.

"There were people from Toms River driving up here all weekend to look for him. People from all over Point and so many towns were out looking, calling me, emailing me, leaving me messages on Facebook.

"I used to have 80 to 90 Facebook friends, now I have double that," she said, adding she is so grateful to everyone who called, spread the word and looked for Xhaiden. There were also volunteers from Howell, Brick, Bradley Beach, as well as Point Borough and Point Beach helping with the search.

"It's just been an unbelievable, life-altering experience," she said.

When Melanie Hill finally got Xhaiden and Tanner home, Doug Hill cracked open a bottle of bubbly.

"Tbe four of us just sat on the floor together, enjoying the moment," she said.

Since then, Xhaiden got a clean bill of health from the veterinarian Tuesday morning and had a microchip installed.

"And we're getting a new fence," Hill said. The Hills have not figured out how Xhaiden escaped their fenced-in backyard, so they're replacing the fence.

She said she did not have collars on the dogs when they went into the backyard on Friday night because she doesn't keep them on the dogs when she and her husband are not home.

"They play rough and have come close to getting caught up in the collars," she said.

So they didn't have collars on when she let them into the backyard, just after her and her husband got home from work, for what was supposed to be a quick bathroom break.

Now they'll be taking every precaution to make Xhaiden has no more lost weekends.

 

Kathy Bottone January 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM
What a wonderful ending to the story of Xhaiden's great escape! I always knew Point was a terrific place to live and this experience just underscores it. I was out that afternoon driving with my dog in the car to try and spot Xhaiden and I was just stunned at the number of cars and people who were obviously searching. It made me so proud to live here!
Bev Fantini January 12, 2012 at 12:01 PM
So glad your pup is home and safe. I know how much a part of our lives and family they are. I just recently lost my golden to a brain tumor and Red Bank hospital was just wonderful. I think about him everyday. God Bless!! I will also get a chip next time when we get a new puppy. I think we all learned a lesson from this about how to protect our pets.
circus-circus January 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I'm thrilled they found your dog and I even sent word out to my friends in Point to be on the lookout. I really mean this. I had a Lab that was like a family member, so I know how hard it could be not knowing where your pet is for almost 3 days. BUT, get on to the next news story, Patch! Enough is enough! Isn't there anything else to write about? Every time I open my e-mail, it's the same headline. Move on.
Denise Di Stephan (Editor) January 12, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Actually, Rick, this is a brand new headline. First story that has name and photo and interview with Mrs. Osborn, who saw dog and called police, which is what led to him being found, first story that explains, through the eyes of Melanie Hill, how dog was found, first story where owners and the Osborns are meeting face to face with the Hills who were eager to thank them in person. which are all things that thousands of people wanted to know, based on our very high readership of these stories and comments left here and on Facebook. At this point, I don't plan to write any more stories about this. I hope the Hills and their pets go back to having a quiet, happy, normal life. And for the record, this site has had lots of stories on other topics the last few days, but they didn't all have such happy endings.
commoncents January 12, 2012 at 01:37 PM
I'll agree with Rick on this one. I keep seeing updates about this dog story. It's been like 4 updates from what I've seen. It's really getting old and Im getting disappointed with patch. Thousands and thousands of animals get lost everyday. And twice that are abused and killed.
Kathy Bottone January 12, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Denise, I think because the headline kept showing up on FB as people shared it seemed as if the story was never ending. I have been waiting for this last article because I wanted to know how the story ended! And, to commoncents below...I have read several articles on the Patch about our local shelters and rescue group efforts. It might not just be on Point Patch, but I have read them on Brick and Manchester Patch. I do think that the Patch provides a great service to those of us who are interested in local news. When I hear sirens in my area, I go straight to the Patch to find out what has happened. The updates are a part of that service. I also think that if it wasn't for the Patch and other local internet sites, the word about Zhaiden would not have gotten out so thouroughly and the story might not have had such a happy ending.
Beach lover January 12, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Everyone I know has been following Xhaiden's story on The Patch. I for one want to thank you for the update. The great thing about the internet is that if you have no interest in a story you don't have to click on it. It's as simple as that. Thank you Patch for covering stories that are happening in our community. I, too, go to the Patch to find out all that is going on. GOOD JOB!!
Carole Clayton January 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I doubt that anyone who has ever owned a pet was annoyed by the updates ~ first to know he was lost and then to know he had been found!!! I say "good job Denise!" Carole
Cris January 12, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Love this story.... Denise you always do a great job reporting... it is always good to read about happy endings.... You did a great job reporting when my daughter was hit by a car this summer on Bridge Ave. But you can't control the comments from people who are just not nice.... Have a great day....
commoncents January 12, 2012 at 04:27 PM
So what if it wasn't a happy ending? Would you have all these people ,posting that the owner should of been more careful taking care of their animal? What would the story be then, Susan?
Heather Keefe January 12, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I think it's great that Patch stayed on this story. In a time when bad news surrounds us, the coverage reminds us of why it's special to live in a small town - neighbors helping neighbors and truly caring about one another. To me, this story is about much more than a dog.
vin c January 12, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Hey Rick...Chill out !
Zerosignal January 12, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I agree how many people actually care about this dog?? Dogs get lost all the time why is this one so f'n special
Stephanie January 13, 2012 at 02:29 AM
For those, that for some reason, have a negative comment about this story, you obviously don't have a heart. For many people, dogs are members of the family. If you were to have one of your children go missing, wouldn't you do everything possible to find him or her? This story is important because the owners did everything imaginable to find their missing dog. It brought so many people of Point Pleasant together for a common cause and, against all odds, Xhaiden was found unharmed. I was one who helped search for him every day since he was missing. The moment he was reunited with his family is a moment I will never forget. Denise's story is one of enlightenment and hope. Living in a world filled with negativity, it's wonderful to see something positive happening in a community. We should all feel lucky to live in a place where strangers will care for your well-being during trying times.
commoncents January 13, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Comparing a missing child to a missing dog? Are you serious? I'm not even gonna bother to point out the stupidity in that statement you just made. In either case it would be the parent/ owners fault for the missing dog or child.
circus-circus January 13, 2012 at 03:38 AM
commoncents LOL You're the best! You say it like it is to these Woodstock, burn outs! Get a life or go back to " occupying Wall Street!"
Stephanie January 13, 2012 at 03:46 AM
For many people that don't have kids or are unable to have them, their dogs are their children! Wouldn't you do anything in your power to find them? Are you saying that if your child was missing, it would be his/her own fault? I can't even respond to your ridiculous comments anymore. Obviously you are a person without compassion and that's very sad. I will go to sleep happy tonight, knowing I helped make a positive difference in someone's life.

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