‘Social media can bring out the best in people’: Nine days later, Peanut made it home

When Brittney Saunders' dachshund puppy, Peanut, went missing on February 29 she did what she does with most aspects of her life: candidly documented it online.

The Newcastle YouTuber and influencer, who has more than 600,000 Instagram followers, said it was a "no brainer" to take her search to social media, posting hours worth of video of her looking for Peanut.

Ms Saunders' search for Peanut made up among the most shared videos on Instagram in Australia last weekend, according to a spokesperson for the platform.

Nine days after Ms Saunders began her search, a couple who had seen one of her posts wrote on Facebook that they noticed the dog in their backyard looked like the one in the photo.

As of Wednesday – an admittedly skinny – Peanut has been back home, where Ms Saunders reports he is "back to his normal self".

"To have that many people so invested, it was just amazing," she says. "It makes you realise that social media can bring out the worst in people, but it also really can bring out the best in people; knowing how many people were out looking for him was really comforting."

For those without hundreds of thousands of followers, dedicated online communities help to spread the word when a pet is missing, with people finding a social media post works better than a printed flyer when looking for lost pets.

The Lost Pets Sydney group on Facebook has been running for 10 years and has close to 6000 members. It was created after a man lost his dog and realised there had to be a more efficient way to let people know to keep an eye out.

Current group admin Ruth Bailey, who also oversees other local lost pet groups, says there are 50 to 100 posts in the group on any one day, usually about missing animals members have seen reported elsewhere on Facebook.

Unfortunately, the holiday season is when the group is at its most active.

For those without hundreds of thousands of followers, dedicated online communities help to spread the word when a pet is missing.

"Around Christmas and New Years, when the fireworks are happening, many pets run from their yards and end up lost or even unfortunately deceased," she says.

There are also more posts during wild weather, such as the recent record-breaking storms in Sydney.

Online lost pet databases are staffed by a mix of people, says Ann Thorne, a bookkeeper from Diggers Rest in north-west Melbourne who is one of five people behind the 19,000-follower Victorian Lost Pet Register Facebook page. Some are also involved with animal shelters, while others are administrators on other local Facebook groups.

Ms Thorne became involved after responding to one of the page's periodic callouts for volunteers: "I know how devastated I would be if I lost one of my pets," she says, noting the happy endings keep her dedicating hours of her day to reuniting pets and owners.

"Recently we had a homeless gentleman who had a beautiful black and white dog named Buck and he went missing for over a month," she recalls. "Finally, someone handed him into the lost dogs home and someone spotted him on the home's social media … we all try to work together."

On both Ms Bailey and Ms Thorne's pages, most pets are reunited with their owners – even the more unusual ones. Ms Thorne recently made a post seeking information about three cows which have disappeared, while Ms Bailey says pets with wings often don't travel too far.

"One man posted a lost macaw and I saw a post a few days later in [another page] of a sighting of a macaw a few suburbs away," Ms Bailey recalls. "I told the owner and it turned out that it was his macaw – he was so grateful."

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