MARQUETTE - Lifelong Laurium resident Vicky (Jurmo) Bastian is an animal lover who doesn't just say she cares about pets: She does something about it.
She is the founder of the Facebook page Lost & Found Paws of the U.P., an online place that's become a godsend for Upper Peninsula people trying to find missing dogs, cats and other pets.
A popular FB page almost from its start, L&FP became even more well known after helping to reunite a downstate man, Scott Wilson, with his beloved boxer Gracie, who had run off into the woods along M-28 near Deerton after a traffic accident in January.
Vicki Bastian's grandchildren and her dogs pose for a photo. From the left in back: Jadyn, Kailee, Camryn and Ian Bastian. In the front: Bella, Abby and Sofee. (Vicki Bastian photo)
Bastian's relationship with pets goes back a long way.
"How long have I had dogs? Forever. As long as I can remember, I've always had a dog in my house," Bastian said. "I love cats but never had one. And now I am allergic to them so I can't have them."
With ease, Bastian ticks off the various breeds that were part of her life growing up.
"Two German shepherds, three boxers, three beagles, two springer spaniels, a chocolate Lab," she said. "And the first dog I remember was part Airedale. The dogs kind of overlapped, but we were never without one."
Bastian said her husband John had one dog while growing up.
"Now he doesn't really have a choice," she said. "He's a dog lover."
The Bastians have three dogs at present: Abby, a 9-year-old boxer; Bella, a 3-year-old beagle; and Sofee, a 9-month-old boxer puppy.
"Are my kids dog lovers? Oh, gosh. Yes. My two sons each have two dogs," she said. "When we all get together, it's a zoo."
Now retired, Bastian said she spends "most of my life on the computer," which led to her starting L&FP on Dec. 27, 2011.
"For the four months before I had been posting about missing pets on my personal page but it was overwhelming for my friends," she said. "My granddaughter Kailee helped me design the (L&FP) page.
"I started with local dogs. The first one was Tippy, who was missing from Hancock. She was a husky and we never did find her. It brings tears to my eyes, thinking about her. When a dog is missing, I feel like it's my own pet."
What started out small as a place for Copper Country residents to post information about lost or found animals soon grew.
"I never expected this. I thought maybe we'd get a couple hundred 'likes' on Facebook," she said. Instead, L&FP has nearly 2,300 and continues to add new fans.
"Almost right from the start, every time I turned on the computer, there were more people (who liked the page)," Bastian said.
This really started to get busy when Diesel the dog was lost while its owner, a Chicago resident, was hiking in the Porcupine Mountains in the western U.P. Bastian not only posted information so others could be on the lookout for the missing pooch, she helped in the search, bringing a live trap in hopes of helping capture the dog on the run.
"There were no sightings of him," she said. "But then two ladies who were camping found Diesel trapped in an outhouse. The door pushed in, so once he was inside, he couldn't get out. He would have died if they hadn't found him."
And reuniting the dog with its owner might have been tough if so many people didn't know about Diesel being missing through the Facebook updates.
"Gracie's case, within a day of that, we had 100 likes. I couldn't keep up with the notifications," Bastian said.
The volume of posting is sometimes overwhelming, so Bastian has recruited some help, with Kerri Willey in the Marquette area and Dawn Hammond, who will soon be on board from the Delta County area. Another former helper, Laurie Rivas, has relocated from Iron Mountain to Texas, but still posts to help L&FP.
"What's funny is that I haven't met any of these women personally," Bastian said. "I don't know them, really, but I feel like I do. They are all such wonderful people."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.