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Recently widowed Brainerd woman reunited with her lost dog

It has been a tough few months for Brainerd resident Sara Dunlap.

In March, Dunlap, 75, lost her husband of 58 years, Tom, to a heart attack. Six weeks later her 15-year-old dog — a border collie mix named Libby — disappeared from Dunlap’s property off Thiesse road in rural Brainerd.

“I was so sad,” Dunlap said. “She was my comfort when (Tom) died.”

Amidst a season of loss, this week brought some good news for Dunlap. Her dog Libby was found.

“Oh, I was so happy,” Dunlap said. “It had been so long, I kind of just let her go.”

Dunlap said her daughter, Susie Czarnetzki, saw Libby’s photo on Heartland Animal Rescue Team’s (HART) Facebook page. Libby was brought in to HART two weeks ago and was posted for adoption.

“They have a lot of animals so it’s hard for them to call,” Dunlap said. Dunlap contacted HART when Libby went missing, and for several weeks after. “If I had to do over again I would have called about every other day to check if they had her,” she said.

According to HART’s Facebook page, Libby, who the shelter named Dolly, was a stray looking for a good home. Dunlap said her daughter contacted the shelter and asked them to hold the dog until they could pick her up. The shelter was closed Monday, so on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Dunlap was reunited with her Libby.

“It’s so good to have her back,” Dunlap said. “I never thought she would be.”

Dunlap said Libby disappeared May 16 from her front yard. Dunlap was visiting Czarnetzki in Willmar at the time and asked her son, who lives next door, to check in on Libby while she was gone and let her outside. One day, Libby went outside and never came back — something very unusual for Libby, who always stayed close to home.

Dunlap said she and her family thought maybe Libby had gone into the woods to die.

“She was just gone,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap and her late husband, Tom, received Libby as a gift from their daughter who had purchased and trained the dog. “My husband thought she was the smartest dog in the world,” Dunlap said. “She was his dog.”

When Dunlap’s husband died in March she said Libby was her only companion at home.

“I had never lived alone,” Dunlap said. “I went from my parent’s home to marrying my husband and then we had kids, grandkids — my house was never empty.”

Dunlap said since coming home, Libby seems to be doing OK — tired and thinner than when she left home but still the same Libby who quickly found her way back to the cool tiles in Dunlap’s kitchen.

Dunlap said she is grateful to have Libby home and won’t be taking any chances of losing her again. “She’s a real good dog,” Dunlap said, “But, I think, from now on I’ll be in the yard with her.”

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.