Lost dog in Tonbridge shows positive side of social media

FRIENDS REUNITED: Lisa Stokes (left) with Basil and his owner Julia Rabbitt PHOTO: Kerry Barton/Studio 23

Lost dog in Tonbridge shows positive side of social media

by Andy Tong | 9th January 2019

A DOG owner in Tonbridge says social media can be a force for good after her beloved pet Basil was found two days after going missing on New Year’s Day.

Julia Rabbitt also paid tribute to the town’s community spirit after local people all over Tonbridge went out looking for him.

Such is the power of Facebook, the eight-year-old pedigree cocker spaniel is now recognised in the street and has become a local celebrity.

Basil ran off while out for a walk at 7.30pm on January 1 near the family home off the Ridgeway.

He was found at 10.30am on January 3 by Lisa Stokes, who was visiting her parents nearby.

She recognised Basil from Facebook postings as he was cowering around some garages on Helen Keller Close.

Mrs Rabbitt said: “He ran out of the front door and up the road at the start of his walk, which is normal behaviour for him. My husband Arthur followed him but he had vanished into thin air.

“Some young lads thought they had seen him get run over, then he ran off in a panic. He might have got disorientated and then lost.”

'Now I go walking around and people come up to me and say, "is that Basil?" He’s a bit famous'

The way Basil’s plight went viral was a great surprise. “My step-daughter said she’d tell her friend Scott Hards, who runs a Facebay shop and has hundreds of followers. The post was shared 3,500 or 4,000 times overnight.”

“I had thousands of messages, I couldn’t keep up with it,” said Mrs Rabbitt.

“I would turn my phone on and every time there would be 50 notifications – people telling me ‘we’re going out now to have a look for him’.

“It was touching that everybody got behind it, that so many people were out looking. Facebook does have this positive side.

“You think it’s a waste of time, everybody’s just on there moaning, but it was really very nice.”

Not only did the campaign bring Basil back, he has his own fan club. “It went across the whole of Tonbridge and beyond,” said Mrs Rabbitt.

“Now I go walking around and people come up to me and say, ‘is that Basil?’ He’s a bit famous.

HOUNDED BY FANS: Basil has become a celebrity PHOTO: Kerry Barton/Studio 23

“It’s incredible, when I was shopping the other day I met a friend who said, ‘I heard you got the dog back’ and the woman at the checkout said ‘oh, is that the dog that was on Facebook?’”

She believes that the overwhelming support she received shows how the town rallies round in times of trouble.

“I thought people wouldn’t care, they’re too busy with their lives. But the power of Facebook really did take me by surprise.

“It’s not just negativity, it shows how the community of Tonbridge is so strong. There are some diamond people out there.

“You realise the town itself is developing quite well with its community spirit, with all the new eateries and galleries. I’ve always lived around here and it’s a good place to be.”

Although Mrs Rabbitt has been in the town all her life, she had only moved into her new house a month before Basil ran off.

“Now we’ve got to know our neighbours and we feel like we belong,” she laughed.

“It was an unpleasant thing to happen but it’s good to know how nice people are.

“We are heartened by human nature. We’re absolutely over the moon.”

Basil was examined by a vet, who found a tooth puncture mark on his back leg – possibly from a fox’s bite – and a cut on his paw.

Mrs Rabbitt was concerned that as a valuable pedigree registered with the Kennel Club, Basil might have been stolen for breeding purposes.

But she reckons that the social media presence would have acted as a deterrent.

“A lot of people were worried he might have been taken. But because of all the publicity it makes thieves think twice because the dog becomes too hot to handle.”

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