Finding ‘Sweetie the Chow Chow’ unites area pet lovers

Catherine Condon Gudio, right, and her daughter Paloma, 7, left, pose for a photo with the beloved Sweetie, a Chow Chow, welcoming the dog home with a small get together at Kaposia Landing Dog Park in South St. Paul, after she had been missing for five days. (Submitted photo)

Catherine Condon Gudio on Tuesday stopped by the St. Paul Yacht Club, not far from Harriet Island, to put up posters and talk to some boat owners about Sweetie the Chow Chow, who went missing for five days and was found June 3. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Mendota Heights dog inspires online network for lost pets

When her family’s dog ran away, Catherine Condon Gudio turned to social media. She was soon overwhelmed by the community’s response to find Sweetie the Chow Chow.

Sweetie is an aloof, but loveable, 35-pound pup that the family adopted from a shelter after moving to a house in Mendota Heights. She’s known to be a bit of a wanderer, but she usually comes home in less than a day, Gudio said.

After Gudio’s 7-year-old daughter, Paloma, lost hold of the dog’s leash May 29, the family didn’t see or hear anything for a few days, all the while eldest daughter, Bridget Sicard, was graduating from high school, leaving little time to search for Sweetie.

Her mind churned: Does she have enough to drink? Did she have a run-in with coyotes? Did she get caught somewhere on her leash? Where is she getting food?

“I was also sad I might not see her again,” Gudio said. “You’re going to wonder if you’re ever going to see them again; if you’re ever going to have any answers.”

Online support

Gudio shared her family’s desperation on the West St. Paul Neighbors group on Facebook, asking people to keep an eye out. 

She put up posters around town, too, but received an enormous response online.

By June 2, she had so many people following her family’s story and asking for updates, that a fellow animal lover, and a stranger to Gudio, started a separate group - “Find SWEETIE the Chow Chow” — dedicated to her lost pet. Within a couple of days, the online group had more than 100 members, and many people were actively searching and frequently posting Sweetie sightings and close encounters.

“I was never expecting this,” Gudio said. “I couldn’t believe the response for a dog. It’s kind of renewed my faith.

“There were so many comments on there of people going out for two hours and calling her name. That’s what really kept me going.”

Found, then lost again

Ashley Quynn and her mom, Pati Galligan, captured Sweetie over the weekend on St. Paul’s West Side, but she managed to get away. Again.

Helping Sweetie earn the nickname “Hairy Houdini,” the dog had squirmed out of her polka-dot collar and left behind her green leash.

Fueled by Reese’s Pieces, Redbull energy drinks and a banana, Gudio went out looking in their area early Tuesday, and the two women happened to be outside with another lost dog that wandered into their yard.

Quynn said they often rescue animals, bringing injured wildlife to the animal hospital or adopting rescues, including a blind Chow Chow mix that hit it off with Sweetie during her short stay.

“We just don’t want anything bad to ever happen,” Quynn said. “We don’t want to see anything hurting.”

Searching for Sweetie

To spread the word even further, Gudio talked to the members of the St. Paul Yacht Club, hung up posters at local businesses and around nearby Harriet Island Regional Park and had about a dozen teenage boys at River’s Edge Academy keep Sweetie in mind as they went outside for a team sport’s class Tuesday.

Still, Sweetie came home on her own time.

Late Tuesday night, Gudio was outside of her house talking to a neighbor. She noticed some chicken she left on the porch to bait the dog was gone and heard rustling. She called her husband, Brian, who came outside, even though they still weren’t sure it was Sweetie doing the rustling.

Under a birch tree, and looking as happy as ever, was Sweetie.

Brian was able to slide on her collar and coax her inside the house. After more than five days, Sweetie was home.

“After all the hoopla, she just came home,” Catherine said. “I’ve never in my life been so happy to get up in the morning and let my dog out. I’ve never been so happy to know I have to go get dog food pretty soon. I’ve never been so happy to smell her stinky breath.”

Network for lost pets

After Sweetie was found, the “Find SWEETIE” Facebook group administrator, Nicole Jacobson, decided to maintain the network of more than 130 pet lovers by renaming it to: “Find My SWEET Pet: West St Paul /West Side,” offering area residents a place to report lost pets and keep track of their status.

There, people have already been reaching out for help and offering support.

As Jacobson wrote in a recent post: “We’ve now managed to have one happy ending ... let’s make sure we have many more!”

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and Follow her at


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