‘It was astounding’: When Maggie went missing, a whole town went searching for her


Maggie and Gus are inseparable.

The Immel family’s boxers even insist on sleeping in a dog bed big enough for one that they make work for two.

That changed Nov. 1 when Maggie was spooked by construction noise and fled her home off East Howard Street in Bellefonte. It came to a dramatic end Friday night when she was found trapped in Spring Creek under Veteran’s Bridge.

In the interim the Immels — Jackie, Eric and their daughters Hadley, 3, and Rylie, 7 months — where as heartbroken as Gus, who sulked around the house without his best friend.

Jackie Immel made the push to find Maggie in the daylight, using a baby carrier to chauffeur the girls while posting dozens of signs in downtown Bellefonte. Eric Immel carried out the evening into late night searches after work. They also learned more about the community they now call home after moving from Texas to Bellefonte in September.

Social media users directed them to Pet Recovery of Centre County, a Facebook page run by five women who help families find missing pets. Children and adults, most of them strangers, looked everywhere for Maggie. And one woman traveled 22 miles from Mill Hall to join the search.

“It was astounding,” Christa Gallagher, who helps run Pet Recovery of Centre County, said. “The community support was huge.”

The anxiety of not knowing where she was ended at about 10 p.m. Friday when two people, John Miller and Tabitha Whitesel, spotted Maggie in Spring Creek. She fell down the rapids before they could get to her and got swept away by the current, ending up trapped for more than an hour under the bridge.

Off-duty Spring Township police Officer Luke Nelson responded to the call immediately in chest-high waders. Surrounded by water 3 feet deep, Nelson discovered Maggie — scared, cold and covered in ticks — somehow climbed onto a small concrete island.

“A lot of people were upset given the high-stress situation,” Nelson said. “It was very emotional, and I kept trying to get her with treats, but she just wouldn’t come to me.”

Too frightened to approach firefighters or Nelson, Bellefonte police officer Jason Brower asked Jackie Immel to climb down a ladder to calm Maggie. Nelson picked up Maggie after a short introduction, carried her above the water and hoisted her over the creek’s wall to safety.

“It was this entire town that wanted to find my dog,” Jackie Immel said. “And they genuinely cared if we found her, which just makes me tear up. It was amazing. It was amazing.”