In early January, if you witnessed people criss-crossing Route 40 at all hours and wondered why, here's the answer.

Not one, but three Ellicott City dogs were lost at the same time — Holly a shih tzu, Bernie, a greyhound, and Sparrow, a goldendoodle. A massive volunteer effort to catch the dogs ensued.

Greyhound Bernie, a newly rescued race dog, bolted from his Greyhound Pets of America Maryland chapter caretakers at the Petco in Enchanted Forest during an adoption meet and greet.

The club mobilized a rescue effort. It immediately communicated to their members that a greyhound was missing, and dozens of greyhound lovers descended on Ellicott City.

The volunteer crews brought dog food, flashlights, callers and greyhound pets to lure Bernie out of hiding. While the search crews combed Route 40, the club posted Bernie updates on its Facebook page and sent out missing dog "robo calls" to the surrounding community. Even the Enchanted Forest U.S. Post Office helped by giving mail carriers "Lost Bernie" flyers.

While the Bernie rescue was underway, shih tzu Holly escaped her new home on the first day she was adopted from the Small Miracles Dog and Cat rescue on Route 40. Ironically, she went missing in the same area Bernie was running loose.

Denise Harris, founder of Gone 2 the Dogs (networking services to help find your lost dog), mobilized a Holly volunteer rescue group that put out missing dog posters, notified area veterinarians, community Facebook and e-newsletter groups, and placed food in areas close to sightings. The group created a "Find Holly" Facebook group message page complete with sighting on an area map and shared it with contacts in the Centennial neighborhood.

Luckily, all the dogs were found. Time is critical in a missing pet search. Strays can travel far from home in a short time. For example, 12-pound Holly traveled a mile during her first day lost.

Harris advised that if you see a lost pet, don't chase it. The best thing to do is crouch down or sit on the ground. Speak softly and toss a treat. Don't make eye contact. Lost dogs are in scared mode. The goal is to keep strays feeling secure in a specific area. If we can set up a feeding station to keep them in the area, they will often stay around until they can be securely captured.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., the Greyhound Pets of America Maryland chapter will host its monthly adoption event at the Petco in Enchanted Forest shopping center.

For more information about the club, go to http://www.gpa-md.com. View photos of local animals ready for adoption at Small Miracles Dog and Cat rescue website at http://www.smallmiraclesrescue.org. Lost a pet? Go to the Gone 2 the Dogs website at http://www.gone2thedogshocomaryland.org. While Gone 2 the Dogs does not require a fee for services, contributions are appreciated.

Boy Scouts of America Scouting for Food Chairperson for Howard County Sori Meredith reminded me that the Scouting for Food annual event will begin on April 13 when Scouts distribute collection bags to homes in Howard County. They will return on April 20 to retrieve the bags filled with food donations.

Are you the next Howard County Next Senior Idol? The winner and runner-up will represent Howard County at the seventh annual Maryland Senior Idol competition on Wednesday, April 3, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts.

The Howard County Office on Aging will hold Senior Idol auditions on Thursday, Feb. 14, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Ellicott City Senior Center. Singers must be age 60 or older.

For more information, go to the Office of Aging website at http://www.howardcountyaging.org or contact Vicki Stahly at 410-313-1421.