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Soldier's dog vanishes in Crownsville

Jon Walker’s friends were looking forward to watching him reunite with his beloved German shepherd, Zara, when he returns from a year-long Army deployment in Afghanistan later this month.

But his dog bolted into a patch of woods while playing catch with a dogsitter in Crownsville last week and a non-stop effort to find her has proven fruitless, leaving them suspicious that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

“Jon is devastated,” says his friend Heather Cappelli, who’s spearheading the effort to find Zara. “I feel so badly for him. He wants to come home and look for her, and he can’t. We’re doing everything in our power to find her before he comes back.”

Walker, who is from Kent Island, was deployed to Afghanistan about a year ago and left Zara in the care of Ashley Morsberger, a friend who’s from Davidsonville but now lives in South Carolina. On a visit to her parents’ home last Monday, Morsberger took Zara to a field in Crownsville. She said she threw a ball and Zara ran for it and kept going.

“She was sprinting at full speed,” says Morsberger. “There are a lot of deer out there, and maybe she smelled one or saw one.”

A dog-finding sniffer was brought in late last week and found no trace of Zara.

“They said by then, the scent should have strengthened,” says Sarah Melton, another friend of Walker’s. “But they didn’t find anything. I mean, period. So we’re thinking she might have been stolen or somebody’s keeping her.”

Morsberger said the dog-sniffer also visited her house and didn’t find much.

The friends are offering an unspecified reward for any information that leads to her return. They also plan to contact police today, at Walker’s request. 

Zara is a 4-year-old brown and white German shepherd with white markings on her chest. She is spayed and microchipped (although the number linked to the chip has been disconnected during Walker’s deployment), and was wearing a pink collar with her name and a phone number embroidered on it in black thread when she was lost. She responds to her name or ZZ and can be timid but generally likes people. She was lost at a patch of woods on St. Stephens Church Road in Crownsville.

“Jon loves that dog,” says Cappelli. “Ever since he’s been gone, he’s been posting photos of her and talking about how much he misses her and that he can’t wait to get home to her.”

Morsberger says she’s a sweet dog who might have gone to a stranger by the road. 

Melton says the situation is heartbreaking.

“She’s his baby,” she says. “He takes her everywhere and includes her in everything. He’s a single guy and she’s all he’s got besides his family and us.”

Anyone who has seen Zara is asked to call 410-215-1809.

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