Nowadays we take the power of the Internet and social media for granted — until something like Tuesday’s coy dog story in Washington Parish reminds everyone how easy it is for people to connect with each other online.

The story focused on a trail cam picture of what appeared to be a black coyote or coy dog on Ray Labat’s deer lease near Bogalusa. 

After reviewing the picture, Dr. Jim Lacour — the state wildlife veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries — figured it had coyote blood because of its size and bushy tail, but said he couldn’t be certain without examining the animal’s skull.

Within hours of the story being posted online, Labat was contacted by a stranger in Kansas via Facebook message, and what she told him came as a complete shock.

“She said, ‘That’s my dog,’” Labat said. “‘It’s 80-percent wolf, and his name is Thor.’ She said Thor and his sister got out of the cage, and she got the sister back, but never got him back.”

The animal apparently escaped about a year ago, and Labat said the owner has since moved to Kansas.

“She really thought that the dog was dead because she hadn’t heard or seen anything from anybody in so long,” Labat said. “She was taken back when she saw the picture.”

Thor’s owner turned out to be Erin Lofton, and in an interview with LouisianaSportsman.com, she said she and her husband purchased Thor and his littermate Widow (named after members of Marvel Comic’s Avengers superhero team) as puppies in December of 2013 from a wolf breeder near San Antonio, Texas.

“The father was a full-blooded timber wolf, and the mom was like 75 percent wolf with German Shepherd,” Lofton said. “Widow is a lover. She’s very dog-like, but she’s still very guarded and not trusting of anyone other than the family that she’s come to know —me, my husband and my kids. 

“Thor was always more so. He was very guarded, and he was very protective of his sister. It took him longer to adjust. He was always the more wild out of the two.”

Someone forwarded the Internet story to her sister-in-law in Kansas Tuesday afternoon, and she sent it to Lofton to see if she thought the trail cam picture was Thor. 

Both wolf-hybrids, plus the family’s bloodhound, escaped from their fenced backyard near Kentwood about a year ago, she said. The bloodhound and Widow returned, but Thor hasn’t been seen since.

“As soon as I saw the picture, my heart dropped. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Lofton said. “I was excited that he was still alive because I was scared after he went missing that somebody would have shot him at first glance, because he’s huge. He’s a lot bigger than his sister — he’s massive. So I just figured that he would already be shot by now, honestly, because he’s very intimidating.”

Using Google Earth and Lofton’s old address near Kentwood, Labat estimated the animal had traveled about 36 miles from its home when its picture was taken on his trail cam in January. 

Lofton said after this long alone, Thor could probably never be a caged family pet again.

“The only way he might ever come back around is if he knew his sister was in the area,” she said. “But he’s out there living the way he’s supposed to live, so I would never want to try and bring him back to a backyard dog-type atmosphere. It’s in their instinct to do exactly what he’s doing — it’s just really cool to know that he’s alive.”

Thor was about 16 months old when he escaped, but Lofton said the animal was already sizable at that point, weighing in at about 125 pounds. 

“My husband is 6’3”, and when he stood up, he could put his paws on my husband’s shoulders,” she said. “He was a big old guy.

“It was really cool to see him because in the back of your mind you always wonder, “I wonder what happened to him. I wonder what happened to him.’  And just seeing that picture, it was kind of cool to know that at least for a year he’s survived.”