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Mauer, the Pinke family dog hasn't been seen since March 24, 2017. (Elizabeth Pinke/Special to Agweek)

Mauer the home run dog is missing

On July 4, 2015, Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins hit a home run. In addition to celebrating Independence Day, we were excited to meet our lake neighbor's puppies for the first time — two of which we would eventually bring home. My youngest brother, Joe, insisted we name our male puppy after Joe Mauer to commemorate his home run. We named his littermate sister Liberty, or "Libby," in honor of the holiday.

We hit a home run when Mauer, and Libby too, joined our family. At 87 pounds, Mauer is a friendly, beautiful, strong and loyal yellow lab. Both Mauer and Libby were my daily sidekicks.

A month ago, Mauer disappeared from our Wishek, N.D., home. I've held off writing about his disappearance, hoping instead to share a happy homecoming. Unfortunately, he hasn't rounded the bases and found his way home.

Friday, March 24, was like every other morning. Mauer could hardly wait to go outside. Spring was in the air. Geese were honking. Birds were singing.

We walked, and I tossed the dogs their favorite red Frisbee. I went inside to get my cup of coffee, expecting the dogs to hang out on our porch or sit outside my home office window until I returned. At 8:34 a.m., there was no sign of either dog. Maybe they were chasing a pheasant through the trees. At 8:49 a.m., I called my husband and said, "The dogs are gone."

I tried not to worry. They're dogs. We live on the wide-open prairie in between our small town to the north and cows and a small lake to the south. It's spring. I was raised with farm dogs who disappeared from time to time. But our dogs are fixed and had never run off. They've also never slept a night outside. Mauer and Libby have been spoiled since the night they came home in July 2015. Surely they would be home soon, I thought.

Libby came home later that day, whining and missing her best buddy. Mauer has yet to return. We've searched, walked, driven and called. We've made signs, called media and followed every tip and trick to find our missing dog. No Mauer.

Social media transformed our search for him. I tried hard to not turn into a crazy dog lady, but I've come to realize it's too late — and there are dozens of other people just as crazy about dogs as me. Across a four-state area, we have been contacted by passionate dog lovers, willing to do anything to help. For three weeks, I've received daily tips and photos. I know I'm not alone in missing a beloved dog. The positive homecoming stories have kept our hope strong that any day Mauer would return.

After a month of no Mauer, I've come up with several guesses on where he might be. I hope he's being loved and cared for by someone else, and maybe someday he'll be returned. If he's dead, I hope he didn't suffer and we still find his remains, just to know he'll never come running back into our yard.

As I've shared on social media, I'm thankful all three of our children are safe and not missing. But as a friend who has experienced great tragedy in her life mentioned, "loss is loss, and I don't want to see anyone lose anything else." She's right. The absence of Mauer is a loss for our family, as pets do quickly become a part of our everyday lives.

The power of community and connection has been comforting, as people rallied around us to help. We've made new friends in our search for Mauer. I've seen compassionate, thoughtful and selfless sides of people I would have never known existed. Every week new people text or call my husband asking if we've found Mauer.

Mauer is still missing, but a series of text messages prompted us to move toward a different homecoming. Mauer's "dad" sired a new litter of puppies in early April. There is a male puppy reserved for the Pinke family. In June, we will welcome a new puppy into our home.

Our youngest daughter, Anika, 7, says, "And then, we'll have three dogs because Mauer might be home by then." Her bright outlook is encouraging. In the meantime, I'll be listening to baseball games waiting for the next home run hitter to find a new dog name.

Do you have a favorite dog story or puppy name to share? I'd love to hear from you. Find me on Twitter @katpinke or email me