U.K. family enlists Facebook army to bring stuffed toy home
The Lettons saw an outpouring of concern from Toronto's online community after six-year-old lost beloved toy
Phoebe Letton nestled her pink-eared stuffed animal safely beside her on a transatlantic flight to Canada two weeks ago.
But on Saturday night, Phoebe boarded the plane home to Exeter, U.K. empty-handed and devastated.
"The first week he survived," Phoebe's mom, Julie Letton, said. But on their last day in Toronto, Phoebe decided to show her stuffed toy, Sleepy Dog, around the Eaton Centre.
Letton noticed Phoebe clutching the animal on their walk down Yonge Street. Always afraid of the worst, Letton gently stowed Sleepy Dog in her purse.
It wasn't until Phoebe whispered to her mom about Sleepy Dog's whereabouts in a movie theatre that Letton noticed her bag was missing its beloved occupant, which had been taken out for a hug earlier in the day.
"It was that stomach-churning moment" she realized nobody knew where Sleepy Dog had gone.
With one hour left before they needed to catch a cab to the airport, Julie and Phoebe retraced their steps, frantically ducking into washrooms and stores to check for the lost toy.
Their search turned up nothing. "It was an excruciating taxi ride to the airport," Letton said in a phone call from Exeter. "Nobody could speak to each other."
Post shared by thousands
In the cab, Letton tapped out a desperate plea for help to her Facebook friends — a post that has now been shared over 14,000 times.
"I've had so many offers of help, people going into the mall — I'm sure their info desk must be sick of it by now," she said.
One Toronto resident, in a post on the Facebook page Letton set up, told the family he'd personally checked the Eaton Centre's Disney Store, and Letton says a mother and daughter have drafted up a list of each of the mall's vendors, which they plan to call individually.
She's even had a couple of Toronto police officers reach out to lend a hand in the search, Letton says.
"I only know about four people in Canada," she laughed. Now, she added, she's got a country full of well-intentioned friends.
Despite the booming support across the pond, Sleepy Dog remains, at this point, lost.
"We remain as positive as we can, and hope somebody, somewhere has picked him up and has yet to hand him in," Letton said, worried that in his well-loved state, somebody may have mistaken the toy for trash. "He's been on the operating table a number of times. He's had stuffing popped in, stitches — he's even lost both his eyes."
In a desperate bid to cheer Phoebe up, her father bought a similar-looking stuffed dog on eBay as soon as the plane landed.
No substitute for Sleepy Dog, says mom
But it won't be the same, Letton said, pointing to the lifetime of memories Phoebe has made with Sleepy Dog in tow.
Even older sibling Harriette, 10, can't sleep. "She doesn't like seeing her sister upset," Letton explained.
Sleepy Dog was a gift from her father, who bought the toy five years ago at a gas station on his way back from a hiking trip.
Infant Phoebe and Sleepy Dog "quickly became inseparable," and Letton says she even tried to find a replica Sleepy Dog back in those early days, preparing for a day like this one.
"We've got masses of stuffed animals," she said. "Sleepy Dog is a well-loved toy."