Two weekends ago, Nashville, Tennessee, algebra teacher Olivia Hatfield and her husband, Seth, were driving back home from a family reunion in Alabama when the unthinkable happened: An 18-wheeler semi swerved into their lane on the highway, sending the Hatfield’s vehicle careening into a tree.
“They were in the inside lane and a tractor trailer was traveling north and changed lanes into their path and so they actually wound up steering off the road, losing control,” Hatfield family friend Evan Thomas tells DothanFirst.com, “and that’s when the car crashed into a tree on the side of the interstate.”
While Seth managed to escape the crash with only minor wounds, Olivia had to be airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham 50 miles away. Her injuries were so severe, in fact, that doctors had to put the 20-something-year-old teacher in a medically-induced coma.
But Seth and Olivia weren’t the only two Hatfield family members in the car at the time of the serious crash; the couple’s beloved dogs, Weimaraner Molly and black-and-white mixed-breed dog Claire, frightened by the collision, ran from the scene of the accident.
“Olivia loves those dogs with all her heart,” Seth explains. “I need to be able to tell her they are safe when she wakes up.”
When Thomas, the national sales director at Nashville’s Brite Revolution, heard about Olivia’s serious injuries and the disappearance of Molly and Claire, Thomas tells The Tennesseanhe knew he had to help. Thomas hopped in his car and drove south towards Cullman, Alabama, the town closest to where the Hatfield’s car had crashed, hoping for any sign of Molly’s or Claire’s whereabouts.
As Thomas pulled off of the interstate in Cullman, he was touched to find he wasn’t the only one there on a mission to find Seth’s and Olivia’s furry family members; two vanloads of Cullman area residents were already there, scouring the area for the missing dogs.
Someone had even started a Facebook page to spread the word about the missing dogs — the “Help Find Molly and Claire!” Facebook group has provided a place for supporters and searchers, including Cullman area families, to offer words of encouragement organize.
“I spent my night just searching around with those families, and they were just so dedicated,” Thomas says. “They just kept showing up, and it just grew and grew and grew to this Facebook group of over 3,000 members that all came together out of compassion for the tragic circumstances and a love of animals.”
While would-be rescuers occasionally caught sight of Claire, Molly hadn’t been seen at all since the accident. And poor Claire seemed too afraid to let the search party get close.
Then, on Tuesday morning, 10 days after the horrific crash, an Alabama animal shelter received a call from a woman who believed she’d found Molly. A quick examination confirmed the lost and found Weimaraner was indeed Molly Hatfield.
Seth and Olivia’s mother and father had an emotional reunion with Molly at a nearby veterinary clinic, where Molly was reported to be in good health.
Claire, however, has not yet been recovered, so the search continues today. A professional New Jersey dog tracker was brought in Wednesday morning to start the process of locating Claire by scent.
As for Olivia, her condition is still critical. She remains in a coma this morning, but doctors, friends, and family are hopeful. Thomas is one of many vowing to continue the search for Claire, knowing Claire’s safe return could be the boost Olivia needs to get well.
“We want Olivia to know when she wakes up her life can return to her normal life, you know. These dogs are like family to her and I think anyone that loves animals would want to have your family reunited after a situation like this after tragic circumstance like this,” Thomas says.