Missing dog? Crime concerns? Nextdoor networking grows in Aurora

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AURORA | Eric Schatz, 26, had no idea he had solved a neighborhood-wide concern when he brought Sasha, a German Shepherd mix, into his Aurora townhome earlier this month.

Schatz, who is a veterinary technician, said when he saw the fluffy dog lying still underneath a deck behind his house, he thought she was dead.

Sasha didn’t initially respond to his calls, but after about two hours, Schatz and his wife — also a vet tech — were able to put a leash on Sasha and bring her inside.

“Her feet were tore up,” Schatz said. “We found her only with the flea collar. You could see all of her ribs the  first day. When we first had her, she was weak. She was so malnourished she wasn’t able to stand.”

Schatz points to a scar on Sasha’s left front leg that he said most likely came from her trying to get out of a choke collar that was put on her.

When Schatz told his neighbor about the incident, he was informed that several people had posted about the stray dog on Nextdoor.com, which hosts neighborhood-specific social networks. To become a member, a user’s address has to be verified by the system using a billing address or through other means, such as having a postcard mailed to a home with a verification code.

When Schatz informed his neighbors that he had found Sasha and taken her in, the couple received a wave of praise and even donations for Sasha’s medical bills.

One post from a neighbor on the topic of Sasha reads: “My wife and I were on vacation in Mexico while reading about this dog. If our dogs ever got out of our back gates we would expect the same from our great community. It is among our biggest fear especially while we are out of town … We couldn’t help find the dog but our hearts were definitely with Sasha. We gladly donated! Keep us all updated!”

Since that time, the couple has raised $400 for Sasha through an Indiegogo fundraiser. The money has helped them afford Sasha’s vaccinations and microchipping.

“It was nice to see an outpouring of support for a dog roaming around scared,” Schatz said. He said even though he has lived in the home for five years, he never collaborated so closely with neighbors.

“This was the first time I’ve been able to connect with my extended community,” he said. Since that time, Schatz has kept using Nextdoor via smartphone app.

The power to connect with residents has made the site similarly useful for city officials. City spokeswoman Julie Patterson said the city started posting on the site in October 2015, and use the site to share news, public events and emergency notifications.

“We are always looking for new ways to engage residents directly and reach new audiences. Joining Nextdoor has enabled us to expand our suite of social media communications tools,” she said.

Aurora Police joined Nextdoor last April, according to city documents.

According to Nextdoor, the site is already working with over 900 public agencies across the country — many of them with a law enforcement focus.

Julie Brooks, a spokeswoman with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said the agency started using the site in January. She said it has been an effective way to communicate with elderly residents in the county, especially people who are not using Twitter or Facebook.

Unlike other social media sites, law enforcement officials can use Nextdoor to send messages to specific precincts.

“It’s great for directing specific information to a specific neighborhood,” she said.

Several Aurora Council members say they also use the site.

Aurora Ward V Councilman Bob Roth said he communicates almost daily with constituents on Nextdoor. He said he uses the site to occasionally post his weekly ward newsletters as well as information about upcoming events, and he directs constituents to specific staff members at the Aurora Municipal Center when they have an issue.