July 12, 2021 – Several weeks ago, Brayden Morton was working in his home office when he heard a commotion coming from his gated backyard. He peered out the window to check on his dog Darla, who was lounging on the back deck just minutes before. To his horror, she was gone.  He offered a reward of about $4,000 to anyone who could return her home safely or provide information regarding her whereabouts. Morton decided to include the financial incentive — to which a friend contributed an additional $2,000 — because “this is my dog and I love her. This isn’t stealing a bike out of my garage; this is much more serious,” he said.

The post was shared more than 30,000 times.  “She was just crying on the other end. She couldn’t even talk,” said Morton, who quickly sensed she had Darla. “I said to her, ‘Listen, I’ve messed up a lot in my life, and I’ve been forgiven for a lot of things I did. I’m not mad at you.’ ”

The woman — who did not accept a request for comment from The Washington Post and asked that her name not be published due to privacy concerns — told him to meet her at a nearby gas station. He promised to bring the reward money, totaling about $6,000.  The 20-year-old woman held Darla on a leash while she waited for Morton. When he pulled up and saw his dog there, “it was one of the most overwhelming feelings I’ve ever felt. I was elated,” he said.“She is just a kid, and she was standing there bawling. I went and gave her a hug, and I said, ‘It’s all right,’ ” Morton recalled. Within minutes of talking to her, “I could tell that she was a fentanyl addict, like me.” … “I’m going to take this money, and I’m going use it to pay for you to go to treatment. I’m going to give you the opportunity to help yourself,” he told her.

She accepted his offer, and they traded phone numbers. Once they parted ways, Morton called Susan Hogarth, the executive director of Westminster House Society, a nonprofit organization and addiction recovery program for women and girls, in the hope that he could secure a spot for the woman he just met.

“He contacted me and asked me if I would be willing to take her into residential treatment,” Hogarth said. “I immediately agreed.” The 90-day treatment program is about $22,000 — a small portion of which is covered by government funding.