The Dog that Captured Cape May

The Dog that Captured Cape May

What if dogs could talk? I want to interview the dog that captured the hearts and minds of Cape May people on social media.

What would we ask him? Now that we can question him, I want to know his story. It’s all about the dog. But I need to know.

From inside his cold metal container, a trap set on a Cape May porch, Jacob Marley flashed the warmest under-bite smile at his captors. Relieved.

Jacob Marley was relieved from having to roam freely on the quiet winter streets of Cape May. Ghost, Oreo, or Jacob Marley (the names we gave him), the dog that captured Cape May, was caught.

As early as mid-December, reports of seeing a shaggy black and white dog were getting called into Animal Control. Cape May City’s provider is Steve Serwatka of  Animal Control of South Jersey.

On December 22nd, I called Steve at Animal Control to report the dog sleeping in backyards on Grant Street in Cape May.

He knew the animal and had multiple reports describing the dog as unapproachable. There was not much he could do unless someone possessed the dog. It’s unclear if any plans were in place at this stage.

Flood of sightings

Dozens of Facebook posts placed the dog on streets at both ends of Cape May. He was seen on Queen Street and near the Cove.

Cries for help could be heard from all social media platforms. Each municipality is different and contracts separately with animal control service providers. Fees can run in the tens of thousands of dollars annually.

On January 3rd, a Wednesday, the wayward wanderer passed right before me. Carrying my camera for an afternoon walk, I captured one of the most explicit images. Posting on Cape May Live galvanized an infectious excitement to locate the dog.   The post reached nearly 30,000 people and was shared almost 200 times.

We couldn’t help but speculate about the dog’s history. Was he a stray? Was it dumped or left behind by a visiting renter? Did someone die and leave the dog behind? WE HAD TO KNOW!!!

Animal control operations

Animal control companies are often solo operations supported by volunteers who sight, track, and often catch stray cats or dogs.

It was another week before a trap was placed in a secluded area behind the Victorian Towers. It was believed that this was an area where the dog was. He was often seen on porches on Hughes Street, which parallels the back parking area of the towers.

Deborah Pangle from the Villas and I baited and monitored this brand-new trap supplied by Animal Control.

On the Cape May Live Facebook group, commenters began tagging people with skills in tracking animals.

Amanda Wilkens’, Mama’s Gona Rescue, was one of those whose skills were sought. Her Galloway-based nonprofit rescue involves dogs, horses, and even farm animals. Now, all we needed to know was, where was the dog?

Not a break, but a Ring in the case

After a comment from the Spilker Funeral Home on a Facebook post, a location surfaced where the wandering dog visited. He seemed to make himself at home on the porch. Courtney Poole, a local realtor assisting Amanda, sought permission to place a baited trap on the Spilker’s porch.

The Spilker’s Ring camera caught the guy resting and relaxing. Still, he avoided Courtney’s and Amand’s food-filled, closeable carrier for another day. (It sounds more friendly than a trap.)

Sometime late Saturday, the hungry pup gave in and tempted himself with the food in the bowl. The door closed, and without any reaction or stress, the pup looked relieved.

Although Courtney Poole and Amanda, a mother of four young children, were able to capture the dog and provide it a warm place to sleep and cuddle, there were still procedures to follow.

By executive decree and the strictest interpretation of the law, Jacob Marley had to spend a couple of nights in doggy jail. That is the Cape May County Animal Shelter. There, he would be medically and behaviorally evaluated by professionals and then finally returned to Amanda’s Rescue operation.

Ultimately, the dog will be available for adoption. We may never know what Jacob Marely’s story was. The dog that captured Cape May this winter has been caught. Social Media was used for some good. And in the end, it was always about the dog.

As of 3:00 PM today, the black and white puppy is leaving the shelter and on his way to a better life.














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  1. Linda
    January 17, 2024 / 5:37 pm

    What a fabulous story. I hope Jacob Marely has a warm and wonderful new home now — just in time to beat this cold blast of winter air.

  2. Cindy Holder
    January 17, 2024 / 7:34 pm

    Great story John. I have been following the search for him thru ur posts. We were in CM Dec 3-6 but didn’t see him/her

    I’m so happy he was adopted and is going to a new home

  3. Jim Mellon
    January 18, 2024 / 5:11 am

    Bravo to all involved in the Christmas season feel good story. Yet another reason to love Cape May ❤️

  4. January 18, 2024 / 5:13 pm

    what a wonderful story of true blessings coming together with such concern and love for a lost fluffy soul. may jacob marley keep smiling and wagging that tail.