A dog missing since last fall has been reunited with her family, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Molly, a basset hound, disappeared on a windy October day after the gate to the Galipeau family’s fenced-in yard blew open. She had gone missing before and was returned after wandering in the neighborhood.

This time was different. Molly wasn’t wearing her collar. She had a microchip embedded in her back, but Sean Galipeau learned later that some microchips and scanners are not compatible.

On Oct. 22, the day after Molly vanished, the family started posting fliers in Lisbon, Lewiston and Auburn. Lisbon Community School displayed a copy because Bailey, 11, and Riley Galipeau, 9, attend classes there.

Sean mentioned to his daughters that if a few years pass and Molly had found a new family, they might not be able to take her back. They began planning to adopt another dog.

“We thought for sure she was gone,” said Roni Galipeau, Sean’s wife.

It took an alert person’s glance at a newspaper’s photographs of animal shelter pets to bring about the reunion. Sean works as Lisbon’s fire chief and Mary-Ann Morgan, the town accounts payable clerk, saw the photo of a familiar-looking basset hound in Otisfield. She put the newspaper photo in Galipeau’s mailbox at the town office.

Morgan said she could relate to the Galipeaus’ dismay over losing their dog. As a child, she had a basset hound named Duchess. Duchess was lost once, and her father looked for her all night. Duchess showed up the next day.

“They’re very, very lovable and they’re good with kids,” she said of basset hounds.

Once he saw the “Lost and Found” item, Sean called the shelter and told a person there that Molly had a dew claw, which is a claw that grows above the paw, and was spayed. The dog at the shelter fit that description.

Molly had been found wandering around Otisfield before being brought to a shelter. After a couple discovered her, they brought her from home to home in their neighborhood to see if anyone had lost the dog. Molly went to the shelter after no one claimed her and spent five days there.

On May 24, seven months after Molly had disappeared, Sean drove to Otisfield with photos and paperwork to prove that the dog in the photo was, indeed, his missing Molly. The microchip in her back did not scan despite three attempts at the shelter, but the fire chief’s evidence — and the dog’s reaction to his presence — convinced shelter staff that Molly belonged with Sean.

Reunited, dog and man traveled the 30 to 40 miles from Otisfield to Lisbon, where another happy reunion took place.

Their daughters did not know their dog was home when they returned from school. Riley thought her parents got another dog and Bailey cried when she realized Molly was home.

“I ran back and forth like a blubbering fool,” Roni said. “I haven’t let her out of my sight since she left.”

The dog with the serious-looking face and happy, wagging tail weighed three pounds less than in the fall, but picked up no bad habits. She acts gentler around the cat and plays in the back yard, according to the Galipeaus. Molly even dug up toys she had hidden.

“After seven months we got to the point where she wasn’t coming home, and here she is,” Roni said.

The year-and-a-half-old dog has welcomed visitors since her return, people who are pleased she is back and eager to hear the story of the reunion. One of the girls’ teachers almost burst into tears when she found out that Molly had been found.

The Galipeaus said community response to their requests for help in finding Molly was overwhelming and heartwarming.

“Just awesome people. Just truly concerned and caring,” Roni said.

Their gratitude is mixed with curiosity about where Molly was before she went to the Otisfield animal shelter. Roni suspected someone might have been tempted to grab a purebred dog without a collar.

“She’d go up to anyone,” she said. “But it’s not right for anyone to go up and take her,” she said.

Morgan visited the Galipeaus the night of Molly’s return, saying it was if the dog had never gone.

“If only that dog could talk and tell us what happened,” she said.

Sean advised pet owners to keep the collars on their animals at all times, even in a fenced-in yard. The Galipeaus want to hear the rattling of metal license tags now because it means Molly’s with them and not going anywhere