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Jeffrey Crooks sits with Purty Girl outside of the Country Hearth Inn Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Crooks recently lost Purty Girl, and a Facebook post aimed at finding her was shared nearly 20,000 times.

When Marine Corps veteran Jeffrey Crooks lost his beloved helper dog in Chattanooga, he posted a selfie with his Purty Girl and asked his 435 friends to share the photo and doggy description. Just 48 hours — and 19,818 Facebook shares — later, Purty Girl and Crooks were reunited at the Country Hearth Inn and Suites.

Crooks said he has been plagued with depression and short-term memory loss for 20 years, ever since a three-year stint as an ammunition technician in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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Pam Blount, left, gives Purty Girl a treat as Dustin Philips, Jeffrey Crooks and Kevin Koster, from left, look on Wednesday, August 19, at the Country Hearth Inn. Crooks recently lost Purty Girl, and a Facebook post aimed at finding her was shared nearly 20,000 times.

He rescued Purty Girl from what he describes as a "mean owner" in San Diego about five years ago. Since then, he and the white-and-ginger Australian cattle dog have hitchhiked up the Pacific coast, across the Rocky Mountains and into Reno, Nev. A friend suggested they come to Chattanooga, where Crooks hopes to find a permanent home and work as a house painter.

He's staying at the Country Hearth Inn courtesy of the Anand-Martin Foundation, which houses homeless veterans.

On Sunday, Crooks said, he went for a walk with Purty Girl to the gas station at Market and 23rd streets.

"I tied Purty Girl's leash to a pole while I went in the store. Because of my short-term memory problems, I forgot that I tied her there," he said.

Crooks said Purty Gurl has a GPS microchip implanted under her skin, so he called police, hoping they could help track her. But he had lost the chip's ID number and on a Sunday couldn't call anyone in San Diego who would have it. Crooks posted the selfie of him with Purty Girl on his Facebook page Sunday afternoon.

And the shares began.

"I need your help! A friend of mine is living in Chattanooga @ the Country Hearth Inn, he is a Marine Corps Vet He has lost his service dog!" Ginger Guffey of Resaca, Ga., posted Monday. "Her name is Prudy Girl (sic), please post wherever you can and help him find her! The owner is Jeffrey Crooks, the dog went missing a few hours ago on 20th and market Do u know anyone in Chattanooga to post this with?"

"I posted the pic on a couple of news stations Facebook pages, but only one responded." Lisa Pepper posted on his page Monday morning.

Crooks later posted asking for donations of paper, staples and a stapler so he could make "lost dog" posters to put up along the streets. Pam Blount, whose brother Dustin Phillips lives in the Country Hearth and was searching for Purty Girl on foot, drove up from Dalton with the supplies and created the fliers before noon.

"I can't begin to imagine how bad you are hurting. I don't understand how this could happen. I know Shes your little roadie. I'm thinking about you and her I'm so sorry," Crook's friend Kellie Cameron posted later Monday.

Police departments shared the selfie post and so did lostmydoggie, humane societies in several counties and Missing Pets of Chattanooga.

While all this was happening, Purty Girl was playing and relaxing at the home of photographer Kevin Koster, 28, who works for Sharp Shooting Imaging at Ruby Falls. Koster was driving through the rain when he spotted the patient dog sitting at the gas station.

"The owner told me she had been there for hours and he had called the city's animal control to come get her, so I thought she had been abandoned," Koster told the Times Free Press. "The dog looked like someone's pet because she's, well, a little bit fat — maybe just a little plump or well fed. I thought she had been someone's pet but then she had been abandoned. I took her home to keep her safe."

By Monday afternoon, the Crooks/Purty Girl selfie popped up on Koster's Facebook page. Koster called Crooks with the good news: Purty Girl was alive and safe. There was even an impromptu party in the parking lot when Koster, Purty Girl, Blount and Crooks all met.

Blount brought a big box of dog gear including a brush, new flea collar, gigantic pork bone, new chew toys, a water bowl and Alpo treats. Purty Girl had a drink and a treat.

But she mostly seemed interested in playing with her new group of friends and Crooks, her longtime human.

Contact Lynda Edwards at 423-757-6391 or ledwards@timesfreepress.com.

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