Other than checking in with Facebook and Twitter once or twice a day, I’m not one for having a big presence on social media. I don’t really enjoy engaging in the big political discussions, getting in fights over vaccinations, gun regulations or even sharing the latest in kitten videos or celebrity memes. It’s great to stay virtually connected to people from all corners of my life, but other than keeping informed of these people’s news, I never really found visiting these sites too useful.

But then I discovered an interesting social media site called Nextdoor. This is a private (is anything really private, though??) website exclusive to your specific neighborhood and, if you choose, its outlying areas. It’s free to join (you may need to be invited by someone) and after your address is verified as actually being a resident of the neighborhood, you are admitted into its secret, sacred walls of membership.

The site has a wide reaching range of topics upon which you can share or comment, all of which pertain to your neighborhood. Suspicious looking individuals lurking around? Some nervous neighbor will post about it. Was a car recently broken into or a package mysteriously lifted from a front porch? There will be fifteen people all sharing stories of similar experiences with offers as to how to nab the bad guys.

On any given day there will be questions about finding a good piano tuner, contractor or dentist. Sometimes there’ll be more interesting posts like when a woman couldn’t find her iguana so she told residents to be on the lookout. Often there will be residents looking to get together socially, maybe to start up a band or a group of card players.

On occasion there are squabbles between the people who post and you wonder how they actually have time to sit behind their computers and harp on one another with such speed and snark. Site administrators are supposed to shut down unwarranted and personal attacks and those individuals will probably get a private message or two of warning before being kicked off the site altogether should their behavior persist.

I’m typically more reader and less contributor to the site but this week something happened and I felt compelled to log in. My brother recently moved in with our mother who lives in our neighborhood. I got a frantic call at work that my brother’s 100+ pound Doberman jumped her fence and was wandering around, most likely lost somewhere in Cheviot Hills. While my wife started driving around looking for him and calling out his name, I quickly jumped onto Nextdoor and typed out that the big dog had gotten loose and he could be anywhere. I told the 10,000 or so residents reading the post that he looked terrifying but was actually a very sweet and gentle dog, despite his massive size and he answered to the name of Rocco.

A few hours or so later, my phone rang again. It was my mother on the other line saying good news! They had found Rocco!!

Now, it sure would make for a better story if someone had read my post on Nextdoor and found the dog, returning him safely and everyone could then live happily ever after. Unfortunately, what happened instead was: after family members searched for hours, driving up and down every street in the neighborhood and calling out his name over and over again, my mother heard what sounded like a faint baby’s cry coming from the inside a bathroom in her house. Inside her very modest, one story, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, the biggest dog known to man had decided to take an innocent snooze and no one had even realized it.

Was I mortified to have to go back on Nextdoor to explain to the concerned residents of Cheviot Hills, Castle Heights, Beverlywood, Rancho Park, South Westwood Adjacent, and Culver City that “oopsy! We found him!” Yup, I was. But no one seemed mad about it- they were just happy that we found our dog, even if he was found safe and sound inside the house.

And, in the end, it’s nice to know there are several thousand residents who’d be quick to help a fellow neighbor at a moment’s notice, whether to look for his big dog, an iguana or just to get together and share a cup of coffee if the mood should strike. Connections of any sort are hard to come by nowadays so if a site like Nextdoor can provide that for a neighborhood, well then more power to it.