HAPPY ENDINGS

SOPHIE’S JOURNEY - JAN 7 - FEB 9, 2014

A chance sighting of a small dog running loose on the streets and some out of state calls led to my involvement in this case. The concerned couple got pictures and tracked paw prints in the snow to a truck cap and pile of old fencing. Startled by their voices, the dog suddenly bolted out of a hiding spot but was captured on video. I arrived at the address and got out of my Jeep. A little dog immediately came out from under the front deck and walked directly towards me. Shocked, I managed to say “Well, hello sweetie.” It gave me the once over, then casually turned around, headed into the backyard, and disappeared. I talked with residents to get more information and secure permission to stage from properties, including a vacant house. The dog and I crossed paths several times, eyeing each other from a safe distance. It wandered the neighborhoods for at least two years, and because it had a collar on, everyone just assumed it lived nearby. It trotted down side streets and cut through yards using holes in fences and evergreens. It drank water from puddles and downspouts and made rounds to multiple yards to steal food left outside for feral cats. Angry at the negligent, unknown owner, some people called Animal Control. A humane cage trap was set at different locations on numerous occasions but the large number of feral cats made normal trapping an impossible task.

As the weather got worse, the dog favored curling up in the mulch beds of two homes. One spot was sunny, and the other, directly across the street, more sheltered. I started a feeding schedule at the “shelter” home to be in sync with trapping efforts. The vacant house was only 300’ away and a bowl of kibble and water were left there every night. Efforts were hampered by accumulation of snow, ongoing cold snap, and bait freezing. Hot broth helped but created a soupy mess. A “perfect” spot to trap was only available a few hours. Strategic places to park and work were few, feral cats restricted working prime areas, and residential activity contributed to difficulties. The dog was constantly on high alert and didn’t always stop when it strolled by the vacant house. It was quieter after dark and I’d stay until I couldn’t stand the cold any longer. Leaving was always difficult knowing the dog was dealing with the same harsh conditions forcing me home.

One day I went to the shelter home to put Cesar dog food in a bowl as part of a routine. The dog was in the mulch next to the front steps. Bending down and talking softly, I got within twenty feet before it got up and disappeared into the yard next door. Spooning food out, I looked around and saw this tiny furry head poking up over a short brick wall. The little dog was standing on its hind legs watching me! The shelter home family had a fenced yard that couldn’t be utilized easily but they finally had to prop the gate open so it wouldn’t freeze in place. I suggested we rig a line from the gate into a window, bait the yard, and hide behind a curtain with a firm grip on the line. Once the dog enters the yard, you yank the gate closed and keep the line taut until someone secures the latch. I got 50’ of green vinyl-wrapped wire clothesline which is sturdy and works great for this situation. The family readily agreed and said I could set everything up the next day.

I was happy but impatient because another snowstorm was arriving in a few hours. While at the vacant house I suddenly got a text message “WE GOT THE DOG !!” The family decided to fix the line themselves and see if they could catch the dog. The lady said it watched them from across the street and entered the backyard shortly after she put out a bowl of food. I called the ACO who had just left work for the day but said he’d go back to the shelter to grab gear and arrive shortly.

The dog immediately tried to escape by digging snow out of gaps in the fence. I got down low trying to comfort it with reassuring tones. The dog came over twice to briefly lick my hand before backing away. We both shivered from the bitter cold. The ACO arrived and I hid behind a corner to let him do his thing. He sat on the ground and within a few minutes was able to lure the dog to him with cat food. Lynn, who started this rescue effort, came by and took pictures of the dog, now safe in a porta-kennel and later at the shelter. The snow started falling as I headed home with a huge smile.

I’d like to express gratitude to Sheilah Graham of RI who contributed countless hours. She set her own cage trap, talked with residents, shoveled snow, and handled FB and other messaging. She scouted streets and alerted when the dog was heading towards the trap (so I’d be extra quiet inside my blacked out Jeep). She brought spare bait and hot broth to help thaw out food that kept freezing solid. After hours spent in the cold, my core temperature dropped, fingers wouldn’t work, and my toes hurt. Sheilah would pick me up and drive around while I warmed up. This allowed me to stay on site longer, especially after dark. I’d also like to thank ACO Calandra, a dedicated professional with an abundance of compassion and patience. His jurisdiction is extremely busy and yet he extended a gracious welcome, took time to meet me, and answered all my calls.

Thought to be a Pom-Chihuahua mix, the female dog is 11 lbs and about 6 years old. She’s got a green stripe tattoo on her belly, indicating she was spayed. Her faded collar doesn’t have tags and there’s no microchip. Her hair is silky but sparse along her back, perhaps from slipping under fences and decks? Her spine is very bony and she’s got a mature cataract in her right eye. She tests negative for heartworm but positive for lyme. She’s in good shape despite having spent several years outdoors fending for herself. Efforts to find her owners are unsuccessful, but not surprising given the time out “lost.”

I talked with the ACO a few times to see how things were progressing with the little dog. Admittedly I was overly possessive and concerned about her future adoptive family. She deserved someone who could handle a high flight risk with “special” needs. I knew I should foster her for awhile but was not ready to adopt a dog at this time in my life. When I went to the shelter to visit, she was scared (understandably) and not responding to me in the least. Despite all my reservations, I leave as foster mom for the first time. OMG I’m now responsible for this tiny creature who will probably slip her collar the first time I take her out for a walk. OMG. What have I gotten myself into? Meanwhile, I had already picked the name “Sophie” as my favorite. It means “wisdom” and chosen out of respect for her intelligence and ability to make choices that enabled her to survive.

Survival skills that kept her alive also made her extremely cautious and afraid of sudden movements, loud noises, and people in general. When I first brought Sophie home, she was frightened by all the new sights, sounds, and scents, but quickly found a “safe” spot on the couch. While exploring the yard, she’d head for corners, straining to go beyond borders, wanting to escape. Realizing the leash was a problem, she’d try to slip her collar like a bucking bronco. Fast forward and she’s finally content with her own yard but would run off in a heartbeat if not leashed. She checks to see if the coast is clear before venturing far. She listens for scary noises like fireworks or gunshots, loud adults, and screaming children. After assessing outside risks, she takes me on our walks.

Sophie is intelligent, curious, and a quick learner who studies her surroundings intently. Her cataract eye developed a problem so we went to our vet and then to a specialist. The condition worsened and her eye was removed, but it hasn’t slowed her down. Chipmunks need chasing but she’s given up on birds. Not a “yappie” dog, she’s only “barked” three times to defend our property. The wild turkey almost got a warning, but then both ran in opposite directions. Stuffed toys are dropped after a quick grab but tiny tennis balls are absolutely fun to chase. Slowly learning to bring them back to mom.

Sophie is an experienced escape artist who can jump, dig, squeeze through tiny openings, and outsmart humans. She was lost or abandoned by someone many years ago but survived despite adverse conditions. I think one ordeal in a lifetime is enough. As I finish this long overdue story, she’s on the couch snoring. Sweet dreams Sophie.

Love, Momma Debbie

BELLA’S HAPPY ENDING - JAN 20 - 23, 2013

“Bella,” a 2yr old Golden Retriever, arrived at her new home on Sunday, January 20, 2013. There was “mom” Liz, other Goldens to play with, rooms to explore, and a large fenced yard. Five hours later (10:30 PM) a door left ajar for a few seconds provided an escape route. Liz tried to find Bella without success, and called the shelter to leave a message. ACO Carolyn Eaton called the next day to get more information. Liz tacked fliers on poles and talked to residents. Sightings were irregular, but in the general vicinity not far from home. People saw Bella then she’d quickly disappear. A cage trap was set in a backyard she passed through but remained empty when she didn’t return. The region was gripped by a cold spell, the ground covered with snow. ACO Eaton called on Wednesday to ask for help. I scouted roads, terrain, and shortcuts through Bella’s eyes then met with Liz early evening. While discussing the search a call came in. We found the home at the end of a long driveway through the woods. We saw lots of prints in brushy areas but it was difficult to track them by flashlight. Fields out back led directly to roads close to Liz’s home. A dog could cross in mere minutes.

Thursday was bitterly cold. At 3 PM Bella wandered onto school grounds, the ball field, and up a wooded hill. I knew she wouldn’t come out of hiding with a crowd there and asked people to leave. Sheilah stayed to watch a blind corner, the others left to search elsewhere. I hastily set my trap down on bare grass under a fir. The trap stuck out like a sore thumb so I parked my Jeep curbside to hide the “obvious.” I sat at the base of the hill and “talked” to Bella about ten minutes. I was headed back when my phone rang. Sheilah sees Bella. I crossed the ball field and could see Bella sniff the Jeep then turn towards the trap. Suddenly, two cars came around the corner, parked nearby, and she ran off. As word spread, more vehicles streamed through. Then it started to snow. Frustrated, and with caregiver duties at home, I left.

Friday at 9 AM Bella was spotted then gone in a flash. Property she once visited is now a strategic location and I secure permission to work there. The family leaves a big garage door open, puts kibble, water, and a blanket in the corner, then plugs in a microwave which lets me reheat bait that keeps freezing. At 3:20 PM while fixing a tidbit bowl, I saw Bella headed my way. I jumped in the Jeep and slouched down. Seconds later I heard her licking the bowl clean. Heart racing, I waited two minutes to hear the trap door close, but it doesn’t. I look out and she’s gone. We get rush hour sightings but nothing after twilight. At 9:15 PM I warmed the bait bowls and just got back in “watch” position when Bella appeared. She ate the tidbits, hesitated briefly then entered the trap. I called Liz, ACO Eaton, and personally thanked the family for their kindness. The trap (with Bella inside) was loaded into the Jeep and two minutes later carried into Liz’s house. Bella came out and was soon sleeping on a rug. We cried with relief and from exhaustion then talked awhile. I left to go pull signs off poles. Last one down and headed home, snow starts falling with a mission. Don’t care. Bella’s warm and safe.

Special thanks to: Attleboro ACO Eaton, Seekonk ACO Harvey, Friends of Attleboro Animal Shelter (FAAS), Sheilah Graham (RI), Face Book community, and area residents. Debbie

GREY BEAR’S HAPPY ENDING (VT)
DEC. 2011 - JAN. 2012


Grey Bear grew up in the woods chained to a dog house filled with straw. His only company was other dogs and an owner who didn’t interact with his animals except to provide food and water. Fortunately, the man was persuaded to give them up so they could have a better life. At 100 lbs, fearful, and lacking socialization skills, Grey Bear spent a year at the shelter without being adopted. He sometimes went for days without touching his food and usually ate after everyone left for the night. He didn’t know how to play with toys and often wet the bed when anxious. Lesley, a visitor who supported shelter efforts, knew Grey Bear needed someone to reach out and make a connection. She made time to take him for long walks and reduced his anxiety with reassuring words and massages. Measured by subtle differences in his behavior, her efforts had a positive effect. Still, it was obvious Grey Bear needed a home environment in order to thrive. Lesley took the next step and offered to foster him.

With open arms and warm hearts, Lesley and Julie welcomed Grey Bear to his first indoor home. The new adventure included a nature-friendly picturesque setting. Humans would think “How lucky!” but many dogs put in unfamiliar situations think “Holy Cow, where’s the door?” 24 hours after arriving, with a simple leash clip malfunction, Grey Bear bolted. A big dog can cover a lot of ground but he backtracked and remained nearby. Food was left outside on a daily basis and he’d venture close to eat a portion. They set a cage trap inside an empty dog house he was using, but he retreated 150’ further up the path to stay under a stand of pines. He still came down the hill to eat near the doghouse, but wouldn’t enter it.

Lesley emailed for advice and included a contact number. I talked with both women numerous times to lend emotional support and advice on how to catch a dog in wide open spaces. Grey Bear was very thin at this point and an impending snowstorm added pressure. Lesley, more determined than ever, created a “bigger mousetrap” using snow fencing to surround the area most used by Grey Bear. She made an entrance gate that closed with a hand-held fixed line. Julie stood guard from a second story window to watch for Grey Bear. Hidden from sight, Lesley gripped the line taut and waited for Julie’s signal flash. Dark and extremely cold outside, Grey Bear wandered in around 10 PM. The signal was given and the gate closed. With a nod to times spent bonding at the shelter, he didn’t shy away when Lesley approached with a leash. Starting out as a runaway foster, Grey Bear ended up in his “forever” home. He settled in nicely and got brave enough to become a real couch potato, staying put even when company came. Congratulations on a job done well….I knew you’d get him!

I got beautiful pics thanks to Julie (professional photographer). Note: The doghouse cage trap WAS set up well, very inviting, and a great example of how a trap SHOULD look. See more pics of traps under “Trapping.”

ABBY’S HAPPY ENDING
Sept 11th to Sept. 24th 2011


On September 11, 2011, “Abby,” a Belgian Malinois, arrived at her new adoptive home in Swansea, MA, but escaped by scaling the fence. Attempts to catch her and chasing made her run further away. Sheilah Graham had recently adopted the same breed dog from ABMC. Emails and FB posts alerted her to Abby’s plight so she spent the next two days on scene talking with people and handing out fliers. There were no new sightings for days and then Abby reappeared. Calls came in from Dighton, Rehoboth, and Taunton. Sheilah headed to the last sighting area in Taunton with fliers and high hopes. Janet Steeger, also involved with ABMC, tacked large laminated fliers to telephone poles. They were discussing strategy when Janet’s friend reported Abby was just seen a mile down the road. The women took off with leashes, hot dogs, and string cheese. The homeowner at the site address said they could park and search for as long as necessary. Walking in the woods for two hours was daunting but neither voiced any complaints. Optimism faded as daylight disappeared and they both left. Within ten minutes two sightings were reported less than five minutes apart. Both callers saw Abby near the property where they’d been earlier. Though dark, Sheilah and Janet returned to watch for awhile, hoping to see Abby themselves. No such luck.

Thursday morning Sheilah checked FB and webpage postings for new sightings before heading to Norton. Mother Nature hampered her search with frequent torrential downpours. Food bowls, left in case Abby circled back, weren’t touched. The property owner told her he called a friend who helps people with lost dogs. That was me, Debbie, AKA LostDogSearch. I quickly loaded my Jeep with supplies and arrived within thirty minutes. Sheilah and I walked the property while she brought me up to speed on details and what little was known about Abby. Public awareness starts anew with fliers given to police and shelters in Norton and Mansfield and posted at businesses. Neon signs get tacked to poles. All sightings now indicate a northerly zigzag route. That night Janet set up Google Maps to track sightings while I redesign the flier. Friday morning we learn Abby crossed into Mansfield the night before. A woman reported a stray pawing at her fence but it left before police arrived. I talked to her, other residents, and the mailman. Bingo! More sightings, one only twenty minutes old. Abby proves elusive and hours later, rain-soaked, I head home. That night, Janet and I met for the first time on a short dead end road that provided a strategic place to park and stage. She brought a huge batch of new fliers. Rain pouring down, too dark to see anything, we simply talk. I go over some basic pointers including scenarios of luring a dog with food.

Saturday morning the sun was finally shining. Sheilah had to work but Janet and I would team up in Mansfield. While waiting, I tack up signs. Janet calls to relay a sighting downtown less than an hour old. Within minutes I found others who’d seen her. Janet arrives and we put a sign on her van. A man on a bicycle says Abby is a few streets away. He continues to help by tracking from a safe distance. Janet got back to her van and drove while I walk in case Abby backtracks. Skinny and limping, Abby was obviously tired when she stopped to rest. Janet went into the yard a few feet and immediately assumed a low ground position. Talking softly, she slowly crawled on her back, stopping about thirty feet from Abby. She gently threw bits of food on the lawn, shortening the distance with each toss. I politely kept the curious away and the bicyclist waited in case Abby bolted. Janet’s submissive posture, reassuring tones, patience, and offerings of food worked in harmony. Abby overcame fear and caution to wander ever closer until Janet was able to gently grasp the loose collar. The process took over an hour but under such circumstances was normal. The twelve day ordeal was over. We cried and smiled until our faces hurt.

Janet had to ready her van so I held the leash and collar with a death grip. Abby pulled away hard from me BUT only because she wanted to go with Janet. Love at first rescue sight. Witnessing Abby’s immediate and total attachment to Janet was amazing, WAY cool, and heartwarming. And, yes, Janet adopted her. Abby traveled 45-50 miles including backtracking and zigzags. Her route by “Performance Plus” in Taunton and my friend’s yard established our search group. When she roamed in bicycle man’s yard Saturday morning the family called to report a stray and learned Abby was a lost dog. I went to the house to confirm the sighting and talked to the wife, not knowing “bicycle man” would turn out to be her husband. Things fall into place on their own time and for whatever reason. Thankfully. Read Abby's Poem.

“GRAYSON” IN ALASKA HAPPY ENDING
AUGUST 2011


Mary Mika from Alaska was sixty miles from home on a 3-day vacation trip when she saw a lost pet flier at a gas station. Locals said a small white dog had been running loose in the area for over three years, now facing a fourth winter outdoors. Nicknamed “Ghost Dog,” it ran away from eye contact and no one could get close. A bar put out leftover food at night and kibble was stolen from the bowl of a dog that was fed outside. Though mostly solitary, it was seen with two bigger dogs with no known owners. The dog often rested at a bridge near the railroad tracks and also under a mobile home used as an office for a labor business. Mary had to go home but intended to return and catch the dog before harsh weather set in. Finding my website, she emailed for advice. We discussed strategic places to set up cage traps and how to make them enticing. Already scouted, the bridge and mobile office locations were ideal. After carefully prepping both traps, she camped out in her vehicle to watch over the bridge site. It was a long and bitterly cold Friday night. Saturday hours continued to pass with no success. The only excitement the entire time was that Mary almost got hit by a train. She reluctantly went home early that evening. Sleep proved elusive as she kept thinking about the dog left behind and inviting, but empty, traps. Early Sunday morning her phone rang. The business owners called to say the dog was in the trap under their office. Mary was estatic and quickly rushed out the door. This time the long drive was a joy to make.

The story has a twist. The posted flier was for a 5lb female Pomeranian. Mary caught a male American Eskimo. “Ghost Dog” had a very tight collar, no tags, and scans didn’t detect a chip. A visit to the vet found evidence of old injuries to ribs and mandible. Mary brought it home to a nurturing setting, bonding soon began, and her existing pack adjusted to add a new member. Chosen with respect, the dog was given the name “Grayson.” To update Happy Endings, I called Mary (Feb. 2014) to refine details on my report. She happened to mention Grayson likes to sleep in bed atop her head. Years ago my terrier mix “Angie” adorned me like a furry hat. Remembering makes me smile. Mary is an awesome woman with a big heart who continues to reach out and make a difference. Thank you with hugs from afar. Debbie

JILL / LIEBE’S HAPPY ENDING - AUG. 3 - 12, 2011
9 Days Lost


Jill was a black Lab mix from Texas lacking in social skills. A group tried to train her to be a “gun dog” (hunter companion) but she failed. Her fate almost sealed, a caring shelter volunteer in Massachusetts rescued and found her a home. Jill, 30lbs thin, was here only two days when she escaped while on a walk with the new owner and a friend. Sensing slack, she took advantage and ran off with harness and leash still attached. Trying to catch her was unsuccessful and a useless endeavor once she entered the woods which transitioned to dense swamp, thick with vegetation, including poison ivy. Bob, her new guardian, ventured forth, even into the ivy, but in vain. The ordeal started around 4 PM, and she covered a lot of ground in few hours. Due to quick notification, I met Bob that night to establish communications and assist with a plan. Kendra (a friend of Bob’s), Animal Control Officers, Friends of the Attleboro Animal Shelter (Kim, Kelly, Audrey & others), and Linda (North Attleboro Shelter), all provided immense support. Large neon signs and standard fliers were tacked on poles and tons of residential style fliers (see “Fliers & Signs”) were distributed. These postings and going door to door resulted in calls that put us in spot locations as quickly as possible. Her initial route that evening brought her out of the swamp, through fields, along power lines, over railroad tracks, and by 8 PM, onto a major (rural) street parallel to the one she bolted from, but in another town. Jill used roads which transitioned from one town into other along respective stretches, adding more chaos. Sightings ranged from 4 AM to 1:30 AM throughout the search, seen mostly on the move and vanishing just as quickly.

Within four days she found her way back towards home but further down the road and constantly crossing town lines. One 7 AM caller saw her resting in the middle of a power grid access path, close to the main road. As happens with many lost dogs, she’d run if you made eye contact, called to her, or got out of a vehicle. Our concerns: traffic, predators, and dragging leash. Due to specific sightings we knew she’d lost both harness and leash. With dots on the map and backtracking, albeit haphazardly, I chose a sighting yard in which to set up a cage trap. After a few nights amid thunderstorms and no luck, I pulled out but kept the trap with me, ready to go at a moment’s notice. One man saw Jill (skinny, no harness/leash) in his garage and kindly allowed us to place a trap in his yard that same night. It was a hasty last minute setup but a decent location, and we hoped she’d pass through his yard again and get caught there.

On Friday August 12th, a morning call reported seeing Jill at 2 AM on the main road near town lines. Concentrating in a small radius, we passed out more fliers. At 10 AM she was seen wandering in a yard near a large fir tree. Walking up the short driveway, I saw the birdfeeder, a huge draw for lost dogs. After giving the woman a flier, I asked permission to trap on the property. The lady agreed but was having company later and needed to mow the lawn. I politely asked if she’d mow the front yard first. It was here that I saw Jill for the first time. She dodged my glances with graceful and evasive moves around fences and shrubs and was gone in a flash. With mowing started, noon traffic 40’ away, and a crowd watching across the street, the location was less than ideal and almost hazardous, but I set up anyway. The ground next to the fir tree was leveled with a thin yoga mat and a low branch straddled over the middle of the trap to make it blend into the landscape. I put a nugget of peanut butter sandwich on a large rock and a small bowl of mixed bits off to one side of the trap. Inside, the bait bowl had Cesar dog food, cheese, and hot dog bits. Via a “quick release” back door, I added sandwich bits to the bait and tipped the bowl to face the rear wall thus making it visibly tempting.

I left to scout the adjacent road for a safer “throw-down” spot and check the other trap. Most homes had woodsy backyards with feeders, all one minute from the main drag. While heading back, a call reports Jill’s in the yard again. I parked at the curb just opposite the house. Jill’s eating birdseed ground debris….slim pickings. The lady’s mowing her side yard. Cars stop behind me thinking I want to exit, or stop to ask what’s going on. Does it get any worse? Jill watched cautiously but didn’t bolt as I talk softly and exit the Jeep. I then did something I’d never done but thought necessary under the circumstances. I sat on the curb in plain view but kept a low profile by the rear hatch. My head bowed down, I watched indirectly, and offered kind words. The mowing stops and suddenly Jill disappears behind the house. Still talking, I rose to add another tidbit to the rock then back to my perch. Jill re-appeared almost immediately, looked at me, then walked towards the trap. Ate sandwich bits off the rock, glanced at me, ate bowl tidbits, glanced again, went to the rear of the trap and sniffed at the bait inside. Walked around the cage 3 times (most dogs do) then went right into the front entrance. The split second noise of the door springing, latching and locking is the sweetest sound.

The group in Texas told someone the only way we’d get Jill was with a tranquilizer gun. Hearing that, I smiled and hoped to prove them wrong. She wasn’t any more difficult to catch than other dogs. It’s never “easy” and always takes work and plain luck to be in the right place at the right time. And while most dogs are caught with food rather than scent, sometimes you have the luxury of using both. I put her old Texas collar with tags inside next to the bait. I know she would have gone in for my bait mix, but her collar provided additional incentive and increased the odds of success.

When Jill was adopted, Bob changed her name to “Liebe” which means “sweetheart,” but during the search we called her Jill. I stopped to visit not long ago and though still shy, Liebe looked great. Bob made a commitment the moment she came into his life and never gave up on her. They are quite the cool duo. Debbie/LostDogSearch.

CHIPPER’S HAPPY ENDING – July 29, 2010
Lost 6 days & 5 hours


My husband Chris and I adopted Chipper from the Horry County Humane Society in Myrtle Beach two years ago. Chipper and I were like peas and carrots from the beginning. Although very timid around other people, especially men and children, he quickly settled into our routine at home and went to work with me daily. Eager to please, incredibly smart and intuitive, he also seemed to know what was allowed and what wasn’t. When asked about his breed, we jokingly said he was a “Vanderbilt Terrier”…..very rare!

On July 23rd, 2010 I had to drop off some truck parts at the shop and Chipper was in the car with me. I put him in the office with the manager while I unloaded so he’d be cool and safe (from jumping out of the car). No one else was around as I headed to the restroom. When I came back thirty seconds later, I found out that one of our mechanics had pulled up and gone into the office. Never suspecting a dog would be inside, he opened the door. The manager yelled to watch out, and as the mechanic made a grab for him, Chipper bolted, heading for the highway. We last saw him in the convenience store parking lot. We all got in vehicles and started searching and calling out to him. Eight hours later and dark, we quit for the night. I was horrified and in shock. I never thought this sweet little dog that slept on 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets would make it through the night surrounded by Highway 9, Highway 90, and US 17.

The next morning we put an ad in the paper and contacted Animal Control and local shelters. We also put up signs and handed out flyers. I found out from the cigar store across the street from where Chipper was last seen that they saw someone pull over and pick him up. Now I was really worried because Chris’s cell phone number was on Chipper’s collar and 21 hours had passed. Why hadn’t they called? Sadly, we went home and prayed for the phone to ring.

Apparently the Good Samaritan trying to coax our dog into the car was not successful because that evening someone who saw our posters called to report he’d seen our dog in the cemetery. He’d tried to catch him but Chipper bolted into the woods. Chris and I arrived 5 minutes later and walked up and down the tree line calling out. “There he is!” the man pointed. Chipper was running at us full speed. Then, about 100 yards away, he did an about face and ran back into the brush. We gave chase but ultimately were unable to find him. I was stunned.

I spent the next two days calling out to him, searching the cemetery and neighboring subdivisions, squeaking a toy, and anything else I thought might help. I slept only when exhausted and usually for 3 hours. I lived on quick meals and junk food. Chris left for a pre-planned business trip, forlorn. I was out of ideas and losing hope. My mother came to help continue the search. I started combing websites again looking for anything I hadn’t tried. It was at this point I found Debbie’s website, realized there was a lot more I could do, and learned the right way to do it. With renewed optimism and determination, I did the following:
  • During my search I found two feral cat feeding stations. I wrote letters (with flyers included) requesting a call if those who managed the sites noticed any changes and to report sightings. Both people called to say they would keep their eyes open. I believed the stations were instrumental in keeping Chipper local and began monitoring the sites several times a day.
  • I borrowed Chipper’s best friend, “Buddy”, our son’s Dachshund, and walked the cemetery grounds a couple of times to establish familiar scent tracks. Hopefully, this would help keep Chipper where he was until...
  • I found a humane trap and obtained permission to place it on the cemetery grounds. I called Animal Control to check on trapping license requirements but there were none. I gathered bedding from Chipper’s crate, his toys and some of my unwashed clothing. I cooked chicken breasts (Chipper’s favorite) some hot dogs, and had containers of Cesar dog food. The next morning would be spent picking up the cage trap in a nearby town.
That evening I received a call from a couple at the cemetery visiting the grave of their daughter who they tragically lost in a traffic accident three years earlier. They saw a dog that looked just like the one on the poster at the entrance of their subdivision. The dog was lying down in the open but ran into the woods as they approached. They went back to the poster to get the phone number then waited until I got there to show me the spot (the same one as the sighting five days earlier). At this point I knew I was going to bring Chipper home. Even if I didn’t get him tonight, I knew exactly where to set the cage trap. His crate he loved so much was in the back of the car so I could leave it overnight until I got the cage trap the next morning. Grabbing the chicken, other foods, a leash, and Buddy, mom and I headed out to the cemetery.

I briefed mom what we’d do upon arriving. Like…. do NOT slam the car door. I’d be crawling up towards the trees and slowly placing a blanket on the ground. I wanted her to sit on this and let Buddy go to the end of the leash towards the spot Chipper was seen. I proceeded to broadcast bits of chicken into that spot and then back towards the cemetery where we were parked. I stood talking very quietly with Connie and Greg for a few minutes as they offered additional assistance, and thanked them for calling. At that moment, Chipper came out of the woods, eating the bits of chicken while weaving his way ever closer to us. I got down on the ground. When about 20 feet away, he recognized Buddy and started moving rapidly towards him. At about 4 feet away….it was like he snapped out of a trance. Chipper raced to me, jumped into my arms, and started licking my face and crying. He was dirty, wet, smelly, and had sand spurs matted into his fur. He had bug bites and lost almost two pounds, but otherwise was in very good shape overall.

There were so many people’s efforts that went into bringing Chipper back home that I put up new posters for 24 hours to announce the good news and thank everyone in Little River, SC. I visited all the businesses and humane societies to express my appreciation and to let them know that pets can be found and that flyers help immensely. And besides, everyone loves a happy ending!
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