This Story Ends Well

I wrote a post recapping 2010 in projects the other day and was going to publish it yesterday. But then my dog ran away after a deer in the woods and all the evening's plans went to hell as we desperately searched for him. Since everyone loves a story with a happy ending, I thought I'd share it here.

I'm visiting my parents in Maine where they have a 20 acre farm with a woods loop in the back. I decided to take our dogs, Lexi and Feeney out for a walk around the loop around 3pm since I had been working since 7am and they hadn't been out for any exercise yet.

I pulled on a pair of Uggs with no socks, a not-warm-enough-for-14-degrees-jacket, a pair of thin gloves and at the last minute grabbed a hat. I got to the barn and thought, “I’ll take them around the loop quickly.” I didn’t want to and should have trusted my instincts, but they hadn’t had any exercise and my mom left me a note before she left a few hours earlier suggesting that I take the dogs for a walk. But she had also said Lexi had sore paws and that she wasn’t going to take her on the loop that day, so I was a little confused. I went anyway.

We got to the beginning of the loop where the property turns from fields to woods and Lexi got excited, so I knew deer were probably near. I thought to turn around at that point, but just said, "eeuh, I’ll go around the shorter loop quickly." Feeney had his training collar on, which allows me to give him a "naughty" tone if he doesn't listen to my calling him, or to shock him if he ignores me. He's responsive to the tone and never ignores a shock.

Feeney and Lexi were right with me when all of a sudden Feeney lifted his head and took off after a deer, I assume (I never saw it). I zapped him, beeped him, etc. with no response. I then told Lexi to stay and ran off after his tracks. I didn't think he was actually going too far, nevertheless I called my parents for help, who were thankfully just getting home. They drove into the woods and my mom got out to help follow Feeney's tracks while my dad went back for Lexi, who was waiting right where I told her to stay (she's 12, she listens). He then left to drive up and down the roads surrounding our property and the dozens of properties that back up to ours forming a large forest surrounded by one local highway-like road, a paved road and several dirt roads.

My mom and I searched the woods, following deer and dog tracks for 2 hours until it got dark. We got stuck for a long time in a spot near the highway-like road where someone was feeding the deer and there were dozens of tracks leading to and from the property. When it was pitch dark I used my GPS on my iPhone and we went out to the highway-like road where my dad met us with his car.

I texted a friend when Feeney first ran off and after it became evident that I wasn't finding him, she started to post missing dog posts on Craigs List and Facebook, etc. As we were looking I called the local and state police that patrol the surrounding towns, animal shelters and the local vet just in case someone found him and called to report him. Another friend saw the post on Facebook and called our microchip company to report him lost.

When it was too dark to follow tracks, we came home and my dad drove into the woods again, hoping Feeney turned around at some point. My mom and I each got in our cars and did a 10+ mile lap on the roads that surround the forest behind our house, hollering Feeney's name the entire time (I'm hoarse today). At around 6pm I lost it and had to pull over because I was crying so hard. I called S to leave a message and he unexpectedly answered, having just landed the plane. I cried. I don't think S and I could handle starting 2011 off with such a huge loss.

Our plan was to canvas the roads for a few hours before stopping at houses. I randomly stopped at two houses that were at the ends of very long driveways and side roads with property that abutted where my mom and I were when I started to find our way out of the woods via GPS. I told each person I spoke with our house number and to call the police if they saw Feeney.

After a couple of hours of driving I got a call from my mom. The owner of one of the homes I stopped at had driven to our house to tell my parents that a dog was barking repeatedly in the woods behind his house. His house is in the middle of nowhere, down a driveway that has to be almost a half mile long, on the edge fields belonging to a huge cattle farm, that happens to be surrounded with barbed wire fence.

I drove to his house at 60-70mph down our 35mph road. I had my hazards on, so it's ok, right?

Have I mentioned the coyotes were howling and barking in the woods at this point? No? I'm petrified of coyotes and a dog is no match for a pack of coyotes, so that kind of explains the panicked 70mph drive.

My father, mother, and the owner of the house met me in his driveway. He and I grabbed flashlights from our cars and ran into his woods, hollering for Feeney the whole time. We ran up and down ravines and over a drawbridge that he had to let down, through thick woods, which he knew well (thank God). We found Feeney's tracks at one point so we started to follow them.

My dad called to say that the guy's neighbor 1/4-1/3 miles away had seen Feeney at 4, but Feeney had run away from him. It was 7:30 at this point. After running down snowmobile trails near the neighbor's house my dad decided to get into his car and drive to the road parallel to ours, at least 5 miles away, where he remembered seeing a driveway on google maps that led deep into the woods directly behind where we were searching. (Think a giant rectangle of woods with houses along the edges.)

I sent my mom back to the guy's house to holler for Feeney where we left our cars at the edge of the pasture. I called my friend, who had come to help, to ask her to drive to the neighbor's house to holler for Feeney there after my dad left. All the while I was running through the woods, somehow not falling while wearing my Uggs and actually getting warm in my not-warm-enough-for-14-degrees-jacket. I was grateful that I'm a runner and for the most part was able to keep up with the guy who was clearly a better runner than I.

My friend needed to turn around to go to the house where I asked her to holler for Feeney, so she pulled into the driveway of a daycare center located on the main road directly in front of the house whose woods I was running through. As she was about to back up she spotted a black figure on front porch of the daycare building, which was closed for the day. She thought it was the homeowner's dog, until she saw Feeney's collar flashing red. She called me in the woods and we turned around and started running back toward my car.

Feeney wouldn't come to her or her son's graham cracker she was offering to him, so she just stood there and talked to him and tried to keep him on the little porch while she waited for us. My mom got to Feeney first and went right up to him to give him a big hug. He licked her.

Feeney ran a very long distance in the woods and thankfully was not hurt, nor did he hurt the deer he chased (there was no blood and they're far faster runners than he). He spent just over five hours running through the woods in 14 degree weather. We're so grateful it wasn't overnight; neither my dad nor I were excited by the thought of canvassing the woods through the night (with the coyotes), which is what we planned to do. His paws are a little cut and he was covered with sticks, pitch and dirt and had bark stuck between his toes. He was freaked out for a while, but is ok now. I gave him a bath with lavender shampoo to clean off all the dirt today and he's been lounging by my side on his bed all day.

I was totally freaked out. I’m just glad my Feeney is ok. I really couldn’t have handled a loss like that.

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1 comment:

  1. Ugh. What a horrible and terrifying experience. :( I'm so glad you found him.


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