Bou & Justin’s Amazing Story

Lost Dog Found After 13 Days Lost In Tonto National Forest Thanks To Social Media

An inspirational story of a lost dog being found after being lost in Payson in the Tonto National Forest by a guy that lives in Phoenix. The dog was found due to the never ending efforts of the dog’s owner, the help and kindness of strangers and connectivity of social media of people in the community. They were camping and the dog ran off after a heard of elk. The owner joined a lost pet group on Facebook and connected with some kindly strangers. Between the owner and people on Facebook and helpful people in the community, the little Jack Russell Terrier was able to find his way home. Please read this very interesting and inspirational story.

This is exactly why I’m starting a Petworking website dedicated to helping find lost pets, adoption and fostering through raising awareness and connectivity for pet owners, animal lovers and interested people in the community where we can make a difference. It will always be 100% free to the members. There will be a lot more to the website, all 100% pet related. Pets will have their own home pages where you can post bios, stories, pics, videos, chat, messaging, comments, notifications, forums and more. Like Facebook but for animals.
There will be other areas of the website as well. A services section including veterinarians, spay/neuter clinics, groomers, trainers, doggie daycare, walkers, sitters, yard cleanup, pet photography and more. Pet rescues & rehabs, pet related groups, adoption events, animal education & health, service & therapy dogs, animal cruelty & abuse reports, pet friendly places & parks, food banks for pet food, pet related links, pet boutique and more. The idea is to have a social networking website dedicated 100% to pets, pet networking (Petworking). It’s a real thing, look it up. BOL (Bark Out Loud) A way for animal lovers to connect, have fun and make a difference.

Saturday 6/10/17
I decided to take my wife and dog up to Payson for some evening star gazing and just get away from the valley heat. My dog Bou is a Jack Russell terrier mix about 9-10 years old and a foster and rescue pet, I’ve had since he was six months old, left in a backyard with five siblings.
I’ve taken him hiking numerous times always clicking his harness and leash and allowing him to run free when we get to a isolated location. He’s always remained close by and always returns when I called.
We made a stop at Camp Verde so I could show my wife a creek I had found out adventuring months earlier solo. We walked the trail following the creek Bou even walked through the shallow creek for a drink. After a brief walk we returned to the car and continued east towards Payson.
A second stop to shoot a picture of a agave and echinocereus coccineus cactus cluster, again he roamed free staying within 20 yards of me wherever I roamed, in my search for additional cacti species that might be growing in the area.
We continued our trip again and reached our destination around 5:30 pm, a trail marked Dude Fire Trail. Dude fire trail follows a dry creek and marks two locations where 6 fire fighters lost their lives in 1994. Another fire to our North Eastern most mountain was just getting underway and several helicopters carrying water buckets flew over us as we hiked further in. It was just beginning to become dusk and I was hopeful that I might get the opportunity to take some pictures of some wild elk and deer. I asked my wife to wait while I scouted up around the next bend. I tried to get Bou to stay with her but he seemed intent on staying with me and looked to be having a the time of his life. So we continued off together following the narrowing trail up another hundred yards along the wash. As we rounded the bend nearly a dozen elk popped up out of the tall grass near a fallen tree, startled by our sudden presence. Bou instantly spots them and begins trotting at his normal speed in their direction. My initial action was to reach into my pocket for my iPhone to get a picture. How special I thought to myself to see Bou and a elk nose to nose. I take a couple quick pictures as the elk now begin moving away and up the side of the mountain, just a fast walk pace, with Bou closing the distance. I put away my phone and call for Bou to come. He doesn’t respond or even glance back in my direction. I call again “Bou come!” Still he continues to follow the elk and not listen. He and the a small group he followed were now fifty yards away and nearing the end of the area thinned intentionally to protect the neighborhood from wildfire jumping. I called his name several more times as I scrambled up the hill as fast as possible. I lose sight of him as I ascended and by the time I reach the untouched thick forest I am unable to see or hear him or any sign of the elk he is pursuing. I charged recklessly through hoping for a clearing, game trail, a visual of my dog. Thorny bramble brush tore at bare legs, leaving deep bleeding gashes, from knees to ankles. I didn’t realize the extent of the damage I did to my legs until several hours later. Desperate and frantic I continued calling, growing more desperate and horrified by each passing second. I worked my way back down the hill and back towards my wife’s location. I reach her and can hardly explain what has happened. We made our way back to the area where Bou chased the elk up the mountain. She called for him in the wash, over and over as I continued searching up above, as the daylight was quickly fading. I returned to her in the creek on the trail shortly before dark and we huddled together in the darkness, without flashlights, for hours calling pleading, “come home Bou it’s time to go home!”
I convince my wife that the best thing we can do at this point is go home and come back the following morning and try again . Reluctantly and with much regret she eventually agrees. We call for him the entire slow difficult walk back to the car, yet nothing but silence.
Driving home I felt so guilty, that harness and leash he was dragging , I was so worried would get wedged between rocks or snag on a tree strums or something. As we drove out in the darkness, we saw the true magnitude of the fire, the entire hillside was glowing red just a few miles to the northeast of where we just left behind.
We got home and went right to bed mentally and physically exhausted, yet were back up at dawn preparing for the nearly two hour drive each way.
Sunday 6/11/2017
The entire morning we both tried to remain positive, thinking we are going to find him. I remember having strong hopes that he would just be sitting at the trail head as we pulled up, ‘like where’d you guys go.’
We arrived to a heavy presence of heavy equipment, fire fighter trucks, and Hot Shots. I pull into the trailhead parking area and no dog. We hike back to the area where we lost him calling for him as go looking, listening. The air is much thicker today and burns our nose and eyes slightly, yet it doesn’t seem that Smokey. I have no tracking skills but there are several areas that are sandy and prints are easily visible if you slow down and look. I followed every game trail in the area saw dozen of elk hoof prints, people’s shoe prints yet no doggy prints or drag marks from the leash tailing behind him. Found his prints in several spots before he ran off, but nothing after. It felt like he never existed beyond that point. Eventually we gave up again and went back to the Jeep driving home yet again without my best friend, a rear view image of a empty backseat.
We get home Sunday night and Crystal finds on Google search “Lost dogs of Arizona ” and “Payson AZ lost/found pets”
Facebook group pages.
These are what prove to be the most value resource in our search. She send join request to both groups on Sunday night and posts pictures and our story on Monday after work. I called several radio stations asking for them to broadcast the missing dog, as well as park services and Payson SPCA.
We received lots of helpful advice on the two FB groups throughout the week, like bringing his blanket and my jacket for scent to leave where he was last seen, but received no postings of being spotted.
Until Friday evening 6/16 about 8 pm. My wife gets a message asking for friend request and asked if she could send her a IM. A lady’s had seen Bou that evening trotting through her yard between her barn and pond, along the outer tree line. She called ‘here pup’ but he only ran off unwilling to trust a stranger. Bou is a dog that walked with me nearly every day of my son’s five years of elementary school and kids loved petting him almost as much as he enjoyed the attention. He is typically very people friendly but it has now been six days of being on his own in a completely foreign environment. This news was instantly renewed my optimism and hopes of finding him. He was staying very close to the area he was lost, in what before felt like a vast needle in a haystack scenario. We immediately began preparations for driving up again first thing Saturday morning. Exchanged multiple text messages and had a phone conversation with the lady who saw him on her property. She invited us to stay the night, if needed, on her property and call and watch for him.
Saturday 6/17/17
We get up early again and make our way up 87 North again into Payson. We stop at the Piñon Cafe and I order the biggest bacon egg and cheese omelet with country potatoes and biscuits and gravy I have ever seen. We grabbed a doggie bag for the biscuits and gravy thinking along with the dog food we brought, they would be good bait for attracting the surely hungry dog. It’s been nearly a full week on his own at this point. We go down 260 west as this was the only route I knew at the time to get to her property and the location that he was last seen. As we reach the turn leading to what becomes a dirt road a cop cruiser is blocking the entrance. I park the car and my wife, walks over and explains our situation, she quickly returns and says we have the ok to go in. I find the property and the lady, Susie meets us at the driveway and shows us a good location to park and be out of the way. After brief introductions she shows us the area and details of Bou’s sighting less than 14 hours prior. We then walk a path behind her pond down a third of a mile or so to her Southern neighbor Jim where he tells me that he had seen him along the path we just came down on Thursday evening. As I walked back up the path we noticed a distinct drag mark about a inch wide and completely straight in two locations where the path was worn and much more sandy. Definitely felt like the mark of a leash being dragged along. Unable to make out paw prints, I began my searching and calling along the wash leading South. After a half mile down stream, with nothing signs I turned back and returned to Susie’s property for a brief rest and new bottle of water. Ready to set off again Susie offers to go with me along the road and give me a layout of the area and community she lived within. The sound of heavy equipment and fire trucks passing by as well as multiple preparation areas allowed me to stop and let them know that he was missing and I’d really appreciate them keeping a eye out. Again we ventured south to her neighbors house, this time going passed it and out the front gate and continued up the road that followed parallel with the road leading to her property. Eventually they intersected and Susie said that she would walk the main upper road leading back to her place, as I checked the strip of woods in between the two roads for signs. Heavy game trails mark this area and are easy to follow. At least a half dozen elk prints are clearly visible, yet find no visible dog prints or that one inch drag mark. As I get back to her property Susie is waiting and anxious to show me markings on the main road very close to her property. We reach the spot and she points to a very distinct, what looks to be extremely fresh drag mark diagonally all the way across the road. From one edge to the other. I call for him, we stand silent listening….nothing. I check the areas on both sides of the road for additional marks and signs, still nothing. A mobile home sits 50 yards off the road near the drag marks, but don’t see any signs of him around the area. We eventually head up the road and come across a neighbor who Susie introduces me too and tells my story. He tells us he heard a strange noise on his other property a short time ago. He walks with us further up the road a short distance and off along a big chain link fence surrounding a big two story house, where another neighbor is outside working and kids were playing. After getting his attention he shuts off his power tool and comes over. Additional introductions and the story of a lost dog and heartbroken family, he tells us he is coming down to Phoenix this weekend and he will tie the dog up and bring him my way if he sees him.
We assume the sounds he heard were kids playing and make our way back onto the road. The other neighbor returns home and Susie and I continue our walk and her tour of the community. We drop down a hill and cross the creek that runs behind her house and along her property. The water is flowing and visibility up and down stream and fairly good, so I stop and call Bou again looking as deep into the woods hoping to see a flash of red harness or a white dog emerge from behind a tree or bush. Quietly we listen yet hear nothing but the trickle of the stream, peaceful, but not today. After a minute or so we climb the road up out of the creek and soon reach a split in the road ‘Big AL’s run’ it says as we turn following it right. A big house stands to the left of the road split and a loud parrot I assume can be heard repeatedly squawking. A short distance up and the road splits again, making a big loop, with houses becoming much more common on either side of us. We follow the road up and Susie tells me about how her parents bought the property she lives on back in 1957, that the original log cabin built in the 1800’s had burned down in the Dude fire of 1994. Explained that they lost most of everything and most of the community was either new or rebuilt. Yet she is completely fearless as we turn the corner that loops us back, at the spot where the wildfire is merely just a few hills over. I learn that she was at one time a Hit Shot firefighter, one of the most challenging and intense jobs I can imagine.
I found myself very much calmed by her and felt so indebted for her opening up her land to complete strangers. Susie is a amazing person and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have meet her.
As we begin the outer loop back, she points down below and tells me that is Bonita creek and further North those big mountains are Mogollon Rim.
As we complete the loop the come up to a house between the two roads and Susie suggests that we let them know to keep a eye out and see if they have seen him around their property. Her name was Lorna, she said her and her husband would keep a look out for him but had not seen him before. Susie Lorna and her husband talked about the fire and how Susie saw her on TV as a community organizer and preparedness for fire evacuations, which neither felt were much of a possibility. Fire crews from around the country, Georgia, California, and Glendale among many others as well as Hot Shots were blanketing the entire area. They finished with catching up and we made our way back to her property, still occasionally calling and constantly scanning both sides of the road, the woods, and the road for prints. We get back to the spot where Susie spotted, what I am still certain was my dog’s leash dragged completely across the road, and most of it is now gone replaced by tire marks of passing vehicles. We return to her porch a long wrap around three sides of her house, with a clear view of the pond from the front porch chairs. We sit, rehydrate and talk swapping stories about how her daughter lost her huskies three times and this is how they became members of the FB page of ‘Payson lost and found pets’. Her daughter was the one who initial contacted my wife and gave us her mom’s name and number. After resting me and my wife decided to run to town and have lunch and buy some snacks and stuff for staying the night.
Susie tells us it’s much shorter to Payson to continue on the main road out to 87N, saving me nearly 10 miles. We leave out and sure enough hit blacktop in about four and a half miles and see another police cruiser blocking the way in, at Whispering Pines church. We get back to Payson and I’m anxious to try Pinon Cafe again for lunch but arrived too late, as they apparently close at 3pm daily. Found another cafe, not as good, but filled our belly’s with much needed protein for additional hiking of the constant up and down roads and trails. Ran into a grocery store and grabbed some supplies and we headed back to Susie’s.
We get to the police cruiser expecting to be let in again, but were meet with a multitude of questions and what seemed like lack of belief in our story. We explained that we have been there all day are camping on private property with the owners consent, heck we were bringing her coffee creamer from the store. Continued lecture about how nobody other than those who have proof that they are residents are allowed in. I became frustrated and asked “why he was being difficult, I just want to find my dog and go home”. Oops wrong response. He tells me that “our conversation is being recorded and asks how am I being difficult?”
Quickly my wife defuses the situation and tells me to shut up and let her handle it. Something I should definitely learn to do more often. After several minutes and running of our plates and ID’s he tells us ‘we can go in. That we can be arrested once inside by another passing patrol, and how he is responsible for our safety and how it would look if we died looking for a dog.’
Finally we get going after nearly a half hour, the remaining daylight dwindling as was my of patience.
All day here and he hasn’t come to our voices, is he even still within hearing distance? Doubt was creeping in, negative thoughts if he can hear me but is stuck on something.
We pull in at Susie’s and I walk out to the backside of her small pond and put out the biscuits and gravy as well as several small piles of dog food around the pond, down the trail leading to her southern neighbor, and up near her gate.
Decided to make one more hike and set off down the path to Jim’s again, after filling my camel pack with water. I followed the creek from his place, then cut across west. Across the small creek, and up the hill through the path cleared to protect the community from fire jumping. Even the area cleared of most trees was dense with low lying thorny vines, the stuff that tore my legs up the previous week. It felt like far too much of a pain to fight through especially for a dog Bou’s size. The Dude fire creek trail was on the other side of this hill in the next wash over, this is where I was determined to reach. I continued to plow through going left and right picking the paths of least resistance while following the power lines that marked the area just before my dog ran off.
As I made it down into the wash and on the trail, I saw several footprints and a dog print that looks like Bou. This is the area just before we spotted the elk. Prints were still visible. I made my way North along the trail half people half game trail, I come across a wide spot with two trees and five wooden crosses. Marked #? Stand. The spot where the firefighters bodies were recovered from the ’94 fire. I stopped and collected a stack of rocks stacking them on top of each other all flat and white matching, near the set of crosses on Sunday before we left, thinking that I would never see my dog again and it would be a nice spot to come back to and remember him. My moment of closure. It was still standing and several of the crosses had a dime or a quarter left on them, someone had been here since my last visit. I continued up the dry wash and trail, and soon reached the backside of the mountain he initially ran up, the creek split with the smaller leg leading to that mountain and the main wash turning more towards the east. As I followed the trail I see what looks like a drag mark but later realize is a old bike tire marks. As I make the corner facing east, I can see a bulldozer has cleared a path diagonally up the hill on the south side of the creek, giving me a good path back towards the community of houses. The bulldozer path has dozens of fire hoses, with additional hoses left at every connection leading across miles of land. The path was not near as easy as it looked as it was steep and very sandy. Only prints where from the dozer tracks and my own. No signs of my dog on this journey either. I sat on the hill and caught my breath, called off into the vast northern woods for him. After clearing my emotions I returned back to camp.
Relaxed at camp, checked my Fitbit nearing ten miles of walking, looking, searching. Getting close to dusk at this point and I was hopeful he would appear again now that it was cooling down some. Temperature was 102 that day. Nearly 120 in Phoenix. We sat on the porch and I tried to drink a oatmeal stout I bought, but mocha coffee ended up tasting so much better. As the sunlight faded Susie brought out her spotlight flashlight. We scanned the tree lines, top of the pond for any sort of animal eyes glowing in the darkness, over the next several hours. Only spotting 2 raccoons, or maybe even the same one twice. No Bou, coming to the scent of dog food. No signs or sounds from him. About eleven pm Susie went to bed and invited us to the couches inside. I sat there on the porch for another hour before giving in and trying to get some sleep.
Every sound Crystal was up looking, and listening gently calling his name, very little sleep was achieved by either of us.
Got up bright and early the next morning and decided to drive slowly around the neighborhood and call for him, after a couple hours and driving every road in the area we gave up. Felt completely heartbroken again packing up to go home. Unable to contain my sorrow as I thanked Susie for being so amazing and trying so hard, keeping us so positive and trying desperately to help us find him. She assured me that she would get the word out and have people keep watching even though she was getting ready to leave the state for several days.
We drove home and found ways to justify this being the end, he was getting old, the thought of expensive future vet bills and the difficulty of putting him down or watching him suffer. Or that maybe he will live out his remaining days as a rancher’s sheep or cow herding dog. Anything but the thought of him slowly dying of hunger or being ripped apart by a pack of coyotes. Thoughts that are incredibly difficult to remove once visited in one’s head.
The whole ride home was awkward and silent. Satellite radio signal wasn’t coming in and the silence only gave me more time to fixate on our loss. Our newest pet dog we adopted to be Bou’s friend while everyone is away at school and work, has been visibly depressed. She constantly sits by our bedroom door and checks under the bed repeatedly when we let her in. She lays in Bou’s spot on the couch, no typical playful pup energy. A very hard week on the entire family.
Sunday, Monday pass without hearing anything new. Tuesday afternoon Susie calls me and leaves a voicemail telling me Bou has been spotted this morning by a neighbor laying on their property. Susie gives me Lorna’s number and tells me that she is not currently home or in the state but she would have a neighbor open her gate for me if I wanted to camp again. Lorna tells me that she will vouch for me and get me in when I speak with her, but she wasn’t the one who spotted him. I text Crystal the news and she tells me that I should go.
Hardest trip is going alone and the feeling that you will be coming home alone…again. Yet here I was packing up for another trip, calling about renting a trap, and was told they would have one available for rent weekdays only $5 a day. Took a bag of his dog food as bait, and a additional dog blanket that Freya fully marked while I sat on it and told her to come, causing her to flop on her belly, thinking she was in trouble for doing bad things, she pees all over herself and the blanket I intended to rubs over her body for scent. Mission accomplished, silly dog. I bag it in a garbage bag wash my hands and can’t help but giggle. I pack up my car and prepare for the trip first thing Wednesday morning.
Wednesday 6/21/17
I drive back up super early, stopping in Payson at the Piñon cafe for breakfast and mush needed coffee. I tell the waitress my story and give her my number and Bou’s description, hoping maybe a local comes in and mentions anything. Locals talk. After several cups of coffee and yet another California omelets and new doggie bag of biscuits and gravy, I set off to rent a trap. I get there and the only trap available is barely big enough for a small bunny, much less a 35 pound dog. It’s like 6 inches tall and wide. He tells me that Tractor supply sells them for $20. (Actually $70) Discouraged I go to Tractor Supply. They too only have small traps and I am told of another store down the street that typically carries the size I was after. I get there and they have them in the right size, only $50 more than what the guy at the SPCA told me I could buy one new for. Whatever, at the time felt like the only option for catching this dog who continues to be seen yet won’t come to help. I buy it make room for the giant wire contraption in the backseat and head off to the grocery store for food and drinks to last a day or two. I fill up my gas tank and head off to Whispering Pines where I am supposed to call Lorna to come up and lead me in. I get to the tiny town and pull over at the fire station to text her, no service….Seriously! I shut off the car and walk over to the fire station house and ring the bell. No answer. I check my phone again no bars, no service written across the top in small letters. With no other option I turn around and drive the nearly 5 miles, at 30 mph speed limit, back to the outskirts of Payson. I call her and tell her I’m in Payson and will meet her at the block aid. I drive back and reach the church exactly as she is reaching my location. She hops out and talks to the officer , the same guy I had so much trouble getting past on Saturday. Instantly I assume that this is going to be a problem, but seconds later she is headed back to her car motioning for me to follow. We zoom in and she pulls over at the community set of mailboxes near Susie’s driveway. She tells me that a guy who checks the water levels was the one who saw Bou the previous morning. She points up Big AL’s run and tells me he was seen at the house on the hill before the road circles back around.
I thank her, and drive into Susie’s property the gate already opened for me. I set up the tent and unload camping stuff, getting set up. Once set up I pull out the trap and set it up leaving it empty of food for the time being. I walk down the path leading to Jim’s, no pickup truck here I knock once to alert my presence but appears no one is home. I venture back to the pond and my tent, grab my camel pack and decide to take a walk along the roads and see if any neighbors are out. I grab the blanket Freya marked with pee, and drag it along the ground, like the dirty kid in the old Charlie Brown cartoons. I find a guy outside at the first house and ask if he has seen a white dog dragging a leash. He said that he did, twice, yesterday morning reading the water meters, up the street along the edge of the road. Says he appeared to be sleeping and ran off to the Northeast when called. Second time was several days earlier out on the NF main road somewhere. This is the person who saw him last! I only tried to focus my attention on the most recent spotting, and asked for more details. He offers to drive me up and show me the exact spot, and I am more than happy for any help I can get. We drive up the road and park along the road beside the house he mentioned. He points to a small cluster of trees growing between the road and their driveway, says Bou was laying here. We approach the house and he knocks. A lady and her son answer the door and he tells them I am looking for a dog asking if he’s been seen. They say they haven’t yet take down my name and number and let me know I can leave the blanket where he was last seen. I throw it down in the exact spot and we weigh it down with several rocks to prevent it from blowing away. I hop back in his truck and he circles around onto the loop back. He makes one additional stop at a house and we give my information to another person who has not seen the lost dog. He tells me of a trail as we are leaving that follows the creek north and leads to the rim. This is the same spot Susie showed me where she gravity feeds her water supply from. I thank the guy for the lift and all the help and work my way down to the creek and trail leading North. It’s much cooler down by the creek a welcome relief after spending most of the last two hours out in the open sun. As I am heading along the trail I am continuously gently calling for my dog. “Bou come good boy, whose hungry.” A much different approach than my previous visits of screaming and trying to get my voice to carry as far as possible. I continued asking, “hungry, I’ve got pepperoni”, his absolute favorite treat.
Nothing, but the sounds of water flowing downhill over rocks and branches. I followed the trail, which got more difficult and less maintained the further I ventured. Going probably way further than I should have, though I enjoyed the serenity and isolation of this beautiful location. Plenty of sandy spots made looking for tracks easy yet only saw people’s shoe prints. I eventually turn back and head back South the way I came. Calling again softly as I go. As I make it back to the trail leading up to where I was dropped off, I decide to remain on the east side of the creek and follow it further South, which will eventually cross over the road and put me back out right near Susie’s place. I follow the steam down calling more often through this area, and pausing briefly to listen for sounds other than my own and the constant trickle of water flow. Absolutely nothing, not even birds calling. A short distance later I can see the road and come out at the bottom of the hill. I stand in the middle of the road and call in both directions up and down the creek. Silence. I return to camp and complicate my next move. I pull up a outdoor chair on Susie’s porch and sit down with a cold soda, a fruit cheese and nut snack I got from the grocery store. I stare down the trail at the top of the pond leading to Jim’s place, hoping to see Bou come up the hill or out from behind a tree, as I eat and decide to hit the high road with several houses down closer to the creek. I pass several houses with cars in the driveway but don’t see anyone outside, so I maintained my distance and just called for my dog as I passed each. The south side of the road is national forest and I came across a small herd of elk searching this area on Saturday. They stood up so close to me, I thought I might briefly have a heart attack, before jumping the fence onto the national forest. Elk are impressively big at close range.
Another trip to the end of this road with no signs of him. I return to camp again. I stop at clearing behind Susie’s barn and find a hill covered in fossils of a cylinder shape plant, I think, ranging greatly in diameter and length. I also find several bones and then a huge pile of bones all the exact same type, like cut cow leg bones. Susie later tells me that they were cleaned bones given to her dogs over the years. Was very strange finding at the time though and I was concerned that coyotes scattered or left them this close by.
I get back and it looks like I’ve got maybe a hour before it gets really dark. This is the perfect time for him to be coming out of hiding looking for some food to scavenge. I quickly grab the biscuits and gravy I saved from breakfast and put it in the trap, I sprinkled dog food on top creating the perfect doggie treat. I then covered the cage with the second blanket, hoping to attract my dog while keeping wildlife away. I then walked up the path sprinkling dog food up and down the path. I baited a few additional areas within hearing distance of my tent before going on a slow drive around the neighborhood, calling and looking. I checked the blanket I put out nothing, I find a lone truck at one of the fire fighters posts and decide to stop. I introduce myself and ask if he’s seen a dog fitting description. He says no but tells me that this dog was brought up in a meeting yesterday morning and to be on a lookout for him. I was shocked and humbled that he is bringing this kind of attention. We continue talking for a bit about other things, which was good to clear my head, even briefly as I was getting more depressed about the situation with each hour of not seeing him.
I say my goodbyes and thank him for the hard incredible work they do, and head back to my tent exhausted ready to sit and have a cold drink.
I get back and it’s already pitch black, I position my car so that the headlights face the trap, since I left my flashlights in my wife’s car on Saturday, and forgot to bring a bottle of fuel for my now worthless lantern. If I catch a skunk or raccoon I need to be able to slightly see what I am doing in the pitch black! With everything set I head off into my tent and attempt to get comfortable. I text my wife before I went to bed asking her to ‘dream about me driving home with him in the morning.’
Every little sounds has me up peering out the front window and between tossing and turning and I get very little sleep. Not very fun camping circumstances.
I’m up just before dawn about 4am, check the trap but know it is empty. Grab a water and drive up the road to check his other blanket. I get there nothing, get out look for prints or signs he had visited and see nothing. I continue driving for a hour circling pleading ‘please Bou come home’.
My head and heart are pounding again each time I call and get nothing back eating at me. Around 5am I return to camp and convince myself to break it down and go home, I clean out my things from inside the tent and pull up the first pole, I walk over and pull up the next arched pole dropping the tent flat. As I am pulling the long collapsing pole out, I look behind me and her comes this dirty white dog dragging a harness, right towards me out of nowhere! I gasp and stand up “Bou!” and he immediately slumps to the ground. My immediate thought is he’s going to run! Two giant steps and he was swept into my arms, tears streaming down my face “good boy, oh what a good boy”.
I put him directly in the front seat and rolled down the windows, just enough.
I raced to pack the car and wanted desperately to get home before Crystal had to go to work. Despite the hurry I still had to pull over on the road out and hug my dog and hold his head near, mine multiple times. I was a absolute mess the whole way home, crying more than the multiple times driving home without him. I was feeling so crushed collapsing that tent, and then to see him. He howled repeatedly at me from the car as I hastily threw everything in the car. I ripped open a pack of lunch meat and feed him the entire package. He was so skinny and looked so rough. He just laid in that front seat and stared up at me head on the center console the entire trip home, those big sad brown eyes driving me to tears every time I looked down at him.
I send a picture to Susie of Bou in the front seat, at 5:53 am and a text to my wife after with the same picture “I got him, on my way home”
I made it, thankfully most the way home before I begin getting texts wanting details and being so happy and great news.
I get home and call Susie while everyone is greeting Bou, Freya was especially happy and excited, too much for a tire malnourished dehydrated dog just getting home. Had to tell her to calm down and stop playing so rough repeatedly that morning.
I call Susie and tell her the story and what happened, still shocked, I have a hard time putting it all into words.
I feed Bou a can of wet cat food and small amounts of people food throughout the first couple days, he’s used to being spoiled, pepperoni is his treat of choice. High standards, he doesn’t eat that hard dog biscuits, well unless Freya wants it then it’s at least worth guarding and snarling about. Gave him a afternoon bath checking him for cuts, ticks, and other abrasions. His harness has rubbed raw spots on his chest and under both front armpits. His paws are raw with little cuts. He is skinny but otherwise looks completely fine.
Over the last few days Bou has become very vocal insisting on walks in the evening, and has even been pushing the pace as well as the distance we typically walk before it’s obvious he is getting tired and ready for home. He is extra playful with Freya and me and acting like a seven year old dog not nine or ten. Maybe it’s just me, but he does seem far more active and excited over the last few days. Maybe he is just eating up all the extra attention.