By Julie and Steve Berg
Our two Akitas disappeared on Memorial Day, (May 30), the beginning of a dog owner’s worst nightmare.
Princess and Zeke, two rescue Akitas, with us only a month, had just been graduated from their Hidden Fence (a form of invisible fence) training and were with us outside, safe to be taken off leash for the first time. Or so we thought.
What we didn’t know was that a lightning storm the night before had compromised grounding protection for the fence, making it inoperable. When tested, it would go on briefly, then off again.
Once off leash, to our horror, the two of them vanished into the underbrush and through the flags marking their hidden boundary.
It’s hard to describe the emotions one goes through but believe me, we went through them all: panic, disbelief, agony…
After our first sleepless night, Princess was discovered Tuesday morning trotting along Tremperskill Road toward Lower Main Street in Andes by Pat Atcher, and Roxy Bliss, managers of Argyle Farms, who just happened to be driving by in Pat’s truck. But, oddly for a bonded pair of dogs, no Zeke.
Grateful, but only partially relieved, we hoped Zeke might not be far behind her. And, by mid-day Tuesday, we began to get reports of sightings. Bev Travis told us that Karen Roney’s neighbor saw a dog Monday night near the post office on Coulter Road. George and Wendy Redden spotted what they thought was Zeke crossing their lawn early Tuesday morning. Later, George told us a doe protecting her hidden fawn was chasing Zeke. But was it really Zeke or Princess? It was too dark in both cases to be sure.
No additional sightings were reported during that week. Had someone picked him up? Was he lost in the wilderness? We worried a lot. Then, the following week, Jean Fenton, a dog rescue person herself, spotted a dog looking like Zeke on Felton Road, between Lower Dingle Hill and Perch Lake Roads off Route 30. Gil Hollins on Cross Mountain Road, across the reservoir, reported seeing a dog in his backyard five days before he knew it was Zeke, from a picture he saw in our Catskill Mountain News advertisement.
These sightings were encouraging. We followed up on most of them with Princess in tow. We continued to print Zeke posters with $1,000 reward offered, and waited for the phone to ring. Meanwhile, Ann Roberti joined Steve, calling and whistling over a wide swath around the Redden and Argyle farm properties while Jeff and Maria Ditchek searched relentlessly to the top of Herrick Road (Jeff later accompanied Steve on additional hikes around our property). A dog communicator even suggested (over the phone) that we search the Andes Rail Trail, which we did. And we planned to put up our trail cam and another borrowed from Jack McShane should food we left for Zeke at the Felton Road site be eaten. It wasn’t.
With Zeke’s name and our phone number on his collar, we thought surely someone would find him. For days, no luck and dread set in again…
We then engaged the services of Buddha Dog Rescue & Recovery in Tuxedo Park, NY, to assist with locating Zeke. Nicole Asher, head of the organization, emphasized we were doing our search incorrectly; that a lost dog in survival mode becomes a totally different animal and calling and whistling even by one person will likely drive Zeke deeper into hiding. She even changed our posters asking people not to chase Zeke, that he’s “shy.”
Then a miracle happened: Zeke was found – alive, but barely. In this case it wasn’t the posters, ads and social networking alone but a convergence of events leading to Zeke being found lying in the middle of a remote section of Davis Hollow Road, nearly three miles from us, 11 days after he went missing.
Jayne Parker’s father from the UK, visiting Jayne and her husband in their Davis Hollow weekend home, in his car heading to Margaretville saw Zeke lying motionless in the middle of the road. Jayne, seeing our phone number on his collar, called us. “Do you have a dog named Zeke?” she asked, “He’s alive but covered in porcupine quills.”
Julie rushed to pick him up, taking him to Laraine Caliri at Brookside Veterinary Hospital in Arkville where he was put on several bags of fluids as well as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and sedated in order to pull out innumerable quills.
Meanwhile, Steve had been searching around Felton Road, and Perch Lake Road, and after many calls he was reached with the good news. At that precise moment, Steve was giving a poster of Zeke to Rieley Keator, the receptionist at Margaretville Telephone for her to post on the company’s cable service. The entire office erupted in cheers. Zeke had been found!
Steve had been relentless in his searching for Zeke, hiking, contacting newspapers, hanging posters and, most of all, maintaining a positive attitude which we both needed in our search.
Was it purely luck we found Zeke? We’d like to think the energy generated from hundreds of people looking for him and networking to their countless friends, somehow set the stage leading us to him… Call it Karma or community cooperation and positive spirit coming together, or both. We’re forever thankful! ~