Chris and Tina van Wolbeck sent a donation this week in honor of Kate and Marshall Reed's recent kindness. What did the Reeds do to inspire such a generous gift to the dogs? Chris tells the story himself, along with the lessons that came out of a very scary experience.
My wife Tina and I recently learned a lot about what to do if a dog goes missing. I am writing this in hopes that it may help someone else who loses their dog.
On Saturday, September 24, 2011 we were camping in the Lakes Basin area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We left Penny, our beloved pit bull mix, behind to watch our motor home while we went for a hike. When we came back we found that she had escaped through a window. Penny came to us from the Oakland Animal Shelter, so we don’t know what her previous life was like but we do know that she is very shy and depends heavily upon us for her emotional stability. I believe that she escaped to come looking for us. She didn’t find us for six days.
We were devastated when we found her missing and immediately began searching the area for tracks and calling her name until we were hoarse. When it became apparent that she was nowhere nearby, we widened the search area and began putting up signs at campgrounds, stores, post offices, turnouts and everyplace where we thought people might see them. We did this until 1 a.m., when we decided that we had covered an area wider than we believed she could cover in that amount of time. Sunday morning, we resumed the search and widened the area to about a 30 mile radius, putting many, many more signs out and talking to everyone who would listen. There is no cell service up there, so we didn’t get the message until about 5 pm that the Sierra County Sheriff’s officer and two other people had seen Penny at about 9 am, about 5 or 6 miles away from where she disappeared. We immediately went to the area and began calling again. We didn’t find her.
We were supposed to be back at work on Monday but took another day off to look for her. We couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her up there. Penny has very short fur and gets cold easily, even inside the house. We moved our motor home to the area where she was last seen. We visited every house in the area where people were home and continued calling her. We left that afternoon to come home. There had been no more sightings of Penny and knowing that she was lost in an area strange to her and that there are mountain lions and curvy roads with cars, we feared the worst.
On Tuesday I went back to my job as a high school teacher and told some of my colleagues about what had happened. Many of them encouraged us and told us not to give up and were sure that we would find her. I was not so sure.
One very helpful and compassionate couple, Jeff Torquemada and his wife Wendy know Penny and know what a wonderful dog she is. Wendy left Wednesday morning and spent two days searching for her. There were still no more reported sightings.
My friend, Chad Cochran spent hours on the internet, checking with animal control and shelters within a very large area. He actually found a dog in Reno who looked remarkably like Penny.
On Friday morning, my friend and Colleague, Don VanNess and I left to resume the search. Tina was planning to come up after work. We lost cell phone service at about 11:00 am. We began retracing the route which we thought Penny took from our campsite to the area where she was last seen. When we got to higher elevation, we got into cell phone range and I had two messages. The first one was from Kate Reed, who has a cabin about one half mile from where Penny was last seen. She had Penny. We called and got no answer. I listened to the second message and it was the sheriff’s office informing us that Kate had dropped Penny off there. Through the small town grapevine, our friends Glenn and Irmke, who live in Sierra City, six or seven miles away from where Penny was found, had already heard that the sheriff had her. They beat us to the sheriff’s office by ten minutes. Eventually we caught up with each other and we were reunited with Penny. Below - Penny with Chris and Tina's grandson Max.
So what did Penny teach us by getting lost? The first and most important thing is to get the message out as quickly and to as many people as possible that your dog is missing. Kate knew exactly who was on her porch Friday morning because she had seen one of our signs. We had given the sheriff’s office our phone number and a description of Penny, so they were familiar with the situation. Also make sure that local animal control offices and animal shelters have her description. The second thing and also very important is don’t give up. Keep looking and keep your dog fresh in people’s minds. Third is, rely on your friends for support and help. Don was absolutely sure that we would find her and we did. That kind of positive energy can only help! Fourth is get your dog a distinctive looking collar. The easiest thing to describe about her was her orange collar with daisies. Fifth is to make sure that your dog is micro chipped, so that if the collar is lost your dog can still be identified.
DON’T GIVE UP.
I have made a donation to Bad Rap in Kate and Marshall Reed’s honor. If they had not taken the time and effort to win Penny’s confidence, she would probably still be lost and it is snowing up there as I write this. - Chris van Wolbeck
Good work, everyone. We appreciate you sharing these important lessons - and huge props to everyone who stayed so determined to find sweet Penny, despite the insurmountable odds. In the spirit of helping more lost souls find their way home, your thoughtful gift is earmarked for a special stray on his way into our program. We'll holler when he gets here!