Miracles are Very Unlikely
Never Give Up (Another Airedale Story)
Gwyneth is a small female Airedale with an powerfully elevated sense of anxiety, painfully shy and, by the way, just beautiful.
After months of foster care by a caring Rescue volunteer couple, Gwyneth came to us as a very difficult case. Even after another month of intense work by the maven of Airedale Rescue, good wife Dr. Duff (Dorothy, the classic earth mother and psychologist to troubled ‘Dales), Gwyneth was still very much on edge. Any sudden noise would send her into orbit, then diving for a hiding place. People – especially men – seemed to be threatening ogres to her. When she went into our big back yard, it was always a task just to get her to come back in; she was afraid of the door. She would hide under bushes when we went out for her.
Her shyness was exclusively toward humans. She loved other dogs. Her favorite playmate was our biggest, rowdiest ‘Dale, the appropriately named Rocket. They scampered like puppies and slept in side-by-side crates.
We fell completely in love with this neurotic little girl.
Then, da-DUM! The perfect adoptive family came alone. A pair of retired ladies, Mary and Pat, also fell in love with Gwyneth and proved they had the time and patience to guide her toward overcoming her profound shyness. Here is her going-away picture with her new moms.
Off they drove toward Las Cruces in southern New Mexico.
Then catastrophe. In the small town of Truth or Consequences Mary and Pat stopped for gas. Gwyneth had been perfectly content during the drive, but the stop frightened her. She did a double gainer with a twist and zipped through Mary’s arms like a greased weasel. Unless you’ve seen Gwyneth in escape mode you can’t believe it.
Off she ran, powered by the high-octane terror of her condition. Up the on ramp to Highway I-25 she sped with the ladies in hot pursuit. In their car and on foot they (and several recruits) tracked her until she disappeared through a horse lot and into a dry riverbed on the north edge of town. Gone, but at least not on the freeway. Two hours of searching and asking about was fruitless. There is a vast scrub desert, full of rattlesnakes and coyotes surrounding Truth or Consequences.
Mary and Pat were distraught as we learned from the message waiting in our voice mail when we got home from an evening out. Dorothy and I were equally upset. “Poor little baby,” she cried. (We all cried.) Dogs get out all the time, but when one is as shy and afraid of strangers as was Gwyneth, that’s almost certainly a gone dog. They either die of thirst, hunger or predator simply because they are unapproachable.
Mary and Pat spent that night producing a first rate “lost dog” poster.
Sunday morning we took off for Truth or Consequences, 170 miles away, with Rocket in the back seat. When we arrived Mary and Pat were already there, tacking up posters and going door to door in the area where Gwyneth was last seen. We took a stack of posters and started our search where she went under the first fence and put Rocket on her track. He’s not a trained tracker, but he has a great nose. For a while we thought he might be on a trail, but the only nasty person we met in T or C kept us from crossing his shoddy piece of property.
We accosted local citizens in their mobile homes and horse paddocks, barns and RV parks. I met two wonderful park rangers at the entryway to Elephant Butte State Park (they put the posters up on the glass every entrant must look at to pay their entry fees – good ladies).
I went into quickie markets and one grand old bar (voluptuous barmaid, skinny, sun blasted cowboy patrons), finding sympathetic ears and good luck wishes all around. Every soul (save the nasty guy mentioned above) in Truth or Consequences was warm, courteous and animal-sympathetic. The town is hot and dusty, but the residents are friendly and inviting. Even a deputy sheriff I met doing his speed trap duty was really nice.
But Gwyneth stayed missing.
As the day wound down and Dorothy and I were about whipped, Dr. Duff said we should go one more time to the last known location of Gwyneth’s path out. Intuitive woman. We found a road parallel to the dry riverbed. Cruising along, she spotted a man in his barn, so I pulled in and went across his broad gravel entry to introduce myself and hand out a poster. He said he already had a poster from Mary and Pat, but he’d “been thinking.” He pointed across the dry river bed to a house on the far bluff and said his daughter and son-in-law lived over there, and that they had earlier said their dogs had barked all night at something. Might it be our missing Airedale?
He gave me detailed instructions on how to get to their house.
At the end of a long and winding road, I drove through a “posted, no trespassing” gate, feeling that I was following parental orders, to find an unfinished home and a huge metal barn with lots of vehicles at the end of the road. There were six dogs, including two Corgies by the barn, so I figured I had found the right house, even if unfinished. No one was in the barn, but as I approached the unfinished house a really large man came out the door, looking like he had just emerged from a shower. He mentioned that he had.
Long story short, he was Howard Bartoo, “owner of Bar-2 Sand and Gravel” he said with obvious pride. This was the huge industrial site (and accompanying 500 acres of land) down in the dry riverbed. After he learned we were dog lovers looking for a lost critter, he became real friendly and told us his wife had seen our dog down in his junkyard in the canyon below that very morning. “That dog’s surely gone by now,” he said. We agreed but asked if we could go look around. He referred us to “J.W.” down below, his night watchman who had worked for him “forever.” J.W., on hearing Howard had sent us, drove us the half-mile or so past dozens of concrete trucks and much impressive equipment to the junkyard. The junk was worn out concrete trucks, huge water tanks and other monster junk around a large expanse of gravel.
About two hundred yards away, standing by a broken down concrete truck was… a small Airedale. I knew in a second it was Gwyneth.
Talk about incredulity. I genuinely couldn’t believe my eyes. “That’s her!” I yelled at Dorothy.
Impossible. Incredible. There she was, our poor baby dog. Dorothy leaped out and called, “Baby dog… It’s OK!” Gwyneth didn’t run away. She didn’t move.
Dorothy put Rocket on a long leash and started toward Gwyneth. I sidled over to J.W. and asked him to be still and let the team try to catch the skittish pup.
It involved tying rocket to the concrete truck and letting him and Gwyneth reunite. Dorothy had to crawl under the truck to the dogs and gently catch the leash Gwyneth had been dragging for 24 hours. Within minutes the threesome was walking back across the gravel lot.
Gwyneth was actually very happy to be back in the car, back with people she knew and finished with her adventure in the night alone and hungry and terrified.
When Dorothy called Mary and Pat and said, “We’ve got her,” she was met with the same disbelief I felt when we first saw her across the junkyard.
We all said at various times, “it’s a miracle.” I truly believe it was.
Thanks to the kind people of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and especially to Howard (and his wife) Bartoo, the local radio station KCHS 1400 AM that ran the lost dog public service announcements, and the kind doggy fates that allowed us to find and catch the uncatchable Ms. Gwyneth.
And thanks to Dr. Duff, the only woman I know who can think like a dog and figure out where to look when the rest of us would just throw up our hands and give up.
Gwyneth is now in her new home in Las Crucas.