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.


Thank heavens.

Comments

Jenna E. said…
I too had a similar situation happen to me. I recently adopted an Airedale from the Airedale Rescue who had strikingly similar personality characteristics to Gwyneth. Roxy (her rescue name was Comet but she was young enough I changed it) was one of the most beautiful Airedales I have ever seen and I've been around them all my life (along with many members of the family owning them). When one of my favorite Airedales passed in December 2006, I decided I had to have one from the rescue. I was doubtful with her personality being completely opposite of any Airedale I had known- she was shy, almost deathly afraid of people, and just seemed sad. I was bound and determined to get her out of her funk (I looked all over the internet trying to contrive a way to get Cesar Milan down her...seriously). She spent 5-6 months with her rescue home so the change was very dramatic for her. As the days passed she gradually got better. I showed my absolute dedication to her by finding her a buddy- Dexter- a little boy Scotty whom she just adores. I knew she'd never be happy at my house without another dog.
Then on Tuesday June 12, my boyfriend calls me about 11:30 while I'm at work, completely winded. He starts, "I have some bad news." I would prefer not to have a preemptor, just tell me what it is and get it over with. He continued, "Roxy got out." I was driving- heading over to help some customers whose battery had died. I didn't know how to react. I had always thought to myself that if she ever got out, it would be next to impossible to catch her. Her speed and her fear were her own worst enemies. The first words out of my mouth were calm, "Are you serious?" Then I broke into a long string of curse words that could be mistaken for sailor-speak. I was hysterical...shaking. My mind was racing. I try to always be prepared for the worst so nothing surprises me- the worst was making me nauseous. I race back to the office and get in my own car and tear off- likely leaving skid marks on the pavement. I was trying to prevent anger from consuming me at how careless it was for her to get out. I, to my own surprise, remained relatively calm the rest of the say while searching. I called everyone I knew to help, only stopping briefly to make signs and start posting them. We searched until 11. I felt if I went home I'd be betraying her. I wasn't sure I'd even be able to go home without her- hysteria, anxiety, worry, anger, and every other possible emotion would devour me whole. I've never been through anything as horrible as this- sure, dogs have ran out of the house before when I was younger but they only ran for a block or so then relaxed under a tree until we caught up with them. Or they'd even circle back and be sitting in the drive way when we came home from looking for them looking at us as if we were total morons. Silly 'Dales.
But Roxy was different. I never had to go to bed at night (or at least try to) without one of my dogs. I worked tirelessly all night posting ads everywhere on the internet. Dexter whimpered throughout the night wondering where she was. At 5 am on Wednesday I started calling vets, radio stations, new stations, etc. begging and pleading to get the word out. I checked my email- a lady had said she saw her at San Mateo and Menaul. I thought I was going to puke. I started sobbing thinking if she got there yesterday afternoon then she could surely be anywhere. A phone call came- Lomas and I-40. I cried some more but didn't let it stop me. I made more flyers and put them all up and down Menaul and made my way to all the parks in the area. Another call- Lomas and the Freeway. Everyone who called or emailed said they tried to catch her but couldn't- she just ran. I had retrieved her play buddy of my parents'- a fellow Airedale named Phoebe who has an uncanny ability to find whatever dog you are looking for by just saying their name. Smart girl. She was just excited to be in the car. We figured she may have gotten to the downtown area if she was a Lomas and I25 almost 24 hours prior. I kept checking for signs of her being hit on the road- and was relieved I found none.
We headed to Lomas and the Freeway to put up posters- somebody else had to have seen her. Low and behold when were about done putting up posters in the small medical center behind the slew of car dealerships, I drove down one last street in a last ditch attempt that maybe, MAYBE there would be something. I approached the 3 way stop and gasped. I thought surely my eyes were playing tricks on me (piles of dirt were looking like Airedales at the point i was at!). There she was- scared, in a clearing, staring at my car as if it was the only familiar sight she had seen in 36 hours. And it was. She stopped and stared as I got out. I kneeled down and she began to run to me then down the street away. I had to react fast- I was in survival mode- it was all a blur now. I grabbed Phoebe out of the car as fast as I could and kept calling gently for Roxy. I said to Phoebe, "Phoebe, where's Roxy? Go get Roxy. Go get her!" Roxy stopped at the sight of Phoebe and slowly came back towards us. Phoebe starting barking as I was kneeling next to her calling for Roxy too. She came up cautiously, as she does, but gratefully. Phoebe kept backing up towards me and inched Roxy closer and closer until I could grab her collar. It was a one shot ordeal- grab for the collar too early and miss she'd bolt. So i waited and waited until I could grab it with no problem. I hugged her in the middle of the street and sobbed- with my two favorite Airedales. She jumped right into the car as she had done so many times before and seemed genuinely happy. The sadness that had seemed to overtake her disappeared. I checked her quickly for any lesions or evidence of her big adventure and found none. I couldn't stop crying out of sheer relief. We got her home and slowly rehydrated her. Her paws and muscles were sore but she was wagging her tail as Phoebe kept an eye on her. The vet gave her the all clear and she's just as happy as ever. She's been more social and lively at home since her big adventure and is staying away from the front door now. She has also done remarkably well at living up to her nickname: "Ninja Dog."
I can't thank the people who called enough for their support and help.I was amazed the community came together so quickly to help someone when they needed it so desperately.
Although Phoebe's a dog, I don't know how to repay her. She very likely saved Roxy's life (and my sanity). Let's just say I bought her a good dinner. :)

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