Monday, December 06, 2010

A Christmas Story

Hi friends and family,
Bobbi and I had an eventful weekend and Fritz has had his first solo adventure. We are on a road trip with two of our dogs, Fritz (a 5 month old Jack Russell) and Gabriel (4 year old Viszla). Apollo, our German Shepherd, is at home with a friend receiving some serious physical rehab after a double rear leg surgery.
Yesterday afternoon, Bobbi was at one the home of one of her sisters out on a busy country road near Ukiah, north of San Francisco. At one point during her visit, another sister's dog wanted to go outside. Of course Fritz decided that he had to go out as well. The house is far from the road with a fence along most of the property. In the back of the house is a creek overgrown with brush. There is a horse corral, with 4 horses, a barn and next door there are geese, pigs, a donkey, goats, cows - a petting zoo.
Bobbi and her sister thought that Fritz would be okay with the other dog as he had been running around and is used to most of these things around her ranch. He'd also been on a 6 mile run with Bobbi earlier in the day, so he wasn't too full energy. He was out for about 5 minutes before Bobbi decided to go check on him. Her sister's husband and father-in-law were also outside - working - not paying attention to the dogs.
We aren't sure what caused him to take off. It might have been the tractor that started up or a feral cat that he decided to chase but he took off toward the creek.
We had about 5 people walking and calling for him all that early evening into the dark. The temperature got down to freezing. Her sister's husband walked the creek in his waders. There was no response. Bobbi and I decided to sleep in the car with Gabriel with the door open just in case he returned. That was chilly. We gave that up due to sore backs and hips and frozen feet - not much room in a Honda Element for someone just 5'10 to stretch out. About 1:30 am we moved onto the couch in the house. Bobbi got up a couple of times during the night and did the walk and call with Gabe. I slept a little.
Another of Bobbi's sisters, Ruth, called Sallie Palmer the day we lost him. She has a German Shepherd tracker, Skete, (a Monks of New Skete dog) that she has used successfully to find several dogs in the area. She left messages but didn't speak to her until this morning.
I met Skete this morning and got a face full of kisses. A very sweet shepherd. Oh, and Sallie was nice too (no kisses).
By this time we had very little hope that he was still alive. There are red tailed hawks, coyote, and not sure what else out there and Fritz is not a big boy at 5 months.
At around 8:30 this morning Bobbi and Sallie searched the creek and picked up the scent but it petered out, so they headed the other direction and went up the road to the right and search the fields along the road. This continued into the afternoon. I went back to the house where we were staying and made coffee and got my computer to make up flyers.
I had finished the flyers around 12:30 this afternoon. On the way back to the house where we lost Fritz I stopped at the nearest vet to leave one of the lovely new 5x7 cards with the photo and info on it. Just as I left the vet, I got a phone call. They had found him and he was fine and with Bobbi.
Bobbi, her sister Ruth and Sallie had finished the fields to the right of the house and had decided to start up to the left. There was a B&B that had reported dogs barking about 6 pm last night and a field near there. The two of them discussed whether or not they should drive to the field and decided not to. That was the first good decision. On their way there, Bobbi decided to cross the highway (a busy two lane) and walk up to another house prior to the field they were headed to. Since she had to wait for her, Sallie decided to have Skete search another field where she was waiting. Skete tugged on the tag Sallie carry's to tell her that he had found something, so Sallie let Skete off the leash. By this time, Bobbi was back with her and Ruth.
Skete almost immediately headed into the tall grass in the field and a small white head popped up. When Fritz saw this big German Shepherd coming, he ran, tail tucked, toward the creek - then he turned to face Skete. Then Bobbi called him and Fritz ran like a bullet past Skete to Bobbi, tail wagging and jumping.
It was a Disney movie scene according to a couple of other observers.
When I got back to the house, everyone was outside (except for Fritz and Bobbi) with big smiles and lots of tears. I gave Sallie the biggest, tightest hug I could come up with and then followed up with Skete. He's my hero.
I spoke to Sallie and she has an interesting background as a police dog can read all about her in here website.
I had thought that we were going to have the worst Christmas of our lives, and got the best one instead.
- alan