This is a story with a happy ending, and who doesn't love a story with a happy ending? It is the story of Heidi, a deaf Cattle dog mix who was lost 3,0000 miles away from the people she loved.
It is also the story of how one dog touched thousands of people over the Internet. What began as a simple plea on Craig's list and the Deaf Dog Yahoo site, became an orchestrated exchange of information, passed on at lightning speeds. Dog people are notoriously wonderful at forwarding information,and within hours of the dog being lost, pleas for Heidi's return were popping up in email boxes everywhere.
This is the story of how powerful a tool the Internet can be when people use it to reach out and try to help each other.
I am proud to say that I am part of her story, all because I blogged it on Maine Today.com. By detailing her plight, A Dog's Life became the place for people to check for updates and to find out what they could do to help find Heidi. Many people of Portland printed and posted flyers, sent email alerts, made great suggestions to the family, notified nearby work places, left Heidi food, and physically went out and looked for her, while people in California and around the Internet hung their hopes on every word. Dogs lists everywhere pointed people to my blog where many were checking in several times a day awaiting any news of sightings and to learn more about how they could help. It was a place of support and hope.
Basically the story goes like this:
July 7th, Heidi was shipped to Maine in anticipation of her families move from the bay area, to the East coast.
Unfortunately she panicked when she was being picked up, and she slipped her collar and bolted. She was struck by a car, and according to the driver, rolled three times and then got up and fled. Many people tried to find her (including me!) , and she was spotted only a couple of times in nearly two weeks. Her owner Paul, who by all accounts has a tremendous bond with the dog came east to find her, but was unsuccessful and had to return to the bay area and finish up his personal business on the west coast before moving. During this week, Heidi sightings were few.
Back in California, Heidi's family was distraught not only for loosing the dog they loved, but because they felt that the dog must have felt they had abandoned her. For the people who loved her, this was nearly too much to bear. Her owners told me that her deafness had never really been an issue until this happened. It wasn't an issue when they adopted her, or when they trained her. Her deafness was just the way things were. But for the first time in the four years they had her, they wished more than anything that she could hear, so she could hear their calls.
There were no reported sightings of the dog from Wednesday the 13th, until Sunday the 17th. On Sunday the 17th Paul returned to Portland and on that day she was spotted back at the Portland Jetport. I remember when I got that update from Linden in California, I got goose bumps and thought to myself, how can this be? Heidi returning to the Airport, to me was the most incredible part of the story. The dog had been hiding in the woods for nearly two weeks and came back to the airport on the day that Paul flew back. That night Paul camped in the woods at a location where Heidi had been sighted in hopes that Heidi would find him, but the family was gravely discouraged when she was not seen.
But for the first time in nearly two weeks, I was hopeful.
When we take children places we tell them "if we get separated stay where you are and I will come and find you", but how can we communicate this to our dogs? It makes you think that this dog, this special dog had a connection that is inexplicable. She just knew.
Monday night the 18th, Paul was back camping at the Jetport, the last place Heidi had been spotted. Early Tuesday she came to him, after being gone nearly two weeks.
Heidi smelled rancid, she was covered in ticks and she had lost 3 pounds, but other than that, she was in great shape.
Many people have written to me wanting to know more about how Paul and Heidi are doing now, and I will tell you all after this weekend when I meet them in person. Can't wait.
A Dog's Life Heidi blogs
Lost Dog Alert
Update for Heidi the Lost Dog
Desperatley Seeking Heidi
Heidi has been found!
Be sure to click the picture link in the comment section of Paul and Heidi. Great shot!
The morning article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle regarding pets and hazardous lawn chemicals reminded me of a phone conversation I had this spring. Upon hearing of this phone call, all my friends exclaimed, "You've got to blog it! Poor guy, did he get the wrong house!"
Them "Good morning Mrs Smith, I am calling from the 'Name intentionally left out chemical company' and I have a special offer for your household today."
Me "Sorry but we don't put toxins on our lawn."
Them "If I could just have a minute of your time, I would like to tell you about some of our chemicals that are less toxic and mostly organic."
Me (I pause, not really sure I heard what I just heard)
Them "Mrs Smith..."
Me "Less toxic and MOSTLY organic? Isn't that like being a little pregnant!!! Sorry but we are not interested. What is it about Americans that they need to have uniformed little green pieces of grass that all match. It's unnatural. Maybe I like weeds! Weeds are good for the eco system, and water from my yard empties into Capisic pond, and then out to sea. I love my 3 kids and my dog and I will not risk their health for an unnatural lawn that is not found anywhere in nature. What is wrong with you people? Aren't you concerned about your own health spraying toxins all day? Have you seen the studies about bladder cancers in Scottish Terriers from the University of Perdue?
Hello? You still there?"
This blog is dedicated to Shelby, a Lab/Aussie mix who died from cancer.
"We don't eat family members!"
Mr. Little to Snowbell the cat in Stewart Little
I have received equal amounts of inquiries concerning our new family member Tater Tot the hamster, and Heidi the lost deaf dog.
How is the hamster?
What does Charlee think?
Has it bitten the kids yet?
Are you concerned the dog will try to kill it?
Charlee like any dog has a prey drive and we will never completely trust her with things that run, but we have done a great job at instilling in her that "we don't eat family members!" Take the same rodent in the woods and it would most likely be snack food, but in the house, the dog knows that the hamster resource is MINE. Dogs do respect ownership and the dog knows that the hamster and the birds (who have been known to fly straight into her head!) are not hers.
Can I teach my dog not to touch our other animals?
Great question! Respecting boundaries is not just an issue about one thing. Training, and bonding, and teaching the dog a solid "leave it" and "come" all come into play, but certainly some breeds (terrier owners you know who you are!) need to use more caution than others. One thing we have always done around here is to feed A LOT when the new animals come out. The dog learns that it is great to have the other animals around and that when the new animal is around good things happen. This is the exact same thing you do when you bring home human babies by the way. The next step is to set your dog up for a reliable recall. For some that could mean on leash even in the house, for others you may need to go within inches of your dog before you say their name. Be sure to praise and reward wtih lots of yummy treats. Obviously if your dog is too interested in the new animal you need to use extreme caution to keep it safe. But if your dog is a bit lackadaisical about your pet as is Charlee, the more successful "leave it's" and "recalls" and just plain "open bar" with special goodies when the other animal is around the better. We don't anticipate any problems with the new rodent and the dog.
What does Tater Tot look like?
The one in the 4th row
If you count all the goldfish, crickets, and Siamese fighting fish, then I have been to more funerals for pets than I have for people. When we lived in East Boston my son used to con me into running a cricket rescue. Whenever we were buying pet food, he would beg and plead for a dollar's worth of crickets. Sometimes they ate potatoes in their critter-keeper but usually we let them go in the yard. We often laughed on hot summer nights when people out for a leisurely stroll would stop in front of our apartment to listen the song of the crickets. Ours was the only house that had em'! When the little fellows in the critter keeper died, we always had a proper send off, complete with grave markers.
Countless numbers of gold and other fish had a burial at sea, not via the toilet, but through a hole in one end of the Cashman Boat Pier in East Boston. We (me and the kids) would take the solemn walk from apartment to pier and all of us would say a few words. Most of the time though it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud as I laid on the the fish tales pretty thickly.
"Goldie came to us from the Early Education Center and a finer fish I have never known. He served as a sterling example to the kindergarten kids of how to care for living things, and we all enjoyed watching ______ (insert name - more often than not is was ...you guessed it "Goldie") grow into a fine fish. Goldie looked forward to the morning and evening meal and (splash) we return you now Goldie to the great circle of life."
That sort of thing.
Having kids and any kind of pet just leads to seriously somber yet silly funerals and lessons about life and death. I will never forget scattering my dog Dina's ashes over the snow in her favorite field. We were not prepared for them to pile up instead of blowing away. Each time we went to visit her we would put rocks on the site but for months her ashes were visible and we couldn't bury them because the ground was frozen. We had piles of rocks in the car that we got at the beach to stack in a mound at the site, only to return and find they had been removed, probably by other children. My kids picked only their favorite rocks, but I had to console them that other kids surely could see just how special and carefully selected each rock must have been. It was so sad that it become one of the funniest things to ever happen in my life. We would go back each time and laugh and laugh. It really was one of life's cruel jokes.
But this morning's funeral was different. Today we buried Blazekin our red-factored canary in front of the day lilly patch. Ask any person with a rescue animal and they will tell you how it must have been fate that they came into their lives. Animal people can attach a lot of significance to meaningful numbers and signs when it comes to their adoptees. Charlee is in my home partly because I thought her birthday was the same as my last two dogs'. Hmmmmmm.
Following that reasoning, Blazekin (named after a Pokemon for those of you out of the loop) really was meant to live in our home. Nearly four years ago my husband and son were walking in East Boston when my son spotted a yellow bird amongst the trash and weeds. They quickly scooped it up in a Dunkin Donut cup that was blowing by and brought it home. At first glance I thought it was some sort of Finch, but it turned out they had found a male canary. The poor bird had suffered some sort of horrible abuse and was wrapped up in micro thin wire. His legs and wings were broken and it took us hours to get him completely untangled. Our little foundling lived in our home for over a year, but could never perch normally. We kept his cage as clean as we could and he in turn thanked us with beautiful songs daily. We were deeply saddened when our yellow bird died.
A few days after the yellow bird's passing found us visting a friend at a Petco store in Massachusetts, who worked in the bird room. Cindy had helped us with the little yellow bird's care and she gasped when I walked in exclaiming "I can't believe you are here, I was just looking for your number." She quickly ushered me into the quarrantine room where a gorgeous red canary sat convalescing for - you guessed it - another foot injury. The store could not sell him and they wanted to know if we wanted him. Of course I said yes!
So we made preparations to head home. The kids were very excited at the prospect of our newest addition. We picked out a cage and bought food but then were told that the employee who nursed him back to health had decided to take him home after all because "they had bonded".
We're told that we can't have him. We felt that bird was meant to live in our home and were saddened by this announcement. We wondered what the odds were that two injured canaries would come into our lives and just "knew" that bird was meant to be ours. The kids took it hard that the bird they had named Blazekin was not coming home with us.
Somehow I was conned into getting two parakeets at the shelter in Westbrook. The very day I brought the parakeets home I got a message from Cindy at Petco to come back and get the bird before the employee changed her mind (again). Her fellow Petco co-workers had talked her into letting us adopt Blazekin after all. So that is how we came to be a three-bird family.
Blazekin was different than any other bird I have ever known. I am sure that the care of his leg wound required that he be handled constantly and so he had become bonded more closely with his caregivers, and to me in particular. He would follow me about the house wherever I went and his songs were a special treat. On his final day, he followed me downstairs to the office and fell asleep on my desk. By the time I realized he was sick, it was too late. His was a somber funeral with not a dry eye in sight. Rest in peace, my sweet little red bird, I will forever miss you.
Monday was my first night back teaching classes. On my way out the door I spotted a sign advertising, "Free to a Good Home" for a small golden and white hamster, complete with cage. I glanced up at the calendar to be reminded that it was 7/11. I have said "No" before to hundreds of free pets (including hamsters) but the date seemed like an auspicious sign so I took him home. Apparently "Tater Tot", as he has been named by the kids, was the runt and nearly died but was nursed back to health by a Pet Quarters employee. Fast-forward a few years and I imagine that there will once again come a day where we'll gather to observe this little guy's somber funeral, the kids will be crying and I'll be saying something along the lines of, "Tater Tot was the finest hamster in the whole world and we cherished every day we had with him. We knew from the first day that he was meant to live in our house. At first we nearly all went insane when he rode that squeaky wheel night after night after night, but we learned to live with it and to love him..."
I noticed today that I'm starting to feel better. It happened about the time that my dog brought me a tennis ball for a quick game of catch. She didn't put it on the floor or fling it at me as usual, but instead brought it to the couch and interrupted my movie by placing it gently beside me with an expectant look.
Not that I was surprised.
Dogs most definitely have a sixth sense and Charlee's has been working overtime during my recuperation from stomach surgery. She gets up when I get up and follows me ever so carefully to wherever I need to go, settling down nearby. Currently she is sleeping under my desk.
My doctors orders are to not lift more than fifteen pounds. But I couldn't stand the pleading look in Charlee's eyes as I was refilling the bird feeder so it was with some trepidation that I put a halter on her and took her outside for a quick walk around the yard. I have written several times about how my dog can be reactive and will often act without thinking. But even when the neighbor's Beagles rushed their invisible fence baying loudly, she stayed by my side.
Not that I was surprised.
There is that unspoken something that can pass between man and beast. It didn't just "happen" between Charlee and I though - we earned it over time. It was during this illness that my dog crossed the invisible line from "Just Dog" to "Heart Dog." Heart dogs do not come along every day as any dog person will tell you. I have been fortunate to have had two - Dina was my first. I never thought I would have another one. Most people are lucky to have just one in their entire lifetime. A heart dog makes you think you could never own another dog because your heart will break when you loose them. A heart dog has an inexplicable connection to you - and you alone.
Charlee joined our family at a very difficult time as my Dina was dying from a brain tumor. There were times when I resented Charlee for being so alive, difficult and downright awful when my perfect (heart) dog had left me. I remember when I first started bringing her to agility lessons. My friend made the most appropriate comment saying, "Working through things with the tougher dogs can be the sweetest. Besides, anyone can train an easy dog. How boring!" I rolled my eyes just as Charlee lunged at the nearest dog and I thought again "What have I done? What was I thinking?"
Charlee has been a great learning experience for me. Not only did she do all the things that my students' dogs do - like jump up on the counter to steal food, pull, run away, and nip (Hard!) - but she also had psychological issues and would lunge at other dogs or get so high I couldn't calm her down. I even discussed the idea of trialing her on drugs with the vet. At times she reminded me of a thoroughbred race horse, snorting and prancing about with uncontrollable excitement. My Dad tells anyone who will listen how she didn't like to be petted or touched for the longest time. But he's equally quick to brag, "But just look at her now!" No one in my family let her into their hearts for the longest time and we would look at her and wonder to ourselves why she was with us when Dina's life had been cut short so early. We were all thinking it.
When I consulted two good trainer friends of mine for help with several behavior issues they both said the same thing. "Just because you can help the dog doesn't mean you should. Maybe you should send her back to rescue?". Of course I said, "No way." Maybe Charlee wasn't the level-headed demo dog that Dina had been, but I learned TONS from her about what it is like to live with a reactive dog (and a smart one at that). She has taught me many lessons that have proven invaluable to me as a trainer and in helping other people with their fearful and reactive dogs. Reading about it, watching a training video, attending seminars for reactive dogs just isn't the same as living day-to-day with the uncertainty of a reactive dog.
When I was at Maine Med last week I had the honor of a therapy dog visit and that was a wonderful experience. But my real therapist is sleeping right now under my desk. So if Dr. Charlee says I am well enough to throw a tennis ball around for a little while today, it must be true! She knows me so well...
Dina and Charlee