Published 12/10/2010 - 1:08 p.m.
Dogs: 2, Coyotes: 0
That’s the score in the Cavender household.
When his father died last May, David Cavender brought his father’s three dogs home to live with him in San Diego Country Estates. “L.G.” is a basset Hound, “Zeta” an Australian shepherd, and “Doofus” a 30-inch tall but not big, long-legged mutt.
|Ramona is surrounded by family adn EARs volunteers|
Within a week, the gate was left open. Doofus and Zeta walked out for a romp in the neighborhood.
A devastated Cavender flooded the neighborhood with posters.
“My son and I posted signs up on the mailboxes, at the equestrian center, at the Country Store,” he said. “I made calls to all the animal shelters – you know – San Diego, Escondido – I called everyone I could think of. Nothing. After a couple of weeks of trying to find them every day, I just figured the coyotes got them.”
Five weeks later, Cavender saw a flier about a “found” dog. Someone had found Doofus near the International Equestrian Center.
“I concentrated my search over there, hoping to find Zeta, but I couldn’t find her,” said Cavendar.
Again it was assumed that Zeta was a victim of coyotes or, if lucky, “had been picked up by someone who had simply decided to keep her.”
Zeta, like other family pets in the Estates, disappeared without a trace. As time went by, the signs came down. Cavender could only return to work and the two dogs who remained.
Martha Fredericks walks every morning with her dog by the equestrian center. It was during her daily walks that she noticed “kind of a shadow” in the bushes.
“I saw just little glimpses of her,” said Fredericks. “I wasn’t even sure she was a dog when I first saw her,. She blended well into the bushes. I started seeing her early October. She came out of the bushes a couple of times and walked ahead of me about a hundred yards. She had tags and was obviously somebody’s dog. She was real nervous and kept looking back at me but wouldn’t let me get close to her. I put kibble out and something kept eating it, but she was so very skinny that I don’t think she would have lasted much longer.
“That one weekend when it was so hot I got really worried about her. I tried to find her with one of my daughters. We looked all over the bushes for her, but we just couldn’t find her. My other daughter (Anne Mueller) thought of craigslist. She looked there to see if a dog was missing but then placed an ad. That was how we found Laura.”
A volunteer for Emergency Animal Rescue (EAR), Laura Bedinger looks under the pet section on craigslist every day.
“We (EAR) have the equipment, experience, and the willingness to go out and help animals out of dangerous situations,” she said. “I do this on my own. I help to rehabilitate animals, rescue other abandoned animals, and then find homes for them.This girl, Anne Mueller, was asking for help. Animal control wouldn’t help, so I set a trap up for her (using a cheeseburger) but didn’t catch her until the second night when I threw some oatmeal cookies into the trap.”
Bedinger spent hours watching and waiting for the elusive dog.
“She was obviously terrified out there, but she had tags. She was emaciated and had lost about half of her body weight, but I knew someone didn’t just abandon this little girl — someone had to be missing her.”
The 2007 tags were from an Apple Valley hospital, but the telephone number had been disconnected. After several phone calls, Bedinger spoke with an employee from the animal control in Apple Valley.
“Animal control said there was another address in Ramona listed as a forwarding address, but they wouldn’t give me the address or phone number. They said they would try to call the person and get back to me.”
After a week and no word, Bedinger called again, this time able to convince the worker from animal control to keep making calls until she was able to get in touch with the person.
Cavender was at work when he got the call from animal control at Apple Valley.
“Do you have a dog with a strange name you’ve been missing?” said the voice on the phone.
“I said ‘Zeta,’ and they said ‘Yeah, somebody found her!’ I couldn’t believe they found my dog. I kept saying, ‘I can’t believe she’s still alive!’ My dad passed away in May and she has been missing since the first week in June!”
Less than a mile away the whole time, Zeta was brought back to Cavender after five months missing.
“It is amazing. They never gave up looking for me,” said Cavender.
“She probably got lost and didn’t know how to get back home, so set herself up in the bushes and tried to survive on her own,” said Bedinger. “Dogs that have to fend for themselves begin to turn feral (wild) in order to survive. When I first got her out of the trap, she tried to nip at me. She was really scared. Emaciated and full of burrs and worms, Bea Hoskins (volunteer) worked with her a lot, so she would trust people again.”
Gone since the first week in June, Zeta is a proven survivor. Though unclear how much longer she could have made it on her own, the little Australian shepherd beat the odds. The high-desert heat and cold fall nights took a toll on her, but coyotes did not claim this girl.
Bright-eyed and happy to be home, Zeta and Doofus are buddies once again. As the pair bounce around the patio together, “L.G.” rolls over for a belly-rub.
An overwhelming happiness courses through the air. Rescuers with misty eyes, dogs oblivious to anything but the moment, and owners know this is one of those times when things are as it should be.
“This just shows you shouldn’t give up,” said Bedinger. “You just never know.”