November 12, 2013
I left Warrenton Sunday night feeling dejected, like we were now looking for a needle in a hay stack. Dickens had moved from the Old Town area of Warrenton (where he potentially had thousands of eyes looking for him), ACROSS 29 and had headed into an area populated by large estates and multi-million dollar horse farms. He could travel cross-country in that area for DAYS and never be seen.
He had last been seen on Waverly Dr. on Sunday morning the 10th. However, we didn't learn about that sighting until Thursday the 14th when the family that saw him went into town to the PetSmart and saw his poster!! They called right away, but we were 4 days behind him.
Team Dickens immediately got flyers out in the new neighborhood, and we contacted Ann Wills of Dogs Finding Dogs to alert them of the sighting. A search was tentatively set for Sunday. I arrived back in Warrenton on Saturday, and joined the rest of the team in plastering the new area with flyers and calling, and calling, and calling his name. Saturday yielded no results, and as I mentioned in my last post, we put our hopes on the tracking dogs.
Sunday AM arrived wet and rainy, and we contacted Dogs Finding Dogs to set up a search. I was concerned that the rain would have weakened or washed away the scent, but was advised that in actuality, light rain was a good thing as it would re-hydrate the scent. The problem was that the last sighting was now a week old. Ann explained that her dogs could pick up a scent that was weeks old, but a dog on the run could travel as much as 5 miles a day, and even if we got a good track, the likelihood of catching up to him was nearly zero. It was recommended that we wait until we had a new sighting - one within 24 or 48 hours - and then initiate a search. Ann recommended that in the mean time, we contact FindToto.com and arrange for a blitz of phone calls to neighbors in the vicinity of the last sighting. Rick got on this immediately, and within 30 minutes, 1250 calls had been made to homes in Warrenton!!!!!
Ann also suggested that I go out and purchase towels and rub myself and my other dogs down with them, cut them in to 1" by 4" strips and start laying a track for him to follow. I did this and started walking, with Dickens' mother Pixie and sister Wiccan, from the sighting at Waverly Road, down Culpepper St to Monte Rosa St., behind the American Legion Hall to the Horse Show grounds and back across 29. We went down Locust St to the Co-Op on Washington St. and from there it was up Washington St to the Greenway, and up the Greenway back to Leed's Square, which had been Dickens' "home away from home" for the first week of his adventure. Every 50 feet or so along the track, I tossed a strip of the cloth to help him follow us. Some of you may have seen us walking along and probably wondered what I was tossing onto the side of the road!
After laying the track, I headed home for the Northern Neck, the rest of Team Dickens continued to post flyers until dark. All our hopes were now on someone seeing the flyers in the expanded area, or the phone calls generating a response.
I was at work today at approximately 11:30 am when a phone call came in from a gentleman who said he had seen a flyer and that Dickens had been in his back yard for the last 2-3 days! He said that they saw him early in the mornings and late in the evenings, and he suspected that Dickens' was spending his days in the woods behind his house! In 15 minutes I headed home to collect my mother and my other dogs, and within the hour we were on the road for Warrenton once again!
We called Rick and asked him to get the trap from the Comcast lot and meet us at the new location, which was again ACROSS Route 29 and about 1/4 mile down from the WalMart towards the intersection with Route 17. I arrived at the site at about 3:20 and began walking the property with Pixie. She instantly began air-scenting and looking this way and that and I knew we were getting close. Then she found a spot on the ground and rolled and rolled and rolled in it. I called for Dickens many times and didn't hear or see anything. After about 15 minutes, I returned to the van, and put Pixie back inside her crate. I left the tail gate up as it was a pretty day, and got back inside the van to sit and wait for Rick and Julie, who had an ETA of about another 10 minutes.
As we sat waiting, Pixie and Wiccan began barking wildly at something behind the van. I looked in my rear side mirror and TO MY AMAZEMENT, THERE WAS DICKENS behind the van!!!!! HE CAME TO US! I got out carefully so as not to spook him. I walked calmly behind the van and called his name. At first he seemed unsure who I was, but suddenly the light bulb came on and he realized it was me and I scooped him up in my arms. I got a TOTAL FACE WASHING and his warm little tongue never felt better - even with a BAD CASE of doggy breath! Rick and Julie arrived moments later and the long journey and sleepless nights were finally at an end! I'm sure Dickens was wondering WHAT TOOK US SO LONG?????????
But Dickens' story doesn't stop here. We had previously discussed the best plan of action if - excuse me - WHEN Dickens was found, and we had decided that he should return home to the Northern Neck with me for a period of time to recover physically and emotionally, and then we would take a few weeks and multiple visits to gradually re-introduce him to his new forever family so that he would have a strong and safe relationship with them before he made the final move. The goal is now for us to have him moved permanently to his new family in January, where he will start off 2014 as the unofficial "Mayor of Warrenton."
Tomorrow Dickens will see the vet and begin treatment to protect against tick-borne illness (yes, he had his share of ticks) and will be wormed because heaven knows what he ate on his journey!!!
He is in remarkably good condition given his ordeal - 15 days in the wilderness.
Over the next few weeks I will posting about Dickens' recovery and I will share some WONDERFUL tips that I learned about conducting a search for a lost dog that were shared with me from friends and fellow dog lovers all over this country and even from Canada!!!
I know that many, many people in Warrenton were worrying about and watching out for Dickens. I don't know who most of you are, but I thank ALL OF YOU!!! I do want to acknowledge those who I know were a part of the official "Team Dickens:""