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The following article was written by Pat Panek. Pat’s adored Siberian Husky, Bridgett, escaped from her backyard six months ago and has still not found her way home, despite proof that she is still out there. In a series of articles, Pat will tell the story of that night, the weeks and months that have followed, and her boundless efforts to bring Bridgett home. We hope that by sharing her story, anyone that finds themselves in this situation will be educated on how to best move forward. And, that Pat and Bridgett get their very deserved happy ending.
Hello, The Wild Side is Calling – by Pat Panek
The leaves are off the trees, she will be easy to spot in the woods with all that bright white on her chest and legs.
That was one of the many thoughts I had during the panic of discovering that my 7 year old Siberian Husky, Bridgett, had spent a productive five minutes digging out under our fence and shimmying to the other side. The last time I saw her, she was standing in the road at the corner of our street, not a tenth of a mile from home. It was foggy and yet her bright white cut through the thickness. There she stood looking very proud. Head held high, tail wagging, and brown eyes baiting us to play Catch Me If You Can. A noise, sudden and sharp, split the quiet of that midnight. Bridgett spooked. Buster, my other dog who was acting as a lure, backed out of his collar (I now use a martingale), and bolted. Bridgett disappeared into the fog — two dogs, two different directions, and one frantic me.
It might not be classified as clinical, but I was having a panic attack. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. I felt the physical pain of my heart breaking. My insides were convoluted, I forgot to breathe and it felt like my chest would explode, and my brain was caught in a continuous loop of OMG, OMG, OMG … what do I do? What do I do? Over and over inside my mind like a really bad commercial jingle and I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t think.
My husband took off after Bridgett and I tried to catch up with Buster. I was terrified that I was going to lose both dogs. Buster had the good sense to head back to the house and was waiting by the breezeway door. He wanted to go inside, but I had other plans for him. I grabbed my keys, tightened his collar, and we were in the car in under a minute. Wipers going, defroster on, but they couldn’t keep up with the fog. The visibility was only about fifty feet and I couldn’t see my husband and was afraid Bridgett would run out in front of my car. I rode my brake, put my flashers on, and did not exceed 2 MPH. My husband flagged me down and got into the car. We spent the next several hours creeping around the area hoping to see a flash of white. We didn’t. My tears were effortless, they bathed my face and nightgown (no, I was not dressed in street clothes. It was bedtime. The dogs had been let out for what I call their ‘last minute.’ Five minutes, not longer, and that is all it took for Bridgett to disappear). We had no other option than to go home. Once inside, the sobs came. My husband, who could sleep through a tsunami, went to bed. I was too keyed up, too terrified, too heartbroken to even consider sleeping. I called the police department and was informed that we had no animal officer in town, but they would call if they heard anything about the dog. Not good enough, to my way of thinking. For awhile, I stood at the picture window looking out onto the mostly obscured street and begged the cars flying down the hill through the fog to slow down because my dog was out there. That was a colossal example of wishful thinking and it did no good. I was sure Bridgett was going to be hit and killed either on surface streets or the way-too-close interstate.
I cried, booted up my laptop, and investigated sites that dealt with missing dogs. I contacted both micro-chip companies to report her missing. They issued posters and alerts. I contacted Pet Amber Alert and they prepared to call one thousand households in the area, which is most of my town, vets, and animal related businesses. I made fliers and gigantic neon posters and put them all around the Town Common because it is a traffic hub. At day break, although still foggy, it was less intimidating. I set out on foot looking under neighbors’ porches and decks, inside open garages, and sheds. It never occurred to me that I was trespassing. My sole focus was finding Bridgett. There was no sign of her. I put up more posters and waited for the world to wake up.
As people were leaving for work, I handed them fliers and told them what had happened. I asked them to tell everyone they knew. The kids and parents waiting for the school bus got fliers. The school bus driver taped one to the back of her seat. I felt it was only a matter of hours before Bridgett would be home. I waited by the phone. Nothing. When I could stand the inactivity no longer, I put a leash on Buster, grabbed some raw sirloin, draped another leash around my neck, and went up and down streets waving the meet, telling Buster to pee so Bridgett could smell him, and calling her name.
Some of what I did was correct, but I made a couple of key mistakes that I would learn about later. The first mistake was my husband running after her. She was scared and feeling pursued only intensified that. She wasn’t going to stop and wait for him to catch up. She was just going to run faster and farther because she, too, was panicked. The second mistake I made was the next day when I was walking about loudly calling her name. In her state of mind, that could have sounded like yelling and her flight instincts could have been engaged. Chasing or calling a lost dog by name is never a good idea, so I was to learn. Calm, and quiet, works better than thundering feet and booming voices. It made sense in retrospect.
I called every vet in a 25 mile radius, faxed them posters of Bridgett, called animal control officers, shelters, emergency vets, the highway department in case she had been found on the side of the road, and I posted her information on every lost dog site I could find.
The Dogington Post has invited me to write several articles. I would like to dispel misconceptions surrounding lost dogs and to take you on the journey that is still ongoing, six months later, in my search for Bridgett. I would like to share what I have learned along the way.
Please visit Bridgett’s Facebook page and LIKE it. The more “Likes” we get, the better visibility we have on search engines and with the media. It doesn’t matter if you live far away or in another country, you never know where a share or the telling of her story will end up. It could be with the right set of ears and eyes. Thank you.
Help bring Bridgett home. Like her Facebook page by clicking here.
Or, copy and paste this link into your browser: www.facebook.com/helpbringbridgetthome