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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
Thanks for writing Hello, The Wild Side is Calling – by Pat Panek | The Dogington
Post, I just actually had been looking for anything very similar and was grateful to
obtain the info via this particular posting.
Hi Pat, I’m not on facebook, but I sent an email to you two weeks ago, please check for it. The first time I saw your sweet Bridgett’s face on the lost dog poster, I have looked for her everywhere I go. I live locally and want to offer whatever help you need – I will post more flyers, hand out “lost dog” cards, assist search parties. Am happy to print these at my expense. Would love to get bumper stickers for myself and will give them to everyone I know. I have always been an animal lover and deeply devoted to my own pets. Praying constantly that Bridgett and your family are reunited. Please tell me what I can do to help you!
I did get your email and I apologize for not getting back to you before now. It’s been crazy in my world and I am way behind on so many things. I would love some help and will be in touch with the details. I don’t have any bumper stickers, just a few magnetic ones left. It is so nice of you to want to do that. What I can use help with now is putting fliers on mailbox flags (that’s legal)in Maynard, I think. Not exactly sure where to focus just now. What is your availability like?
Thanks … Pat
Glad to connect with you. I can help tomorrow (Wed.) afternoon or Thursday afternoon anytime after 1:00. Also, I would be interested in the magnetic stickers if you have any you want to sell. I can meet you at a DD or wherever. Looking forward to meeting you!
Your story gave me more understanding of your family & what occurred. How old was Bridgett when you got her? Did you recently move to where you live now? I keep praying for her safe return to you. I just wish my prayers would be answered as the many other prayers for others. Nancy
Bridgett was six when I got her, she was a rescue, so she didn’t know the area all that well when she became adventurous. I will say more about her history in an upcoming article. I miss my sweet girl. Thank you so much for the positive thoughts and prayers. Let’s hope they are answered. I worry so much about her.
Hi, Lisa! How nice to see you here. I am so glad this rang true for you because I know you have walked in my shoes. Thank you for the feedback. I was very nervous sharing this, but am glad I did. I want to bring awareness to this situation and empower those who have lost pets or those who come across lost pets. Wish me luck! 🙂 Pat
I’ve walked in your shoes. This is brilliantly written and right on the money. You have a gift for writing, captivating and educating all at the same time. I cannot wait for the next installment.
I know how you feel. I live on a dead end road 1/2 mile off a state road. My dogs are in the backyard or in the house or with me going to the car.
One day Travis, my 3 year old American English coonhound, climbed the fence to the pasture and the side fence to the rest of the world and Chloe, my 7 yr old English coonhound, was with him.
I went out front, after putting Gracie(my 2 yr old English coonhound)in her crate and grabbing 2 leads, and started looking for them. Luckily, I saw them up the road and as I walked towards them calling their names, both dogs went across the neighbor’s side yard to the creek behind her house.
I get tired of following them and figured, since I could see them and they stayed on the road and knew I was outside, I opened the car doors and stood outside the car waiting. Shortly, Chloe came up and climbed into the front seat of the car and I snuck around and closed the door after putting on a better collar. Then, she was put into the house and I came back and waited for Travis, which wasn’t long.
Travis came from the creek at the end of my property and was looking around. I moved back and squatted low so he couldn’t see me and he walked into the backyard thru the side gate I kept open for him. He was up on the little deck barking at me and looking very tired when I came thru the gate to let him into the house.
I realized I was very lucky that the dogs didn’t go off the road but, to my advantage, they don’t like the sounds of car engines (the kid next door guns his truck and it hurts their ears) so they will avoid it.
I have to rebuild the fence to make it taller (it’s now 45 inches) and keep an eagle eye when they are out. I am very glad they know where their home is.
I hope you find Bridgett sitting on your doorstep waiting for you to let her in very soon.
I love your story and how you out foxed the coon hounds. You have great instincts.
I will also be doing some fencing re-working, except I am going underground. I hope I will have the opportunity to show Bridgett how very clever I am. LOL.
I don’t think Bridgett is going to find her way home by herself. That would have happened a long time ago, if was going to happen at all. I just hope she learns to trust enough to let someone help her to come home.
Thanks for reading the article and telling me your story. Pat
My prayers are with you. I too had my baby escape from the babysitter, and at unknown territory. Although it was only two weeks, it seemed like an eternity. I drove to that wooded area and neighborhood almost every day. The first day I went searching for her I saw after she’d been lost for a few days, but I too made the mistake of yelling her name. She bolted straight into the woods. But almost every day, I continued searching, asking people and continued searching. And finally after 2 weeks, I was about to go back home after my hourly search and something told me to go thru this one residential street and there she was. I had to drive next to her and talk to her calmly as she ran for about 3 blocks. Until I could get in front of her, jump out the car and position myself so she catch a whiff of my perfume to recognize it was me. And she finally did and came back to me and jumped into the car. We both cried all the way back home. She had lost alot of weight, had a lot of ticks and the beginning of mange…but overall she was fine. I pray you have a happy ending as well. My prayers are with you and Bridgett.
Corina, I am so happy that you got your dog back. The first two weeks is an eternity. I wish I could say it gets easier over time, but it really doesn’t.
I think it’s important to listen to your intuition. You did and look at the miraculous result.
Pat, you have been so strong and now you add another layer to the search for your beloved Bridgett. In writing this piece you turn a personal tragedy into a search manual for others who suffer this devastating circumstance. Thank you for a well written, poignant and artfully crafted article on your personal experience and the learning curve which has arisen from your commitment to finding where your beautiful silver girl is.
Sarah, thank you so much for your comment. I am always trying to think up new “layers” because I just can’t let the dust settle. I do want very much to share the highs and lows and tips I’ve learned along the way. I think there needs to be a better understanding of lost dog survival, and the emotions that go along with searching night and day for a beloved family member. Then there are the tricks and work arounds that I have tried. So many people in my situation really don’t know what to do next and I hope I can help that a little. Man, this sounds pompous. Don’t mean it to be.