I wish I had started this in December - when I spent my first night sleeping in the basement with the curtains wide open, the lights on dim, the TV on with no sound and all the yard lights on just so he could find home and see me through the window and bark to be let in. That didn't happen and I spent two more nights like that before I could believe myself that if he barked to be let in I would hear him even in bed.
He had been let out for his morning break and it wasn't 10 minutes later that we were outside as well, scooping snow and starting the tractor to clear the drive and parking lot. We thought it was odd that he wasn't trying to help us as he usually did. He was normally my shadow. We just figured he had gone in to the doghouse where it was a bit warmer then it was outside. When we finished chores we checked the doghouse and it was then that we realized he was actually missing.
Of course the first place we looked was at the closest neighbor's house, a half mile up the road. Starskey's best friend, the Akita, lived there. The Akita was home and Starskey hadn't been there. About 4 hours had passed by now and we knew he would be getting cold even if he was having fun in the snow.......As my husband drove around calling for him, I began making phone calls to all the neighbors to ask if they had seen him.
Those first few days were so full of hope because we had plenty to do. Posters were made and distributed around the community and several surrounding communities. The radio station was contacted to broadcast the LOST DOG discription. Neighbor's door were knocked on and photos with our contact information was provided to them in case they saw him. They all knew him already, because he sat in front of the shop each day and watched the cars and trucks go by, but saving them the time to look up our phone number just needed to be done. Miles were driven as we criss-crossed the countryside searching for him - in the ditch, in the fields and along the road. No Starskey was found.
Our grandchildren hit facebook with the news and photos of him and asked all their friends to help find him. They took posters to school and put them on their lockers. They gave posters to all the bus drivers and teachers. I posted him as lost on RESQ, the site for his RFID chip thinking that if he got hurt or picked up - that would be the first thing checked for to find us.
The phone calls began......first he was seen here and then over there and then way over there. I drove one way to look while my daughter and the kids went the other way. We found dogs - but not Starskey. We even found a dog or two that looked similar but were way too big or had no white star on their chest. He looks like a Lab but he is only the size of a Border Collie but people were calling us for almost any black dog - so we had several to rule out but the next call might really be him so we didn't mind.
We were doing something and so in our minds it was just a matter of time before we would find the naughty fellow somewhere and get him home for a bath and a good scolding. The days kept passing. Christmas was here and I didn't even want to go see the rest of my family because I was afraid he might come home while we were gone and think we didn't want him anymore. I knew that was not rational - but it was how I felt inside.
That doghouse is heated. It is as warm as the house inside and he occasionally took advantage of that while outside playing....but he was a Border Collie Lab mix so he was sturdy enough to handle a little chill, even with the shorter coat of the Lab (and even though he spent his nights in the house by the fireplace). I made sure the heater was on in the doghouse, filled his heated water dish, placed a bowl of food in the doghouse and reluctantly left for the Christmas holiday.
We got calls while away and I had a friend or two lined up to check out any sightings so things were covered but I still felt guilty on both fronts. I felt guilty for leaving and how do you tell your family that you feel it is more important to stay home and wait or search for your pup? Oh they all would have understood. They all have pets and we had animals all over the place as I was growing up. But I also knew they would be more realistic then I was feeling at the time so I made my arrangements and went to be with them.
We talked about him, shared the memories and pictures of his first car trip to Illinois and his meeting with my daughter's crew. They were the trainers for going potty out doors. Pokey was also a very gentle playmate and supervisor while Pilot was his normal stinker self. He and Starskey tussled over the chew toys so I just went and bought them all their own. I shared Starskey's development since they had last seen him and told some funny stories of his adventures at home and while camping. It was a good holiday and I came home with sence of peace and a satisfaction that I had done nothing wrong to make him run away. I also had a renewed sense of hope that now he would be easier to find because I would feel less stressed and less guilty.
The local newspaper had taken an interest in our search after I had written a letter of thanks to all of the folks who had helped us look for him and to those who had reported having seen him. I included information on where to report found pets and on how important it was to get the word out about a lost pet as soon as possible. It was published right after Christmas. I had no idea that the editor would call and interview my husband for more information and then take the combined information and facts to do an artical about our continued search - complete with his photo.
By this time I had found Oliver Alert and Pet Finder and several other internet locations to post to. I have since made some wonderful friends within this world of rescuers. We share searches and finds and sometimes just the memories. I had no idea that the technical search for Starskey would become as important ans as necessary as driving the roads and walking the trails and going door to door.
I guess that is what I hope to make this blog about - in the end anyway........about what it feels like to lose a beloved pet, how it affects you and your family dynamic and where it leads you. Maybe during the whole process I will be able to share what it is like to be reunited as well.....but in the meantime this is a chance for me to let it out....about Starskey, about the other pets that I have fond memories of and just about loving an animal and being loved by one.