I was walking in the field with Marta and Owl who were on lead and Nexus and Viljo who were off lead. This was at 11 am on Thursday. I normally don't have two dogs off lead at the same time but Thursday I'd made an exception. Viljo was a little ahead and to the left of us when I saw him pick up his head and catch some scent, probably of deer. He ran down hill in a beeline for the woods. Nexus saw Viljo do this, and ran after him. They both went a short distance along the woods line, then headed into the woods. I didn't think much of it. I figured they'd be back soon. I continued on my walk with Owl and Marta through what was left of the snow. On the way home, we stopped and waited a little while for the others, but there was no sign of them and we went on home. An hour later, it began to snow again. The prediction was for 4 to 6 inches and for the temperature to begin dropping. Two hours later, no Nexus. No Viljo.
I called work and told them the situation. I said I couldn't just get in my car and leave with two dogs out in the woods somewhere. Thankfully, they understood. One co-worker, Karen, offered so stay over until I got there. I never got there...
Three hours, four hours, five hours went by. It was snowing hard. And getting colder. And the wind picked up. And darkness was coming. I went out several times, walking and calling, and whistling. And praying.
I didn't know who to be more concerned about. Nexus, nearly nine years old, had surgery in September and might have trouble with the deep ravines and the snow. But Nexus knows the woods and roads for a couple of miles in every direction, we've walked them many times. (This is a very rural area.) On the other hand, seven months old Viljo was only familiar with our own acreage. I was really concerned that deer lines would take them further than Viljo could find his way home.
5.5 hours later, at 4:30 pm, Nexus arrived on the front porch. He was thirsty but otherwise absolutely fine. Huge, huge relief! One dog home now, one to go.
Viljo, where are you??
The last time I went out was just after midnight. I tromped in the snow for 45 minutes but I had no idea, really, which direction to go. After that, I had to call it quits for the night. It was an extremely long and difficult night for me, knowing that the air temperature was 8 degrees, the winds were blowing up to 25 miles per hour, there was half a foot of new snow, and my puppy was out in the woods somewhere. I tried to sleep but every time the wind rattled the house, I was wide awake wondering where Viljo was and if I would see him again.
My three main concerns with Viljo were his lack of familiarity with the area, the difficult weather, and fox traps. Ohio fox trapping season runs through the end of January. I have met and talked with a lifelong trapper who lives in my village - and I know that he is very good at what he does. Among a myriad of other possibilities, I wondered if Viljo could be caught in a trap somewhere.
The next morning, I designed a lost dog flier using an excellent Internet resource for people who have lost dogs and cats.
"Sherlock Bones" may sound hokey but don't laugh. John Keane has made a 30+ years living helping people find lost pets. I'd read his book many years ago and found a few years ago that, sure enough, he is alive and well...and has a website. You can buy his e-book for $30. It is just 14 pages BUT 14 pages filled with concise, precise, very valuable information on the Dos and Don'ts of looking for lost dogs. Mr. Keane has identified certain "best practices" when it comes to locating a lost dog and it is certainly good to know what they are. If you lose a dog, you will be very glad you have this information on hand.
I handed a copy of my flier to the plow driver as he went by while I worked in the bitter cold to shovel out my driveway. Then I left to drive to a copy shop to have a bunch of card stock copies made. I planned to spend the afternoon tacking up fliers, handing fliers out to everyone I saw, and going house to house asking people if they had seen my dog. Thankfully, when I got home from the copy shop at 12:30 armed with 200 posters, Viljo was waiting on me!
My 7.5 month old puppy was a little tired and a lot hungry but in great shape after 25 hours in severe cold and nearly half a foot of new snow.
I wasn't doing as well...
I would LOVE to know where and how Viljo spent the night. But let's just say that I have never been so HAPPY to see an animal in my life!