Dogs That Found Their Way Back Home
“Lassie Come Home” Stories
Many readers are familiar with the story of Lassie, the stalwart collie, who against seemingly impossible odds found her way back to her young owner. Based on a short story by Eric Knight published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938, Lassie was more fully developed in Knight’s novel Lassie Come Home in 1940. The storyline of the very successful 1943 motion picture Lassie Come Home tells of a Depression-era English family who is forced to sell their exceptionally beautiful female collie to a wealthy nobleman who lives hundreds of miles away on his estate in Scotland. Through a series of harrowing adventures, Lassie uses her instinct and courage and manages to return to the young boy she loves.
The ﬁlm starred a teenage Roddy McDowall, an eleven-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, and a large male collie named Pal. Beginning with Pal I, the character of Lassie has always been portrayed by a male. (It was discovered early on in filming Lassie Come Home that female collies shed profusely when they are in heat.) Elizabeth Taylor got the part of Priscilla when Maria Flynn, the actress originally cast, could not conceal her fear of the big collie. Elizabeth had no problem working with Pal and did not ﬁnd his size intimidating. Her father had given her a puppy when she was just a little girl, and she loved dogs—a love that continued throughout her life with spaniels, Pekingese, Maltese, Lhasa apsos, and collies. On her sixtieth birthday, Elizabeth was gifted with a collie that was a great-grandchild of Pal, her Lassie co-star.
In 1945, MGM capitalized on its canine bonanza with Son of Lassie, starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart. The third movie in the series Courage of Lassie, in 1946, starred Tom Drake and Elizabeth Taylor, this time as Kathie Merrick. In this film, Lassie comes home battle-scarred after having served in the K-9 Corps in World War II.
In the Lassie Radio Show (1946–49) and in the long-running television series Lassie (1954–73), the collie didn’t have to ﬁnd her way home, but in each episode she faced a challenge on the farm that would stymie most adult humans. Tommy Rettig and June Lockhart are two actors most commonly associated with the series, which was later syndicated as Jeff ’s Collie.
Lassie had undeniably achieved popular culture immortality. In the 1980s and 1990s there were Lassie series produced by various production companies. In 1997 the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and Canada created a Lassie series that ran until 1999. In 2005 a United Kingdom production company did a remake of the original Lassie Come Home, starring Peter O’Toole and Samantha Morton. In that same year, Variety named Lassie one of the Top 100 Icons of All Time, thereby ﬁrmly establishing a “Lassie come home” story as a generic sobriquet for accounts of lost and found dogs.
Bobbie, the Wonder Collie of Oregon, and His Three-Thousand-Mile Trek
In North America, perhaps the most famous of all the dogs who found their way back to the homes and hearts of their owners after conquering seemingly insurmountable distances and inhospitable environments is Bobbie the collie, who made his way alone and on foot from Indiana back to his home in Oregon. With only his canine instincts to guide him, Bobbie managed to ﬁnd his human family after walking three thousand miles through forests and farmlands, mountains and plains, scorching heat and freezing cold.
Bobbie’s story is also fully documented. Although no one can fully know what trials and terrors the brave collie faced, endured, and conquered, when Colonel E. Hofer, president of the Oregon Humane Society, launched an investigation of Bobbie’s fantastic journey, he received hundreds of letters from men and women who had assisted or befriended the dog on his amazing trek westward.
In their personal accounts, people remembered Bobbie because of his bobbed tail, the prominent scar over his right eye (where a horse had kicked him), his mismatched hips (after being struck by a tractor), and his three missing front teeth (torn out by their roots while he was digging for a ground squirrel). Some of these kind strangers had tended to Bobbie when he was starving, when he was freezing to death, when the pads of his toes were worn away so badly that the bone was exposed in some places.
It was from such reports that Charles D. Alexander, an author of short stories and novels for children, was able to document the story of the courageous dog in his book Bobbie: A Great Collie of Oregon (1926). The author of more than two hundred short stories and eleven books, mostly ﬁction, Alexander admitted that if he had not had access to such extensive documentation, the adventures of Bobbie would have seemed like the product of an unrestrained imagination.
The remarkable story of Bobbie’s odyssey began in August 1923 when Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brazier, owners of a restaurant in Silverton, Oregon, began their long automotive journey to Indiana to visit relatives. Bobbie, their canine family member, rode on top of the luggage in the backseat of the open touring car.
Deciding to visit relatives in Wolcott, Indiana, before continuing a hundred miles farther east to Bluffton, their final goal, Frank drove the car with Bobbie in tow to a garage for a carburettor adjustment. As the big collie leaped from the backseat, he accidentally ran afoul of a formidable bull terrier.
Frank had no real concern for Bobbie as the collie and bull terrier stood sniffing and growling at each other. He couldn’t imagine the two dogs actually getting into a ﬁght, and if they did, he would soon break it up.
But what Frank didn’t know was that the grumpy bull terrier had a whole pack of canine buddies who ganged up on Bobbie just as soon as they lured the collie out of sight of his watchful owner and the garage attendants. When Bobbie saw that the odds were seven or eight to one, he beat it out of town with the pack of growling, snapping dogs at his heels.
When the work on his automobile was completed, Frank drove up and down the town’s streets and the nearby country roads, sounding the horn to summon Bobbie. The big dog would always come bounding for the backseat at the sound of the car horn. But not this time.
The next day, the Braziers placed an ad in the local paper, offering a reward for the return of their dog, and they delayed their drive to Bluffton to await what they prayed would be favorable results.
No response. No one seemed to have seen the big collie.
The Braziers knew that Bobbie would not run off. He was devoted to Frank. The Braziers could only conclude that something terrible had happened to the collie while their automobile was undergoing minor repairs or that someone was keeping Bobbie against his will.
Bobbie had managed to escape pursuit from the inhospitable curs, but he was left confused, shaken, and frightened. He was in completely unfamiliar territory. He wanted only to return to his master—but where the heck was he?
The Braziers ﬁnally drove on to Bluffton, hoping that someone would soon spot Bobbie and bring him to their relatives in Wolcott. But when they returned there many days later, they were disheartened to learn that no one in that community had reported seeing a big collie anywhere in town or country.
They had no choice but to begin the long, sad drive back to Silverton, Oregon. It just wouldn’t be the same without Bobbie in back, perched atop the luggage. And it wouldn’t be at all the same without Bobbie in their lives, but it appeared that Bobbie was lost to them forever.
We can only imagine, from the collie’s perspective, that he was at a loss to imagine why his master was nowhere in sight. Why hadn’t he waited for him at the garage? He wasn’t even able to pick up Frank’s scent.
The problem was, the collie had become so disoriented that he headed in the opposite direction from Wolcott and was approaching garages that had never contained the scent of Frank Brazier or his automobile.
While Bobbie’s sense of direction may have been temporarily skewered, his seemingly preternatural ability to detect dog lovers remained in excellent working order. Time and time again, as he was nearing starvation from walking in circles, Bobbie arrived at the home of kind people who took him in and nurtured him back to good traveling condition.
After more than a week of wandering, Bobbie appeared to have been given a renewed sense of direction and purpose. From what researchers could piece together, it was somewhere near Des Moines, Iowa, that Bobbie was done with walking in circles. He would keep to a westward course and never turn east again.
Traveling ever westward back home to Oregon, he swam rivers, survived blizzards, endured hunger and thirst, and climbed over mountains.
Nearly seven months later, a battered and worn Bobbie nudged past Mrs. Brazier and her daughter and dashed up the stairs to jump onto the bed where Frank lay sleeping after working the night shift at his restaurant. The startled man awakened to find his beloved collie licking his face and emitting howls of joy. Bobbie refused to leave his master’s bedroom that day, even to accept food and water.
While not enough can be said about the collie’s incredible endurance and survival, it is perhaps most astounding to learn that when the complete account had been pieced together and Bobbie’s trail had been plotted on actual maps of the states that he had traversed, it was discovered that the dog had managed to pick a very reasonable route with very few detours. After the initial period of confusion and misdirection, it seemed as though Bobbie somehow had been given a precise mental “map” that would take him home.
What some dog owners also ﬁnd remarkable is that even after surviving that three-thousand-mile trek through snow, freezing cold, and icy rivers, Bobbie enjoyed another three years with his beloved family in Silverton, Oregon.
Those years, however, were spent in quiet rest and relaxation. Bobbie had become a celebrated hero to the people of Oregon. He received medals and keys to cities at numerous local fairs and celebrations. He was the guest of honor at the Portland Home Show, where more than forty thousand people came to see him presented with his own dog-size cabin. On one occasion, Bobbie was awarded a jewel-studded harness and collar.
It was hardly surprising that Robert Ripley wrote about Bobbie in one of his famous “Believe It or Not!” columns, which was circulated throughout the United States and the world. The intrepid collie even played himself in a silent film entitled The Call of the West, a reel of which is preserved in the archives of the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
When Bobbie passed away in 1927, he was buried with honors at the Oregon Humane Society. The mayor of Portland delivered the eulogy, and Rin Tin Tin, the wonder dog of Hollywood ﬁlms, laid a wreath at his grave.
Midge Found Her Way Home After Being Left Behind on a Family Outing
Dogs’ legendary sense of smell and good memory may also have been the deciding factors in Midge being able to ﬁnd her way back to her home forty miles away after being left behind on a family outing. David Van Slyke, a former high school physics teacher in Ohio, who ably serves as our webmaster, shared a cherished family story about a lost dog that found her way home. In Dave’s own words:
The year is 1930. Herbert Hoover is president of the United States. My mother is eight years old and living in Wesleyville, Pennsylvania, with her parents, older brother, and Midge, a small mixed-breed dog. Several times a year, the family would drive their Model A Ford from Wesleyville to North Kingsville, Ohio, a distance of about forty miles, to visit Mom’s grandmother at her farm in North Kingsville. The Model A had only one seat inside the car, plus a rumble seat in the back. That didn’t matter to Midge because she preferred to ride outside, between the right front fender and the engine cowling. There was a ﬂat space between the engine cowling and fender that was just right for a small dog. When the family would get ready to take the trip to Grandma’s, my grandfather would call Midge and she would jump onto the front of the car and make herself comfortable in her special spot, facing forward so she could enjoy the view.
All these trips from Wesleyville to North Kingsville were uneventful, except one. On one of the visits, Midge missed her ride home. While the family visited inside Grandma’s large farmhouse, Midge went off to romp in the woods. When it came time to leave, Midge was nowhere to be seen. The family went in different directions, calling for Midge. They looked for an hour or more and there was no sign of her. They wanted to get home by dark, and Grandma assured them that Midge would be ﬁne and would come back to the house when she was ready. Grandma said she would call them as soon as Midge returned. The family reluctantly got in the Model A and went back to Wesleyville without Midge. As soon as they got home, they called Grandma. No sign of Midge.
They called twice a day for four days. Each time, Grandma told them sadly that there was no sign of Midge. Things weren’t looking good. Then, on the ﬁfth day, Midge showed up at our home in Wesleyville, barking at the side door, asking to come in. She was hungry and needed a bath, but was otherwise healthy.
Midge is the only one who knew the full story and she wasn’t talking. She apparently had played in the woods a little too long and, upon returning to the house, noticed her ride, the Model A, was gone and took off for home on her own. We will never know whether she retraced the route she was so familiar with— through North Kingsville, east through Conneaut, Girard, Fair-view, and Erie, and then south to Wesleyville—or took a more direct route. One thing we do know is that she must have used that internal GPS system so many animals, including dogs, seem to be equipped with.
Midge lived many years after her big adventure and took many more trips to Grandma’s house on the front of the Model A.
Stubby’s Courageous Eighteen-Month, Thousand-Mile Trek to Return to Della
Stubby’s eighteen-month, thousand-mile trek from the Indiana– Illinois border to his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was especially poignant because his thirteen-year-old mistress, Della Shaw, had been crippled and mute since birth. Stubby, Della’s constant companion, had been the sunshine of her life until he vanished one terrible day in 1948.
Della and her grandmother, Mrs. Harry McKinzie, had been visiting relatives in Indianapolis on an extended four-month stay. Upon the completion of their visit, they had set out for home in a truck containing some furniture. Somewhere along the way, most likely between Indianapolis and Decatur, Illinois, Stubby had become separated from their vehicle.
The grief that a dog lover suffers when a cherished companion is lost may well be compounded in the heart of a handicapped child. Although Della was mute, her grandparents could feel so powerfully her silent sorrow over the loss of her devoted Stubby.
Harry McKinzie took out newspaper ads in cities along the route taken home by his wife and granddaughter. He contacted several friends to ask for their assistance in attempting to locate the missing dog.
Months passed without any results, and the McKinzies speculated that Stubby may have fallen from the truck and been killed. Della had slowly begun to adjust to life without Stubby. She was valiantly attempting to overcome the terrible loneliness that had been in her heart. The ﬂurry of activities involved in moving to another house had also served as a distraction from awful thoughts of her Stubby being mangled on the highway.
In March of 1950, eighteen months after Stubby’s disappearance on the ill-fated trip from Indianapolis, Harry McKinzie happened to walk by their old house. Incredibly, there was Stubby sitting on the sidewalk, staring vacantly into space, as if awaiting some command or signal.
The dog was dirty and dazed, his body bloated from hunger. His paws were swollen and bleeding, painful testament to some hard traveling on his long journey home.
Although Stubby seemed to scarcely recognize McKinzie, it was an entirely different story when he was brought to Della. The dog pushed himself free of McKinzie’s grasp and excitedly began to lavish his mistress with soft whines and doggy kisses. Della wept with joy that some miracle had returned Stubby to her arms.
McKinzie told the International News Service on April 5, 1950, that Della was happy once again. “We can tell by the look on her face,” he said. “And once Stubby gets all the food and sleep he needs, he’ll be his old self again.”
The Incredible Homing Instinct in Dogs
Dr. Nicholas Dodman theorized in his article “Homing Behavior in Dogs and Cats” that in their evolution with humans, the dog who could ﬁnd his way home would be the dog most likely to survive and pass his genes on to his descendants. Like birds, the species most known for its ability to navigate vast distances, dogs may bring particular talents to bear on ﬁnding their way home, such as mental mapmaking; surveillance of the terrain; sense of smell; hearing (for example, recognizing the sound of a river); magnetic ﬁelds (dogs, like birds, may possess super-paramagnetic particles in their brains); and the position of the sun.
In Psychology Today (March 1, 2010), Lee Charles Kelly suggests that when a dog is lost and wants to ﬁnd his way home, he does so not by remembering the route or by navigating by certain signposts or by thinking about ﬁnding his way home. To think about being lost and trying to remember where home is may be counterproductive. If a dog associates “home” with positive experiences such as comfort, food, love, and affection, the lost dog feels his way and goes by sensitivity to some natural kind of energy field—emotional, bioenergetic, cardio-magnetic, or morphogenetic—that allows him to plug into his internal GPS system.
“If home and family have any kind of emotional resonance for dogs—and I’m pretty sure they do— then it’s those properties that displace the lost dog and pull him in one direction, not another,” Kelly writes. “After all, there is a great deal of truth to the homily that ‘home is where the heart is,’ and of all God’s creatures, dogs may be the ones with the most ‘heart.’ ”
Bear Finds His Way Home After Six Years Missing
Two days before Thanksgiving in 2003, Jeanie Flores of Wichita, Kansas, looked out the window of her home and felt a sudden rush of commingled joy and sadness. There, standing outside, was a dog that looked just like Bear, her dear brindle hound–Lab-chow mix, who had disappeared six years ago, just a few days before Thanksgiving in 1997.
The dog looked so much like Bear that she felt in her heart that the dog just had to be the pet that had vanished about a month after she and her husband, Frank, moved to a new neighborhood. But, she kept asking herself, how could it be? Where could Bear have been for six years? Why hadn’t the brindle hound part of him with the ultra-powerful nose tracked them down before so much time had passed?
She had let him out of the house that night six years ago, and although she called and called his name, Bear did not come home.
She remembered how she sat up all night waiting for him, checking the door every few minutes to see if Bear was standing there on the steps, wanting to be let into the house.
But he never returned.
Frank and Jeanie were especially distressed because they had not yet updated Bear’s ID tag with their new address. They’d gotten Bear in 1990 when he was just a puppy. They could not imagine his running away from them after being their pet for seven years.
In desperation, the Flores family followed the usual procedures for an all-out attempt to ﬁnd a lost dog. Sherry Morse wrote in Animal News (December 13, 2003) that the Floreses put up signs and ﬂyers, ran ads in the local newspaper, and from time to time they would drive around their old neighborhood.
But Bear had disappeared. He had disappeared until—dare she think it— today, almost six years to the day that he had vanished.
She stepped out of the house and called his name. Immediately, the dog responded with a whine. He was in pretty bad shape. His paws were torn and looked raw and bleeding in spots.
One of the Floreses’ neighbors came out to watch the improbable family reunion. She told Jeanie that she had seen the big dog earlier in the day. It seemed as though he was carefully scrutinizing the houses before he ﬁnally approached the correct one.
Jeanie Flores was convinced that Bear had returned to them, and she called her husband at his place of work. As she was describing the dog standing outside their home, she began to cry, and Frank said that he would be home as soon as possible.
When Frank arrived home, he took one good look at the brindle hound–Lab-chow mix and agreed with his wife. Bear had come home for Thanksgiving.
As soon as an appointment could be made, Frank took Bear to a veterinarian to be examined. Frank explained that Bear had just come back home after a six-year absence and he wanted to be certain that their dear friend was well.
After the veterinarian had completed the examination, he assured Frank that Bear had not been mistreated or abused. He weighed only one pound less than when he had disappeared.
The only injuries Bear had sustained were those red and sore paws. It could only be theorized that the dog had been kept by someone for those six years until, one day, Bear decided that he wanted to go back home to the Floreses. Somehow, he must have broken out of the place where he was being held and pounded the pavement until his paws were raw, and until he located the Floreses’ home in the new neighborhood.
Bear quickly readjusted to his family, who welcomed him back into the fold. The only dramatic adjustment to be made was for him to become acquainted with the Floreses’ son, who had not yet been born when Bear disappeared.
Are Dogs’ Memories of Their Human Families “Stuck in Time”?
Although the Floreses could recall to the day when their Bear vanished from their lives, could their errant dog do the same? Did Bear have any concept of how long he had been missing from the family who loved him so much?
Very little research has been done regarding a dog’s concept of the passing of time. Many dogs appear to know when their owner usually comes home from work each day or when the kids come home from school. Dogs also seem to know when mealtimes should occur or when it is time for their daily walk, but there is no way of knowing if family dogs perceive time in the same way that their owners do— that is, being aware, for instance, that these events occur at four o’clock or six o’clock.
Although in many ways time is relative for us as humans, we all have the ability to remember events in the past and plan for events in the future. Time may be relative for us in some cases, such as Einstein’s famous illustration that time spent with one’s sweetheart and the same period of time spent in the dentist’s chair are very different in perception, but, generally, we are mostly aware of the sequence of events that mark the passage of time.
Researcher William Roberts (“Are Animals Stuck in Time?” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 128(3), May 2002) suggests that dogs may be “stuck in time” without the mental acuity it requires to form memories of the past or to project thoughts of the future.
Dogs, therefore, live only in the present and cannot mentally time travel backward and forward.
Dog owners may dispute this theory by reminding Roberts and other researchers of how well their dog is trained to perform certain tasks, actions learned in the past and remembered in the present. Researchers agreeing with Roberts counter this argument by stating their position that while a dog responds to commands, it does not have the speciﬁc memory of how that task was first learned. Researchers also point out that dogs do not appear to have the ability to plan for speciﬁc future events, but, again, seem to live in the present.
Perhaps when it comes to ﬁnding its way home, the dog may be far better off living in the present and relying upon its vast array of superior senses. It may be a uniquely human facet to have developed an understanding of time. However, it should be pointed out that no scientist would declare that he or she truly understands what the dimension of time really is.
British biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s controversial Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999) presents a database of sixty dogs that were taken to an unfamiliar location and then let loose to ﬁnd their way back to their homes. The dogs were not given an opportunity to learn the smells or landmarks en route, and they typically followed a different route from the one over which they were transported. In addition to these remarkable “homing dogs,” Sheldrake also discovered that not all dogs had the talent; some dogs headed in the wrong direction or sought forlorn refuge on the doorstep of the nearest home.
The Nose Knows—Sometimes
Some scientists and dog experts have suggested that in many cases of lost dogs that found their way home, the dogs may have been directed by their strong sense of smell. Smell is the dog’s dominant sense, estimated to be 100,000 times better than a human’s. The dog’s wet snout acts like a sponge, catching even the most minute molecules of smells, and then dissolves them so the dog’s internal smell receptor cells may analyze them correctly. To keep his nose sufficiently wet to perform this seemingly preternatural ability, a dog must produce a pint of mucus daily.
Dogs are particularly sensitive to the smell of fear, an alarm pheromone produced in the anal glands of frightened dogs. To a dog’s powerful sense of smell, all humans have an individual, unique odor. According to scientists who conducted experiments with dogs’ sense of smell, the only possible way that a dog wouldn’t be able to tell two people apart would be if they were identical twins on an identical diet.
Dogs can track human smells over long distances and can pick up the differences in odors from different footprints. Incredibly, dogs can even smell human ﬁngerprints left on objects up to a week later. As impossible as it may seem, a dog’s nose is so sensitive that they can smell electricity by detecting tiny amounts of ozone.
The aroma of lavender and chamomile tends to make dogs calm, while rosemary and peppermint make them energized.
Under test conditions, dogs can detect cancer in humans with an accuracy rate of between 88 and 97 percent simply by sniffing samples of a subject’s breath. The accuracy of a multi-million-dollar hospital scanner is between 85 and 90 percent.
A strong sense of smell may be what enabled Laser, a three-year-old beagle, to ﬁnd his way home to the LePage family, who had adopted him only a month before he slipped his leash and ran away during a ﬁreworks display at Lake Winnipeg on May 22, 2010. Parry LePage, who lives in Transcona, a suburb of Winnipeg, remarked that the family had really bonded with Laser in the four weeks that he had lived with them, which may certainly have been an important factor in Laser’s being able to travel the ﬁfty miles to ﬁnd his way home from Winnipeg Beach to Transcona on July 5.
Miracle Max May Have Used His Memory and His Nose to Guide Him Home
Bill Clark of Coventry, Rhode Island, was driving in his convertible in Sterling, Connecticut, in September 2008 when he was struck by another car. The drivers were uninjured, and so apparently was Max, Clark’s two-year-old Airedale terrier. Max must have been frightened and disoriented, for when he escaped the convertible through its trunk, he ran into the nearby woods.
Clark called for Max and looked in the immediate area, hoping to ﬁnd the terrier crouching somewhere waiting for his human to ﬁnd him and bring him home. For over three weeks, Max was nowhere to be found.
Some people claimed to have seen such a dog on the loose, but none of the leads proved to be fruitful. There were forty-ﬁve miles between Sterling and Coventry, and Bill Clark was beginning to fear that Max had set out to ﬁnd his way home and had only become more and more disoriented and lost. Not knowing if it would help or not, Clark placed some of his clothing and some of Max’s favorite food at various locations along the highway to help Max pick up the scent.
But Max proved to be a very resourceful terrier. Three weeks and three days after Max had gone missing, Clark returned home to ﬁnd him sitting in the backyard. When their veterinarian examined Max, he said that he had lost eleven pounds. Bill Clark told WJAR (on October 2, 2008) that worrying over his beloved terrier had caused him to lose seven.
It Took Seven Months and 550 Miles for Bosco to Come Home*
Brian “Bud” Bitker got Bosco, a beagle pup, in the summer of 1996, between his sophomore and junior year in high school. Bud and Bosco had plenty of afternoons to bond after Bud had finished helping his mother in the restaurant that she ran in the small Ohio town where they lived.
They had been a farm family until Bud’s father passed away in 1995. Ellen Bitker, known throughout the county as a fantastic cook, bought the small restaurant in town in order to support herself and her son. The Bitkers had only been renting the farm, so after her husband, Lawrence, passed, Ellen and Bud got a house in town, and the landowner leased the place to another farmer.
* At the request of the individuals involved in this story, names and places have been changed to protect their anonymity.
The restaurant, Ellen’s Kitchen, served breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, and dinner on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Such a schedule gave Bud plenty of opportunities to bring Bosco along to the swimming hole in warm weather and also allowed Bud the time to participate in high school sports. On Tuesday nights during the athletic season when Bud had a game, Ralphene and Gary Stokes, their former neighbors, would come in from their farm to ﬁll in.
In 2000, Bud graduated from high school and made plans to attend Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute at Wooster. It had been Lawrence Bitker’s dream that Bud would one day attend college and be a Buckeye, and he had established a savings account soon after his son’s birth so that goal could be accomplished.
Bud told his mother that he planned to take Bosco with him to college, but when the day came in September for Bud to leave, reality set in and he had to concede what his mother and his friends had argued all along: Dogs wouldn’t be welcome in dormitory rooms.
In spite of being “all grown up,” Bud admitted that he had tears in his eyes when he drove away from the well-wishers who had come to see him off from Ellen’s Kitchen. In the rearview mirror, he could clearly see a very sad and confused Bosco being held back by Ralphene Stokes.
Bud soon found himself and his thoughts completely occupied with his classes and the adjustment often experienced by students who come from small towns and small high schools to enter much larger establishments of higher education. And after a few bone-rattling series of impacts on the football ﬁeld, he quickly discovered that he would not achieve the status of Friday Night Hero that he had enjoyed back home.
Since he did not make the cutoff and so did not make the football team, Bud did ﬁnd time to drive home on an occasional weekend, and he was able to maintain quality time with Bosco during vacation periods. And there were the wonderful summers, working at the restaurant, spending time with Bosco, and even managing to work in steady dating with a girl who was attending a nearby community college.
In January 2002, during his sophomore year, shortly after he had been home for the Christmas holiday, his mother wrote Bud to let him know that she was going to visit his aunt Helen, her twin sister, in Tennessee for a few weeks. He was not to worry about Bosco. She would take him along. Ralphene and Gary Stokes would be running the restaurant while she was away.
The few weeks tragically grew to several months. Shortly after she had arrived at Aunt Helen’s, Ellen was involved in a near-fatal accident. She was hospitalized for three weeks, and she would have to recuperate at her sister and brother-in-law’s home for an undetermined length of time.
Bud ﬂew down to see his mother while she was in the hospital, and he was saddened to see her all bound up in traction and in obvious pain and discomfort.
His aunt told him that he might as well face reality—it could be months before his mother could travel back to Ohio. He shouldn’t worry about her. They had plenty of room in their home for her to recuperate.
When Bud asked about Bosco, his uncle Carleton told him that he and Bosco got along just ﬁne. Carleton had always kept hounds until just the past few years. He would take really good care of Bosco.
Bud returned to college, trying to focus on his studies and desperately attempting not to worry about his mother and Bosco.
Things seemed to be progressing as well as could be hoped.
And then he received that terrible telephone call from his uncle.
Carleton had decided to take Bosco with him to go out hunting rabbits. As soon as he let Bosco off his leash to chase some rabbits, the beagle vanished. That was the last he saw of Bosco. And that was a week ago.
His uncle’s words became awkward and apologetic as Bud heard how Carleton had put up signs and posters, placed ads in newspapers, called area veterinarians, and was doing all that he could.
Bud doesn’t recall what he said before he hung up the telephone. He only remembers being struck with pangs of guilt and sorrow. His beloved Bosco, feeling rejected and confused, had run off into the woods of Tennessee, probably never to be seen again. It was many days before Bud could even begin to focus on his class work.
About a week later, Bud learned even worse news. Because it had seemed as though Bosco would be staying in Tennessee for quite some time and Carleton wanted to take him hunting, he had removed Bosco’s Ohio dog tags. Carleton had responsibly acquired Tennessee tags, but he had forgotten to place them on Bosco before they went hunting. Without tags, Bosco would appear to be a stray dog on the loose. With this added depressing confession from Uncle Carleton, Bud somberly resigned himself to the grim reality that he would never see his beloved Bosco again.
In late August, Bud was ﬂipping hamburgers in Ellen’s Kitchen when he heard Ralphene calling his name. “Merciful heavens!” she was now shouting. “Bud, come look out the front door!”
There, leaning against the bench they kept alongside the entrance, was Bosco. He was painfully thin. His paws were worn and bleeding, but he was home.
Ralphene joined Bud in hugging and petting his beloved beagle. Bosco had become homesick and had set out on a 550-mile trek just as soon as he was able to get free of his leash. It had taken him seven months, but he had made it.
He was covered with ticks—and Bud saw that he was missing a chunk out of his left ear—but Bosco had come home.
A small crowd gathered around them, and Bud heard people expressing their awe and amazement that the tough little beagle had been able to survive and to conquer thunderstorms, heat, freezing cold, rivers, and mountains to walk the route from Tennessee to Ohio.
A visit to the local veterinarian conﬁrmed that Bosco needed some tender loving care and some good grub, but he was in relatively good condition. The strange row of scars on his back caused the vet to theorize that Bosco had been raked by some large bird of prey, such as a hawk or a large owl.
Bud called his mother and told her the good news. After her squeals of joy had subsided, Bud had another announcement to make. It was nearly time for him to head back to Ohio State in Wooster, but he had decided to transfer to the local community college since they had recently added a four-year program in business. He had two good reasons to do so. He missed Bosco, who would now need his attention and care, and he also missed a certain young lady who attended the local community college.
Scooby Returned Home After Two Months Missing
On April 27, 2006, John Haga delivered his daughters, Isabelle and Olivia, to their grandparents in Grand Junction, Colorado. On his way back to Olathe, he decided to stop in the Escalante Canyon area, about sixteen miles from home, and go for a hike with the family’s bloodhound, Scooby.
The Haga family had obtained Scooby from the local animal shelter, and the hound had quickly adapted to their home environment. Every member of the family loved Scooby, and he lavished his doggy affection on every one of them, so John had absolutely no reason to believe that once he released Scooby from the vehicle, the hound would take off like his tail was on fire. Before John had an opportunity to put a leash on Scooby’s collar, the big dog was off and running.
There was no way that he could outrun the bloodhound, so John stood helplessly beside his motor vehicle and watched Scooby disappear into the wilderness of Escalante Canyon.
For a while, John thought that since they had been driving for quite some time, Scooby just wanted to stretch his legs, obey a call of nature, and would then come running back to the car to go for a hike with his owner.
No such luck.
After waiting a considerable period of time for this hopeful scenario to unfold, John Haga got back into his car and drove up and down the dirt road, looking for some sign of Scooby.
Several futile hours passed, and John decided that he had to return to Olathe with the sad news that Scooby had disappeared.
The family was devastated by the news that their beloved hound had run off and vanished into Escalante Canyon. They spent the next three days driving the dirt roads and walking the trails of the canyon, calling and searching for their dog.
The Haga family followed the standard prescribed procedure for ﬁnding a lost dog: They put up posters, notiﬁed animal shelters and veterinarians, and placed ads in newspapers.
Finally, they gave up all hope of ever seeing their Scooby again.
Then, after two months, Scooby came walking back into the yard of the Haga home in Olathe. His life as Lord of Escalante Canyon or as King of the Road had ﬁnally soured, and he was happy to return to the Haga hearth.
The Haga family welcomed their wandering hound back home. Scooby was considerably thinner, and he bore a bit of porcupine quill in his eye that would need surgery, but he was the same old bloodhound that they all loved.
Moon Got Skunked Before She Found Her Way Home
Doug Dashiell didn’t mind that Moon, his beloved Siberian husky, smelled so bad that he could hardly get near her—he was just happy to see her again after she’d been missing for seven days. The pungent stench of skunk was overwhelming, but would wash out eventually with a few baths—well, maybe quite a few.
On April 6, 2008, during the return portion of a weekend trip to Tonopah, Nevada, Doug and his three dogs stopped at a rest stop on their way home to Ely, Nevada. Moon, a purebred Siberian husky, somehow broke loose when a link on her chain gave out. Not looking back for even a moment, she bolted into the sagebrush and took off, heading northwest in the direction of the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation.
Doug spent over two hours searching for Moon before giving up the search. He called the tribal police at the reservation, hoping to locate her there, only to be told there was no trace of her . . . yet.
Puzzling over why such a dear pet that he had cherished for one year and nine months would have taken off like that, Doug made the rest of the trek home, being extra attentive the entire way . . . just in case he might see Moon appear magically by the side of the road.
Upon arriving home, Doug comforted himself with the memories of when Moon had run away from home before, but always managed to return home within hours or a day or two at the most. Doug continued to make phone calls, inquiring throughout the entire area, and doing whatever else he thought might alert others to a missing dog.
As the days began to pass with no Moon in sight, trepidation soon sank in as Dashiell recognized this wasn’t like those few other times Moon had run away from familiar territory; this was far different. Not only was the area in which she disappeared completely foreign to the frisky husky, it was exceedingly rugged terrain, over two mountain ranges, a river, and high desert—seventy-seven miles of it! Doug feared he would never see his beloved Moon dog again. By now, one week had passed. There had not been a single phone call or report of a sighting of her and certainly no message that she had been found.
According to John Plestina of the Ely Times Reporter (June 17, 2008), after she’d been missing for seven days, Dashiell suspected that Moon was either dead, had turned wild, or that someone might have found and kept her. Any hope he might have held on to had dwindled to zero.
Then, on the following Monday morning, there came a call from the White Pine Veterinary Clinic with information about a dog that had been spotted. On Sunday night, Alvin Molea found a beautiful albeit smelly dog . . . outside of R Place grocery store in Ely. A benevolent dog lover, he took her home and gave her a warm place to sleep. Then on Monday morning when Molea went to check on the dog, he noticed a dog tag around her neck that was from the White Pine Veterinary Clinic . . . so he called the number, describing the dog he’d picked up.
It had taken Moon one week to walk from the rest stop near Tonopah to Ely, a distance of nearly eighty miles, but she’d made it! Tom Sanders from the White Pine Veterinary Clinic was happy to tell Doug that Moon was back in town—a bit worse for wear, but in one piece and very, very stinky!
Apparently a skunk had let loose its signature scent, bathing Moon in its wretched, unmistakable trademark aroma. Perhaps Moon had even chased after it or its family and had it coming, from the skunk’s perspective. No matter, Dashiell was ecstatic to be re united with his Moon and ﬁgured she must have survived on wild rabbits during the time she was missing. She was slimmer, but not frail, and seemed in good physical shape. How she survived or made it home wasn’t important. All that mattered was that she was safely home. Damage control could de-skunk Moon with as many baths as it would take to make her shine and smell “pretty” again.
Excerpted from Four-Legged Miracles by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger. Copyright © 2013 by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger.
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