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Chien's Big Adventure
by Jean Lewis
On Friday morning, August 4, 2006, I let Chien (aka Lexie) out into the enclosure. This is a fenced in area that wraps around the back of my studio and the front of the house. Even though it is simple vinyl coated woven wire (4 foot) fencing, she had never seemed to challenge it in any way. Some of the cats had been scootching under it in a couple places to get in and out... and Pippin actually would scale it to get over when he wanted, but Chien never came really close to it.
My husband Dave has since reinforced the fence and built convenient "stairs" for the kitties.
It was about 7:30 am, and I went in the house to take a shower. I heard an excited bark/yip from Chien, not like any bark I had heard from her before, so I ran out to see what was going on. She was gone.
I threw my clothes on and immediately started looking for her. There was absolutely no sign of her at all. I looked where I thought it most likely she would have gone and heard and saw nothing.
My car was at a local repair shop (and Dave was working in NJ for my dad). At 8 am, when the auto shop opened, I called them and told them Chien had jumped the fence and I had to have my car back immediately. The shop provides rides, and I had made friends with the woman who owns the place with her husband. They have golden retrievers they bring in frequently, so we talked dogs whenever we saw each other. Robin came right away with my car and stayed to help me look for a good part of the morning. She had met Chien the day before and hung out with us for a while to try to get to know her. Robin and I hiked on foot, and we drove up and down the road looking for several hours.
Around 9 am, I stopped and contacted Carolina Poodle Rescue director Donna Ezzell to tell her what was going on. CPR is the organization who rescued Chien and adopted her to us. Chien was still wearing tags showing her to be theirs and her microchip will always be registered to CPR... so I wanted to make sure they knew in case someone picked her up and called them. I had no idea CPR (Donna) would respond in the way they did. It was pretty amazing.
I also called State Police, local dog law, humane society and the radio station... as well as a good friend and fellow animal advocate, Ruth Cummings.
Donna immediately contacted the CPR volunteers through email and requested help through prayer and asked if there were any tracking dogs available in the area. Because Chien was a "troubled" and very fearful dog, we knew that she would run from anyone trying to catch her... but she loves other dogs and a tracking dog might be really effective to entice her to come to us.
Sometime mid-morning, I drove Robin back to the shop and continued looking by car and by foot. I called Dave to let him know what was going on. By then, I started getting emails from the CPR volunteers telling me they were praying for Chien, for her safety and for her return.
I was frantic. Here was this dog, not yet acclimated to our place... terrified of people... wouldn't even come to Dave or me, somewhere in this hilly and rough terrain with hundreds, no thousands of acres of dense woods. How could I ever get her back? I started going door-to-door all up and down our road. Donna called me frequently, with reassurance and advice. Several people told me I should grill meats outside to entice her home. By late afternoon, I started up the charcoal grill. I stayed up until 1 or 2 am and grilled every piece of meat I could. Over 6 pounds of hot dogs and 5 pounds of chicken. When I ran out of hot dogs, I grilled all the sausage and kielbasa that had been in our freezer.
My greatest fear for Chien was that coyotes would think she was a sheep and kill her. I was not as worried about her on the roads since she is so fearful of everything, I did not think she would go anywhere near moving vehicles. But she might think a coyote was a dog and get in trouble with them.
By Saturday morning, Donna had contacted Candace who is a CPR volunteer near Harrisburg who has a tracking dog (Joshua). Joshua and Chien had met because we used Candace's home as the meeting location for adopting Chien. Chien LOVED Joshua... he is a stunning, very confident standard poodle. Chien hardly took her eyes off of him when they were out together in Candace's fenced in yard. She followed him all around the yard and watched every step he took. Candace graciously volunteered to bring Joshua out to track and search.
That morning, Donna asked me if I was willing to work with a "communicator". She said some people think it is crazy, but CPR would pay for it if I was willing. I never even heard of this and she had to explain as best she could that a communicator can talk with animals. They don't have to be in the location at all. Donna had contacted Pamela Saylor, a communicator she had used before who happened to be in York, PA. I told Donna I would do anything short of dealing with Satan to get this dog back safely. So she made an appointment for 10 am.
Meanwhile, I made up hundreds of flyers with Chien's picture and information and started canvassing the area with them. Candace would be here about noon, and I had several hours to search before the phone appointment with Pam.
At 10, Donna, Pam and I had a conference call to start the communication session. Pam could tell I was really skeptical, but that did not seem to bother her at all. She asked a lot of questions at first about who lived here (people and animals), and she told me to not take it personally if she became short with me at some point. She told me she would be attempting to talk with Chien out loud. I took notes during the entire conversation.
After asking me questions, and giving me some instructions and information about the process, Pam started attempting to reach Chien. She said out loud, "Lexie/Moppet, (those were the names she had been called up to that point) Lexie/Moppet who lives on Point Road with Jean and Dave Lewis... this is Pamela... will you talk with me?" Pam repeated this several times. I'm sure I don't remember the exact words, but it was similar to what I wrote here. After a few minutes, Pam started to explain, "I am Pamela, you don't know me, but I am sending you a picture of me... there... that is me, I am Pamela. Will you send me a picture of you? Thank you." Then Pam was quiet for a bit before asking me if I had not described Chien as being cream-colored. I confirmed that and Pam told me Chien told her she was TWO colors.... that's when I really started to realize something was going on. Chien has apricot tips on her ears... overall, she is cream-color, but poodle-people always comment on her apricot tips.
so, I was becoming a believer. I also really wanted to believe that Chien had survived the night.
Then, Pam told Chien that she needed to tell her "what you see, what you smell, and what you sense". Much of what Pam said, she repeated several times. Then Pam would "translate"... and the first thing she said was, "I see pigs, I smell pigs".
My first impulse was to slam down the phone and start finding anyone with pigs in the area.... but I waited and listened for more. And there was a good bit more as Pam prompted Chien for more information. I don't know if what Chien was communicating was in pictures... I need to ask Pamela about that. But the messages she gave Pamela were:
I see pigs.
I smell pigs.
There are not very many of them.
I also smell cow manure.
There is a white building. It is very short.
Pam asked here about where she was and what she was looking at.
Chien told her where she was it was dark, that she was looking at a field that looked white.
She smelled apples.
There was some kind of traffic near by.
And she saw a German Shepard (which I suspect was actually a coyote).
Pam asked Chien about how she left and why. It seemed like she was saying she chased something and just wanted to explore. It also sounded like she had gotten through the fence on a side which at the time I thought was unlikely.
Pam asked Chien if she knew how to get back and she said "no". Pam told her that Joshua was coming to help find her and that if she saw or smelled him, she was to come out of the woods to him.
We had gotten about as much as we could at that point and I was anxious to follow up with the pigs clue. So I got on the phone to neighbors and found out there were 4 places in the area which have had pigs. The first one (who was the neighbor/farmer I called) - said he no longer had any pigs. He told me about two other neighbors with pigs, and I thought I knew of one other. The one I knew of told me her pig had died a month ago. So I got in the car and went to the two places my neighbor told me about. The first place was just up the road and when I got there, they told me they had had pigs, but had sold them the week before at the fair. The last one was trucked away only an hour before I got there. But there had only been that one.... so I felt like that could not be the place anyway, since there was only one pig.
The other place was past the top of our road, where the road forks and almost doubles back on itself. There is a church there and that upper road is at the top of the ridge behind our property. Just past the church, there is a dirt road. You can see one house from the main road and I never knew there was anything beyond it... but that is where the farm with the pigs was, so I drove back there. It is a long, long drive and the farmer has a very private setting. Lots of no trespassing signs and even security cameras... but my neighbor had told me to tell the farmer he said it was ok for me to trespass.
When I got to the farm itself, the farmer and his wife were so kind and wanted to help in any way they could. They had not seen Chien, but they would watch for her. Their farm is enormous. Their pigs are kept in a sort of free-range wooded enclosure of about 3 acres. At the edge of the field facing their house, I could see a really long, low white structure. I didn't know what it was; it was only about 4 feet high and maybe 30 feet long.
It was time for Candace to arrive and I needed to meet her at the house, so I got permission to come back with her and Joshua.
All morning, I stopped everyone I saw and handed out flyers. I got back to the house just as Candace and Joshua got there. Joshua was taken to the enclosure to try to pick up Chien's scent, but it was so hot and dry, Candace was concerned he would not be able to track her. Normally, he will pee where he picks up the scent, and he didn't pee anywhere.
This was around noon and we decided to go directly to the farm with the pigs. We stopped any vehicles we saw and handed out flyers. When we turned up the lane to the pig farm, a lady was driving out (from the house on that same lane). We stopped her and handed her a flyer through the car windows. She immediately said, "I just saw this dog." Turns out she saw Chien about 10 am.
I burst out crying then.... I was so relieved to have confirmation Chien was still alive. This lady (I still don't know her name), told us she tried to call the dog but she ran away. She told us she used to have a dog that acted like that, so she was concerned and followed her. Chien had run back down the lane (towards the road) and had gone down the hill behind the church. The lady showed us exactly where Chien had run.
So Joshua, Candace and I trekked all through the woods behind the church looking and calling... looking and calling. But Joshua was not getting any scents. We followed on down to properties below the church... passed out more flyers and got no leads. We decided to go to the farm with the pigs since the property behind the church seemed to border on the farm.
We searched and searched at the farm for hours. I contacted Pamela and the information Pam got from Chien did not indicate Chien could see or hear us. It was scary where we were looking. There are old abandoned log cabins on parts of the farm where we thought she had been... it felt unsafe. Even Joshua acted strangely keeping right next to Candace. He peed once right on the farm lane and Candace told me later she was frightened because of the way Joshua was acting.
We took a break (Joshua likes ice cream!), and came back and searched more. By late afternoon, Candace had to go back to Harrisburg to take care of her other dogs and I made arrangements with the farmer to camp out and see if Chien would come to me once it got dark. We left the farm about 5:15. As we came out of the lane, I became really depressed with the light changing and no sign of Chien. As we came to the end of the lane, Candace and I both saw at the same time, an opening directly across the road where utility poles went down to the lower road (Point Road). I had never seen that before, and we both realized that that would be a perfect place for a dog to run from the lower road to the upper road.
We proceeded back to the house and as we turned the corner by the church, I had the strongest voice inside my head say, "Lexie MUST COME HOME TONIGHT." I knew I wanted her to come home, but this was a command... and it repeated itself in my head and I said it out loud to Candace. I believe now that God was telling me that so that I would not go back to the farm to camp and wait for her.
As soon as Candace left, I rushed to the grocery store to buy more meat, came back and started up the grill and tried to call the farmer to tell him I would not be coming after all.... I could not find him in the book and so I called Pamela to tell her to tell Chien "SHE MUST COME HOME TONIGHT"... I had just told Pamela that, when my other line rang... it was the farmer.... so I hung up with Pamela to call him back quick. He told me, "I just saw her. She was at the end of the road and she ducked down into an opening across the road...".
Niki and Jean.
I was beside myself... I didn't know if I should drive back up there (it was almost dark out)... so I called Pamela back. She told me I had to make up my mind about going and looking, or staying and trying to get Chien to come back. She asked me if any of our cats had made a connection with Chien. It so happened that our Niki had connected with her. He is our peacemaker kitty and is kind to any animal... Pamela said she could try to connect with Niki to help Chien find her way back home. So I decided I would stay here and work with Pamela and Niki.
So I am trying to get the stupid grill started... the only time I had tried before was the previous night. Dave has been coaching me over the phone, but I am so stressed, it isn't working. The cats are all watching as I start some ground beef on the stove in the house and leave the doors open to let the aroma out. Then I call Pamela again.
As she begins to communicate with both Lexie and with Niki, I finally get the grill started. Pamela tells Chien she must come home. In beginning to communicate with Niki, she asks him if he knows where Chien is. He does not. He has never been there. Chien does not know where she is, she is confused, hungry and scared. Pamela tells her there is meat for her and she will be able to smell it. Then she asks permission to tie a cord around her to lead her home with. She asks Niki if he will help and if she can tie the other end around him. She tells Niki to pull on the cord and asks Chien if she feels it... she does. So begins the task of working with Niki to "pull" Chien home. Chien is tired and wants to stop and we won't let her. I finally ask Pamela if she can teach me to help, and she coached me through the process and adds another cord from me to Chien. She tells me to tug on it. I am reluctant because of Chien's aversion to leashes so I barely tug it. Pamela asks if I have pulled on the cord... that Chien has not felt it. So I pull harder and Pam tells me that is better.
Photo courtesy of the Bedford Gazette. Niki walks up to greet Chien.
After giving me instructions about continuing to pull on the cord and continuing to talk to Chien, I get off the phone with Pam and work with Niki to pull Chien home. I grilled 15 pounds of ground beef! My communication with Chien is to confirm we are her "forever" home now. That she will be safe here. That she has to come home tonight. That there is meat for her. I know she is tired, but she has to keep coming home tonight. By 11 pm, I am exhausted and I feel like the progress has stopped. There seems to be more traffic on our road (and I become concerned about that). I stop and check my email and there is one from a CPR volunteer telling me that she has been trying to help with communication, too, and that she thinks that Chien has stopped because she is confused. I decide to give Chien a break and tell her she can rest for a little while.
At 11:30 pm. I start up again. I tell Chien she has to wake up and keep walking home. I am relentless and firm. Earlier, I set up her crate (which she has not used with us, but CPR people tell me she likes), and I have opened a big area of the enclosure for her to be able to get back in through. I set out food and water in a couple places in and out of the enclosure. The cats all keep watch.
At 1:30 am I am so exhausted, I know I cannot do more. I tell Niki to please keep pulling Chien home, I have to lie down. I lie down on my cot in the studio and fall asleep immediately. At exactly 3:00 am, I hear our driveway alarm and know immediately it is not Chien because that is not the way she would be coming in to the property. But I get up to see what it is and sure enough, there is the neighborhood tom cat slinking away. He has come to raid the food I have left out for Chien. As I turn back towards the house I see her. She is in the enclosure and she looks like a phantom in the moonlight. I don't know if I am dreaming or fantasizing. But it is her.
A piece of advice several people actually lectured me about, was that when I would see Chien for the first time, I was to remain calm. That if I got too excited, she might bolt. So I just started saying in a calm voice, "Oh what a good girl you are..." and I sank to the ground right where I was. I sat cross-legged gazing at her, and immediately, Niki came onto my lap. He circled round and round on my lap at least a half dozen times, purring loudly. He is a lap cat, but he never does that... he normally acts like a rag doll cat and flops down right away. This was amazing to me. I petted him and thanked him profusely. I know he was celebrating with me. What an incredible good cat he is!
Chien started to run back and forth, whimpering... and I remembered I promised her MEAT. So I fixed a bowl of cooked ground beef and got her fresh water. She was so skittish... but she ate and drank well.
Even though she was in the enclosure, it took me over 4 hours to catch her. Anyone who thinks dogs do not have a sense of humor should have seen that whole scene. I could get her to come closer and closer (she is very food motivated). She would take food out of my hand, but as soon as I would turn my hand to get her collar, she would scamper off. As I sat still, she would come up and sit less than a foot in back of me. Four hours of that.
I finally created a "barricade" with lawn chairs to corner her. Hated to do that, but she was so relieved to be "caught". I was not about to let her out of my sight until I had a lead on her.
This photo was taken today (September 4, 2006, as Chien lay under my desk next to me while I wrote up our story about her little adventure.
I do believe she knows that this is her safe forever home now. And even though I don't let her loose, I don't think at this point, she would go very far at all. I also believe that prayer kept her safe. There is a picture in my mind of her in a translucent golden bubble created by prayer.
I cannot close out this story without mentioning my heartfelt appreciation for all of the prayers, efforts and skills so generously provided by Donna Ezzell of Carolina Poodle Rescue, volunteers Candace and Joshua, and Pamela Saylor who communicated with Chien and Niki. And to all of the friends, neighbors, familiy and CPR volunteers who prayed for Chien's safe return. (Here is a link to a copy of the Letter to the Editor I sent to the local paper.)
Thank you God in heaven, for hearing our prayers. I pray that this serves as a testimony of our faith.
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