Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Berry's Great Mis-Adventure

It all feels kind of like a dream. The instant I looked down at my phone, while attending a wedding shower in St. Louis to find that I had missed 2 calls from Matt in less than 4 minutes, I knew it was bad. He was supposed to be at the hotel, swimming with the boys, so, instantly I knew that one of our children had drowned. I couldn't breath as I waited and waited for Matt to answer my call back. He didn't pick up. I called again, and again. Diana followed me to a back corner near the laundry and fiddled with the dryer (hope she didn't damage anything) and the whole party disappeared as I focused on that phone. Finally, a voice, "Berry ran off." Huh? What? How? Why? That dog has literally never left the front yard, ever. "She panicked when the neighbor came to let her out and just took off." Shit.

Here we are, her people, 4 hours away in St. Louis. At a party. At a hotel. Breath, Erin. And start texting like mad. I tried to notify every single person I knew in Brookside. I posted to Facebook. Matt posted to Next door. Within minutes I had friends and family looking. Within an hour, someone had responded to my Instagram post that they'd seen her in Mission Hills, but that she was too scared to come and was just running. People came together from all directions, connections, neighborhoods to get the word out. To give us advice. To help us. In the same moment that I was sick to my stomach with worry, my heart was filled to the brim with amazement at all the human kindness. One of my longest and bestest friends spent no less than 5 hours searching for that dog on Saturday.

This was a dog. A silly family pet. How often had I not given a second thought when I loose dog didn't come to me? I shrugged it off, and though, "Oh, I'm sure it gets out all the time and is headed home." Never again. If I see a loose dog, if I can't pick it up, you betcha I'll be scouring those lost and found sights, calling animal control and finding it's owners.

We got that first sighting one hour after she escaped, then proceeded to have 54 hours of silence.

Berry went dark.

Matt drove, and drove and drove for days. The hope I was clinging to, was that she'd been found and they were just waiting for Monday morning to take her in to an open shelter or vet. I called every single one. No luck. The sad thoughts that whirled through  my head never ceased. I wanted to start preparing myself that she was gone. Sure that she'd either been hit, was curled-up injured, freezing and dying, or someone had found her and was simply keeping her for their own because she is simply the sweetest thing in the world.

So sure was I of tragedy, that I scoffed at the insistence by veteran pet rescue searchers to create flyers. How on earth could printing flyers and hanging them help anything? Everyone is on Next door and Facebook. Where would I print them? How many, how much, who would create it? How would I hang them. Everything felt like a mountain. Even feeding my children. Thank goodness my sister took a few for those middle 40 hours. 

This is where the encouraging stories play a vital role. Friends, family, acquaintances all started telling me their lost pet stories. How their dog was gone for 2 weeks and they found them. My mom reminded me of my sister's childhood dog, Ribbon, who ran off and was found underneath a truck almost 3 days later. Texts about neighborhood dogs being gone for 2 weeks and being reunited. The more people told me these things, the more I realized, we have to do the signs. We have to do everything.

A kind woman, named Kim, connected to me through one of my very first swim coaches sent me a long, long text explaining to me exactly how to make the flyers. This complete stranger had so much advice for me and told me to call her at anytime if I needed more help. I quickly created the file, called around to printers and found one who said he'd like to do it for me immediately and at cost (Moss Printing on Johnson Drive). He told me his own tragic pet story and said he wanted to do anything to help, and to keep him posted on the search. Matt bought a laminator and some zip ties. I got some bright colored poster board, and we went to town. Creating 100 signs. People reached out and asked for the PDF so they could print and hang signs in their own neighborhoods.

We drove around hanging signs, the kids bound up in the van watching a movie. I honestly cannot remember when or if the kids were present for most of this venture. Matt was annoyed that I insisted on coming, and bringing the children, but I told him, "I'm not currently equipt to care for them." My brain couldn't switch off. I could hardly hear my children, let alone care for them. My phone ran out of battery 9 times in 70 hours (normally this would only happen 2-3 times.) I was glued to it, waiting for something!! Anything. On any one of the 7 Facebook groups, 3 lost and found sites or Next door, or a phone call from a flyer. It got to be after 7pm on Monday night, so Matt dropped us at home so I could attempt to focus on the kids for a moment and feed them and put them to bed. So, I put my phone on the charger and spent the next 15 minutes warming mac & cheese and hot dogs.

Then, it happens. A foreign number starts ringing. "Hi, is this the person looking for Berry? I posted to Next door, but I think my husband and I saw your dog cross Shawnee Mission parkway and Santa Fe heading South. I got out and on the ground and called to her and just as she started to come to me a motorcycle scared her away. We tried to follow but she was running away full steam and we lost her." What!!? OMG. She's alive! She's alive. I got off the phone and sent Matt in that direction. I called me mom to relieve me, so I could head that way. Soon, another sighting an hour later and 10 blocks further South. I had texted friends. Matt's mom headed that way. I ran into an old neighbor who'd seen that she was in their neck of the woods and he came out with his own dog to search. Again, we drove for hours. No luck. It was snowing and freezing and pitch black.
Matt hung signs all around Overland Park and headed home around 11:45pm. Exhausted. Disappointed. And hopeful, we tried to sleep.

But, she's alive. She's crossed so many major, major intersections, has been out for 60 hours, and it still able to run fast enough that no one can catch her. She's ok. We will get her in the morning. I can feel it.
The next morning, we woke up to another post. Someone on Nextdoor said they'd seen her another 8 blocks South at 1am (79th and Antioch.) Matt headed straight that way to search and hang more flyers. Our neighbor headed out to search before work. Mimi headed out again. Our previous nanny of almost 5 years, Kerry, loaded up her kiddo and headed that way. I got the kids dressed and fed and motivated, and we started our own search party. No luck.

I called Matt at about 11:30am to inform him that the kids were done, they needed food and to be released from their car seats. He stated that he didn't want to leave the area, in case we got a call, but you could tell his spirits weren't real high. No sooner did I start to drive home, than my phone rings again, and a woman slightly out of breath says, "I just walked past your flyer and I see your dog! She's right in front of me at 81st and Mackey, I'm trying to follow her." My heart is pounding, I can't believe it, that's near where we are all searching. I turn around, I tell her to keep an eye on her if she can, but to not chase her. I hang up and call Matt, he starts to head that way. I hang up to see I'd missed a call from Kerry. I call her back and get a loud, "I've found her, Erin! I've found her. There are a few of us trying to get her." And I stay on the phone with Kerry, as she gently calls Berry's name, and finally, the terrified, panicked pup stopped. Her brain switched off survival mode, and she curled up crying at Kerry's feet. It was over.

71 hours later, a lifetime, yet a flicker, we had our pup. It all feels kind of like a dream.

If this experience taught me anything, it is this: there are still amazing, altruistic, caring, helpful people that exist in this world. So many of them. Good exists.

But it also showed me that:

Tragedy helps you really see what matters and get over past indiscretions.

Microchip, tag, collar and leash your dog. No matter how well trained or behaved they are. (Berry had never previously left the yard.)

Flyers work.

I don't know how those families that have a loved one go missing that is never found, ever function normally again. My brain really couldn't switch off into normal life function. I honestly didn't hardly eat or drink my self, let alone feed my children.

There are some people out there that are just "do-er's". And I am not trying to dis anyone, but do'er's are my favorite types. I'm not real sure I qualify as one. I describe myself as the "idea man", with poor execution skills. Which might be why I surround myself with do'ers, because, they jumped into action without hesitating. Spent hours of their weekend searching the streets of KC. They are amazing.

My eye is still twitching.

My heart is still swelling.

Things I still don't understand after this whole experience:
Why do we have pets in the first place?
So, that, my friends, was the great Berry chase of 2017.



No comments: