April 10, 2013

Intrepid rescuer ends blind Maine dog's three-day flight

It takes a village – and Facebook, a cellphone and Google Earth – to bring them both home.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When Teddy, a partially blind pug, went AWOL Friday in Berwick, residents, friends and even strangers scoured the town looking for him.

click image to enlarge

Heather Doolittle holds Teddy, a pug who’d been lost for three days before she found him in the woods.

Courtesy Christine Holmes

Three days later, when a family friend, Heather Doolittle of Lebanon, took a turn looking in the woods off Pine Hill Road, Teddy was found.

But even as Doolittle clutched the 30-pound prize, she wasn't out of the woods. Chasing him through the undergrowth and vaulting stone walls had left Doolittle so disoriented that she had no idea which way was out in the unfamiliar forest.

Unable to reach anyone local on her cellphone, she called 911.

A dispatcher, Greg Tinsman, and Dispatch Supervisor Andy Clark determined where she was by using cellphone tower signals.

Tinsman called up Google Earth on his computer and quizzed Doolittle about features she had seen -- the pond she had passed and the field nearby.

Based on the location of the afternoon sun, he had her walk north for about 15 minutes until she reached the nearest road, where Berwick police and rescue personnel had been sent by dispatchers in South Berwick.

The dog's rescue was a huge relief to Teddy's family.

"Teddy is just such a special pug to us," said Christine Holmes. The dog belongs to her 14-year-old son, Asher, and is adored by the family.

On Friday, he was lounging in the sun, as he often does, when he plodded off to some deeper grass at the edge of the yard. After a few minutes, Holmes called to him, yelling the promise of his favorite treat -- bologna -- but he was gone.

"He just did not come and that's when the whole horrible ordeal began," she said.

Teddy doesn't see well because of cataracts and isn't really in shape for outdoor survival. Plus, he wasn't wearing his harness and dog tags.

While Holmes' husband, David, and her sons searched, she reported the dog missing to Granite State Dog Recovery and spread the word on Facebook.

Soon, the plea had spread to hundreds of well-wishers, some of whom joined the search.

"That just makes me cry to think about it, the outpouring of love and concern was so overwhelming," Holmes said.

As Friday turned into Saturday, and Saturday to Sunday, the family became increasingly fearful. Posters went up around town and a couple of sightings were reported, but still no Teddy.

Doolittle, 51, a floral designer, found out about the search on Facebook through Holmes' sister-in-law, her best friend.

On Monday, she used her iPad map to find where Teddy was last seen, talked to the man who lived there and got permission to walk the trails behind his house.

"I'm only 10 minutes into the walk," she said Tuesday. "I just happened to look over to my left and I saw movement, maybe 20 feet off the trail and I'm thinking 'Oh, there's a fox there. ... Oh my God, that's Teddy!

"I just started running for him. I'm yelling, 'Bologna!' because they said he loves bologna. He wanted nothing to do with that. He was booking," she said.

As she ran after him, Doolittle couldn't believe that the chubby pug, after three days in the woods, had so much energy. She lost sight of him at one point, but spotted his tracks in snow that remained under the trees.

She started to catch up.

"The adrenaline kicked in and, literally, I just dove for him and just grabbed," she said. "We rolled around a bit. I was hysterical, laughing and crying at the same time."

At first, the dog was upset and growling. After a few seconds, he calmed down and started licking her face.

(Continued on page 2)

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