There is nothing like a lost dog to bring out offers of help and forge new friendships.
Ginny Weir, Pacific, is amazed by all the new friends she collected when Tyson, her four-year-old German shepherd, did the unthinkable and jumped over a fence in rural Grubville Feb. 28 and went missing.
Tyson was an inside dog and so trusting he had never challenged a fence of any kind. Ginny could put up a toddler gate in the house and Tyson would never go near it.
Tyson, who weighed 106 pounds before he went missing, was so lovable that Ginny began training him to work as a therapy dog to visit nursing homes and children’s hospitals. That’s why he was in Grubville.
He was spending a week at the home of trainer Kevin Goede for a boot camp of sorts to provide intermediate training when — on the day before he was to be picked up — he did the unexpected and jumped over the back fence.
After making the call to Ginny, Goede’s wife Cheryl telephoned Pat Tuholske, an experienced tracker who met Ginny in Grubville to help search for Tyson.
It was Pat who called The Missourian editor, asked if I liked dog friendly stories, and gave me Ginny’s phone number.
Over a 10-day period, Pat and Ginny became fast friends as the tracking expert explained how animals who are out of their own territory behave. Many times they run away from the people searching for them.
Word spread through the Grubville community of a lost German shepherd and calls began to come in that Tyson had been spotted. The postmaster, UPS driver and utility workers all described the large black and tan German shepherd that was loose. There were 15 spottings that were so specific that Ginny was convinced the caller had seen Tyson. She kept a large satellite photo of the area, studied the terrain reaching away from the Goede yard and marked the spots where people thought they had seen her dog.
Someone posted the story on Facebook and the story attracted a thousand hits in a matter of days. People from the St. Louis area responded.
As the days passed, so many searchers were out walking the rural area calling Tyson’s name that there was some concern that he was being scared away.
Ginny, who works evenings, went to Grubville each day to the last spot where Tyson had been seen. She walked the area, with Pat, whistling and calling Tyson’s name.
She walked onto the farm of Carly Isermann, a tracker, who offered to show her the most likely spots on her farm that a lost dog might wander onto. Ginny’s mother, Katie Coyle, who is part of an active walking group, came along and the trio walked 15 miles in one day.
“Carly was an angel,” Ginny said, “so calm and willing to walk anywhere and keep searching.”
Ginny set up feeding stations and the following morning the food would be gone, but she could not be certain that it was Tyson who had eaten. She set up live traps, a game camera and sprinkled flour on the ground hoping to capture Tyson’s paw print, but could never be certain it was him. Eyes were seen on the game camera, but the picture was too blurry for identification.
One day she walked onto the property of Gerry Walker, who had a dog with him when she approached. Walker, who owns 200 acres, welcomed Ginny onto the property and walked with her to the spots where Tyson would find water.
Ginny and her husband Danny drove to Grubville every day to search, but not together. Ginny went before work and Danny, who is self-employed, went after Ginny came home. Things were getting bleak and Ginny was getting tired, but she could not give up.
On the 14th day, Ginny received a call from a man known locally as farmer Phil. He said he could see what he thought might be Tyson in a field beyond his barn.
Ginny was so exhausted she hesitated. But because the farm butted up against the Goede property where Tyson went missing she and Danny drove back to Grubville where Pat Tuholske met them.
Standing at the barn, looking over an open pasture surrounded by trees, the animal that they could see was so far away they could not be sure it was Tyson, but the color looked right.
As Danny and Pat stayed by the barn with binoculars trained on the animal, Ginny walked in a circular route to get closer.
Experts had given her advice about how to avoid spooking an animal that was lost and fearful. They said animals can’t resist a human that is lying on the ground. When she thought she was close enough for Tyson to hear her voice she lay down on the ground and began to call him.
Danny, watching through binoculars, reported that the animal was not moving.
Ginny got up and walked closer. This time she sat with her back to the animal and began to whistle and shout the phrases that Tyson was familiar with.
“He’s turned his head toward you,” Danny reported. “He’s up and coming toward you.”
Ginny remained still as the animal crept toward her. Finally in a bound, he threw himself into her lap.
Back in his Pacific home Tyson is 18 pounds lighter, but otherwise safe and happy while Ginny looks back on the 14-day ordeal as an experience she will not forget. She never gave up hope. Still, she is amazed at the number of times she and Tyson crossed paths before they found each other and the number of people who helped in the search.
“He led a pretty cushy life before this happened,” Ginny said. “He’s lost a lot of weight, but otherwise he’s OK and I have more new friends than I can count.”