Lost dog!

Those are two words a dog lover never wants to hear or post in the local paper or send to the radio for lost and found announcements.

I have a couple of friends who put out those words last week after their two beloved pets "went over the fence" and headed to who knew where. We now know where they ended up and it is a good end to the story.

These two young dogs had never strayed far from home, but dogs do what dogs will do and for some unknown reason they headed out across field, forest, swamps and lakes. They may have started out chasing a rabbit or some other critter that led them away from their kennel, but away they did go and the words "Lost Dog" were posted across my Facebook page to be on the lookout for these two nomads.

I once owned a huge, lumbering coonhound named Jake. Jake turned out to be a decent hunter and he was usually seen stretched out in the summer sun somewhere on our farmyard. The Bluetick hound was not what you would call energetic. He always took the shortcut to the feed pan; and when on the hunt with the dog, it was easy for humans to keep pace following his huge hound voice as he tracked a ringtail bandit from one hill to another.

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In other words, Jake never worked too hard at his trade.

One frosty night in November my cousin and I set out for one of our many raccoon hunts among the hills and gullies of western Iowa. Jake was the only dog we brought along that evening, thinking that we would have an easy time keeping up with him. It was not long before we heard Jake's bellow and we followed eagerly until we found Jake sitting under a huge cottonwood tree with his nose pointing skyward.

Shining our flashlights up into the high branches, we spied raccoon's eyes reflecting back at us. Our hunt was over and we left the critter alive and on his tree limb. We called Jake as we ambled back to our car. Jake never came back. Lost dog.

I left my coat at the car's parking space overnight hoping Jake would be found there the next morning. He wasn't to be seen. I drove the back roads in search of my dog for a week and started to fear that Jake had either been run over or shot. I placed an ad in the local paper with no response.

I had about given up finding Jake when I received a call from my uncle who lived in the area.

"John, I just got a call from a neighbor who said there was a huge Bluetick hound lying beside a dead steer in his pasture. I think it might be Jake."

It was.

I drove into the neighbor's farmyard and the farmer pointed to where I could find the dog. As I approached, I saw Jake lying in the grass beside the dead steer, wagging his tail and seeming to smile. He had gained about 20 pounds and didn't seem eager to leave his treasure.

There was a creek flowing about 50 yards in front of Jake, so he had all he could eat, water and a soft place to sleep. What else could a dog ask for?

After leashing him, I had to virtually drag him back to my car. Jake's vacation was over.

The two dogs I referred to in my opening paragraph were luckily found by a lady who must have loved dogs. They had traveled around five miles from home and the owner said they were full of ticks and covered with mud and swamp water.

The dogs' finder picked off a bunch of ticks and gave each a nice sudsy bath. She had heard of the lost dog notice and delivered the dogs back to their kennel that night much to the relief of their owners.

When I hear the words "lost dog" I will always think of my Jake and how he merrily camped out for more than a week next to a dead steer with all the niceties of life around him. I also remember what a relief it was to find him well and alive.

There were other nasty things that could have happened. Jake didn't seem to know that.

See you next time. Okay?