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Couple Gets Creative to Recover Their Lost Dog

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

how to find a lost dog

Story at-a-glance -

  • If you love your dog so much that you can’t imagine life without him, it’s likely you can relate to the story of Carole and Verne King, who lost their border collie, Katie, 250 miles from home
  • Over the next 57 days, the couple tirelessly searched surrounding neighborhoods and shopping centers bordered by alfalfa farms and the wilderness of Glacier National Park
  • Looking for Katie in fields, forests and abandoned buildings, even strangers volunteered in door-to-door canvassing for clues and possible sightings
  • Two weeks in, the couple purchased two video game cameras, night vision goggles and animal traps containing their dog’s favorite cheese stick snacks in hopes they might entice Katie inside
  • Tag-teaming trips back home, resigning from a job and spending hours scrutinizing tips and possible sightings of their dog, the couple persevered and checked every lead, hoping Katie’s story would have a happy ending

You may recall an incident involving your Labrador dashing off after a squirrel — or after digging under a fence, your Jack Russell escaping the backyard — leading you to case the neighborhood for hours with your heart in your throat, before finally finding your dog at the neighbor’s.

Nearly everyone with a pet has a similar story, but some dog owners, like Carole and Verne King, go to incredible lengths to find a beloved pet that’s gone missing. If you love your dog so much that you can’t imagine life without him, you can relate.

The circumstances were somewhat like a perfect storm you don’t want to be caught in; the Kings were far from their Deer Park, Washington, home while vacationing at a dog-friendly hotel in Kalispell, Montana. Situated near Glacier National Park, the surrounding fields and forests are described as a “sprawling wilderness,” which made their late-night discovery even more desperate. According to The New York Times:

“Their 7-year-old Border collie, Katie, was no longer in the room. She had apparently managed to unlatch the door, possibly spooked by a thunderstorm that had swept through the area. At the front desk, an attendant said she had seen an anxious dog bolt out the front door hours before.”1

The couple had no idea where or how to start looking, but over the next 57 days, starting with that very night, they never stopped. They started with surrounding neighborhoods, which receded into both alfalfa farms and shopping centers — both of them daunting propositions when faced with finding their scared, anxious dog.

Calling a halt at 4 a.m. after that first night of unsuccessful searching, they weighed the possibilities. It terrified them to consider that Katie may have been struck by a vehicle on the highway, but with no evidence, they explored elsewhere. As former law-enforcement officers from Los Angeles, approaching the challenge was something like analyzing a crime scene.

Looking for tracks and dog droppings in both fields and abandoned buildings, even strangers volunteered with door-to-door canvassing that might lead to clues and possible sightings. Armed with photos of Katie, the couple had 500 flyers made with the help of the hotel clerk. They posted and handed them out everywhere they could think of, including local sporting events, social media sites and lost pet networks.

From the couple’s hometown, The Spokesman-Review newspaper described Katie as a “high-maintenance Border collie who was friendly toward people, but also very skittish and wouldn’t approach them,”2 which added to the challenge of finding her. All they could do was try.

Day 22: Dog Searching for Days, Then Weeks

Two weeks in, it was clear more intensive tactics were in order, so they purchased two video game cameras such as those used by wildlife researchers, along with night vision goggles and animal traps with Katie’s favorite cheese stick snacks in hopes, they would entice their pet inside and keep her safe until they could find her.

Brain storming sessions resulted in setting out Katie’s dog dish and blanket, as well as T-shirts they’d worn. Ms. King even resorted to jogging and bicycling around a wide swath of the area in hopes Katie would smell her scent and come running. The Times noted some of the extents they were willing to go to:

“The couple later brought in hair shavings and a couple of buckets of manure from their horses back home and, with approval from local farmers, spread it near traps and other possible locations. Later, after hearing speculation that Katie might be on the move at night time, the couple acquired night-vision goggles and spent hours out in the cold, hoping to catch a glimpse of Katie traversing a field.”3

All their efforts seemed to come to nothing, however. Riveted on the film footage night after night, there was no sight of Katie, and the traps netted only a cat, a magpie and four skunks.

Day 37: Fruitless Tips and Drastic Measures

Meanwhile, tips from area residents kept the couple’s hopes up. They endeavored to follow all of them as possible leads, even when some seemed like a reach. One tip led them to Columbia Falls, 15 miles away. They followed up, but drove away disappointed. Ms. King explained to the New York Times, “In our heart, I would always say, ‘If I didn’t follow up, what if that was her and we didn’t do anything?”4 So they kept pressing on, even when dog sightings described something other than a black and white border collie.

One of those instances was when a woman interrupted a conversation they were having with an area landowner to say she’d just seen a dog cross the country road they were standing on and head into a canola field. Off they went in pursuit, but it turned out to be someone else’s dog, not theirs.

Back home, obligations and responsibilities loomed, and the Kings discussed their options and decided to tag-team trips back home to Spokane, where Ms. King worked as a postal carrier. After searching for Katie for 37 days and finding that taking time off from work during the busy summer season to continue the search just wasn’t an option, she submitted her notice. In spite of the lost income and pension decrease, she returned to Kalispell.

She arrived just in time for her husband’s trip back home, but at their place in Kalispell, she found he’d written a “love note” to Katie. It promised that while he took care of the family’s cat and two other dogs, his trip home was only temporary — not a “Goodbye” but a “See you soon.”

Day 53: Diminishing Hope and Last-Ditch Efforts

Meanwhile, in spite of their fatigue, frustration and failing hope that Katie was still out there waiting to be found, the only bright spot was that she hadn’t been found dead. Still, Ms. King admitted that after all their efforts, she was growing demoralized. While she didn’t want to give up and go home without their beloved dog, she also couldn’t help wondering what else they could do.

Home was 250 miles away, and she was homesick for their other pets, so she planned a weekend trip until Verne suggested they give it one more week of intensive searching. Supported by new friends in Kalispell who pledged to help, including someone who had opened their home for them to stay, Ms. King agreed.

More than a dozen people committed their time and efforts in a resumed, all-out search, which both blessed them and blew them away. Verne King exclaimed to the New York Times, “We can’t believe that community up there,” to which his wife marveled, “I got out of it sheer kindness from people — from a stranger to a stranger.”5 

Four days later, someone living in a subdivision near the hotel called with the most promising tip yet: Looking out his window, the man was convinced the dog they were looking for was in his backyard at that very moment.

Day 57: ‘Everybody Is High-Fiving, Hugging Each Other’

But by the time they got there, the dog was gone. Their hopes were dashed, but not for long. Scanning nearby fields for any sign of Katie, they encountered a couple on a walk. Explaining they were looking for a lost dog, the woman pointed to a nearby tree. Under it, looking at them guardedly, was a dog. The Times describes the scene:

“It was a Border collie. They began calling Katie’s name. The dog was cautious, wary. Others in the group went silent as Ms. King called out to the dog. Katie came running at full speed and leapt into Ms. King’s arms.”6

The Spokesman-Review takes up the story from Carole Kings’ perspective:

“’I just bear-hugged her; I wasn’t going to let her go … Tears were flying, we were screaming, everybody is high-fiving, hugging each other. People are stopping in their vehicles, getting out and hugging us. I think the whole neighborhood knew that we found her.’7

At a nearby emergency vet clinic, Katie was found to be severely dehydrated, and not only 12 pounds lighter but in starvation mode. Even though she was the proverbial “skin and bones” and the doctor ordered fluids and just two tablespoons of a special food every two hours, Katie was reportedly in good spirits. Best of all, she was expected to fully recover.

When the veterinarian approached the dog that had been missing and on her own for so long, she asked, “’Is this the famous Katie?’ And her eyes welled up with tears,” Ms. King recalls. “That touched me.”8

+ Sources and References