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When last seen, Angelo a smooth coated collie, was feeling ill and confused after a pour-on tick treatment had been administered. His family feared that he was lost in the woods... possibly too sick to move.
After almost dying, Karin's lead dog Cade was just returning to work after suffering a similar incident with a pour-on tick treatment.
Angelo's case was the first case Cade would work after several months of recuperation from the same malady.
Below is Angelo's story as told by his family...
Officially, he's Ch. Marchello's Royal Guardian HIC -an 8 year old Smooth coated collie with successes in the confirmation ring, a certification in herding, experience in Therapy, and my daughter Sarah's Junior Showmanship dog. He's far better known as Angelo and more important than any titles he's earned is that he's an essential part of our family and we love him more than practically anything.
Angelo's story begins with me applying a topical flea and tick medication on him and his having a bad reaction to it. He was sick all night long and into the next day as well. For some dogs, a matter such as this would just take time to get over but Angelo has a history of small GI issues turning into serious problems which has landed him in the emergency clinic, so we never treat anything lightly.
Angelo goes missing...
We left him in the care of my son Matt, who took him out mid day and left him unattended for a moment- when he returned Angelo had vanished. I was at work and couldn't leave. My husband Steve left work early and came home to search. Sarah joined the hunt as soon as she got home from school. When I pulled into the driveway 5 hours after he had last been seen and no one ran out to greet me shouting he had been found my heart sank because I knew how serious this situation would be. Angelo is not allowed to roam, but the times he has escaped he was always found within 20 minutes either by us or a neighbor - five hours was unimaginable and being as sick as I had left him in the morning filled me with dread. We are surrounded by swamps and deep woods covered with thick undergrowth this time of year. Angelo could have been lying anywhere in need of medical attention.
We searched into the dark and turned up nothing. Sarah and I went out with a flashlight trying see the reflections of his eyes and gave up after about an hour. Reluctantly we went home, leaving Angelo outside and by himself for the first time in his life.
Needless to say, we didn't sleep well that night - Friday dawned with a need to make up lost dog fliers and distribute them to vets, local shelters, and neighbors. We began our search again finding nothing. It was if he had never existed at all.
I have to admit it was not my idea to contact Karin. A good friend, who owns Dachshunds suggested the tracking idea and made a connection to Jordina somehow. Jordina provided my friend with Karin's information and she in turn passed Karin's number on to me.
Several things struck me when I first called Karin -she was a calming influence in a situation that for me had gotten out of control. She was able to analyze what facts I could give her and combine them with topographical maps she pulled up on the internet and was able to offer predictions on what might have happened - the wild card was Angelo being ill and having just gone through that first hand with her lead dog Cade, she was very sensitive to how that can totally change a scenario. She agreed to meet with me and Sarah the next day to try and find Angelo. It poured that night and the winds were high - very distressing - but we went to sleep that night believing that we might at least find some closure the next day.
Karin and Jordina showed up at 11AM on Saturday - Angelo had been now missing for 48 hours. She first brought Cade out - a lab/coonhound mix. This would be Cade's first case since his illness and we weren't sure how good his stamina would be. Karin presented him with Angelo's scent article - a fabric clown collar he had worn in Sarah's high school production of 12th Night he had been featured in last fall - and Cade immediately started pulling Karin in the direction Angelo had reportedly last been seen in. He led her deep into the woods, over a stone wall, and into an unmown farmer's field. We were now past the point any of us had searched because we were so convinced that Angelo was sick or dying. When Cade scaled the side of a granite face and scrambled onto the rise above it I was hard pressed to believe Angelo was capable of ascending such a vertical climb but Karin mentioned that since Cade tracks the air the routes he takes are not always the ones the dog he's tracking would have taken. We paused by a shed where we saw dried muddy footprints which might have been Angelo's - it heartened me to think he had spent a night under shelter and down a driveway where Cade seemed to start losing Angelo's scent a bit.
At this point, to give Cade a break, and to confirm the trail he had shown us, Karin had us go back to my house and begin the journey all over again, this time using Brodie, a German wirehaired pointer who tracks by ground scent. Brodie led Karin out in the same direction and his path was exactly what Cade's had been. I can't tell you the feeling I got seeing two completely different dogs using two completely different methods of tracking determine where this beloved dog I thought was dead had traveled. I was exhilarated - for the first time in two days I thought there was a good chance Angelo was still alive.
Cade got switched back in and led us to the next town....and unfortunately straight onto a trail which put Angelo on the Metro North Train tracks - one of the busiest train corridors on the East Coast. Brodie confirmed Angelo's scent to the tracks. So did Nash, a beagle cross, as did Trump, a Jack Russell Terrier. All the optimism I had been feeling left me and I was certain Angelo had met his fate on those tracks. The same friend who found Karin for me had lost her Lab on that exact same stretch of tracks the year before. Karin allowed Jordina to track with Brodie alongside of the tracks for a short period of time but soon the sides of the tracks closed in and it wasn't safe to track any more.
At this point I was all set to just walk the tracks by myself because if Angelo had died there I needed to know that and wanted retrieve his remains. Karin suggested we try to get a better idea how far down the tracks his scent went first so that I did not have to look in areas he had not been to. We drove alongside the tracks and as soon as Karin saw a trestle over the marsh her gut feeling was that Angelo would not have crossed such a structure. That assumption proved correct - Cade was not able to detect Angelo's scent past that point and we back tracked until he picked up his scent again, now knowing exactly how far Angelo had been on the tracks without putting handlers and dogs in danger. I am still in awe that Cade is able to detect a scent in the air 1/4 mile away - it's just mind boggling!
We parted ways with a clear plan -I would first check the tracks to see if Angelo was there. In the meantime when Karin got back home to Massachusetts, she would design a better sign for us and tell us exactly where these signs needed to be posted in detail with instructions on everything we'd need to do to move forward.
Sarah and I went back home and brought Steve and Matt with us to search the tracks. We walked on one side of the tracks, Matt and Steve the other and it was a pretty grim moment for us. It seemed surreal that a dog that had been so carefully attended to his whole life would have it end on railroad tracks a mile away from his home.....fortunately we didn't find him which gave me hope again our boy was alive.
Following up... Working the strategy
Karin's emails started arriving as soon as she got back home. How she had the stamina to do more work after the physical workout we had endured all day plus the 6 hours it took her to drive to Connecticut and back, I'll never know but the first one contained the redesigned signage and it was fantastic. So professional! The next email showed the routes each of the dogs had taken that day and subsequent emails showed where signs needed to be placed and it would effectively circle the area that our boy had been tracked to. Probably for the first time in more than 2 days I finally felt that things were under control and once we got these signs up in the right areas people would start calling us with Angelo sightings. I went to sleep that third night hopeful for the first time.
The call from a neighboring farmer came Sunday at 9 AM. Angelo had been spotted by his daughter who clipped a horse lead to his collar and effectively ended our nightmare. We drove to him immediately and picked him up, a little dirty, a bit dazed from 3 days on his own, but really no worse for the wear. I woke Sarah up that morning with her chum at her bedside, gently prodded her and when she turned over I said, "Someone's here to see you". I'll never forget the look on her face - initially disbelief and then pure joy! He will never be let off leash again and a microchip is in his hear future. As I write this he is resting comfortably at my feet.
Working with Karin... Changing our lives
Karin was able to take an unpredictable, emotional situation and steady it using techniques she has honed over time. She understands not only her dogs but I was amazed how much better she knew Angelo in some ways than I did. She obviously loves what she does and is passionate about it as well as compassionate about what we was going through too. She was someone to lean on when I desperately needed someone to lead the way and it's hard to put into words what that meant at the time. There are never any guarantees in anything like this but even if we had had the misfortune of finding Angelo dead it would have given us the closure we wouldn't have had otherwise.
Happily, we were extremely lucky; our treasured boy is home with us where he belongs!
Thank you Karin, Jordina, Cade, Brodie, Nash, Trump and Paco from the bottom of our hearts.
We will never forget what you did for us- Never!
Diane, Sarah, Steve, Matt and Angelo Mierz
Angelo - Feeling Ill and Confused... He is Lost in the Woods