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Willie - With Cade Hot On Their Trail, Willie's Captors Make A Decision
On Karin’s Voicemail:
"Hi Karin. My name is Ken Freeman and our two great Danes went missing three days ago. we have searched everywhere and these dogs couldn't just disappear they are huge. We think someone may have taken them. WE have raised them since birth... we are devastated... Can you help us?"
By cell phone… Karin:
"Hi Ken... I am on location on a case right now and will not be returning for another week. Let’s talk and I will help you over the phone and when I return I will come with the dog team if your dogs are still missing."
7 days later...
On Karin’s Voicemail
"Hi Karin... this is Ken Freeman again. Miracle and Willie are still missing and we really need your help... we don't know what else to do."
On the cell phone- Karin:
"Ken... We just got back last night but we will come tomorrow. Have your scent article ready and we will be there to help."
The case begins...
We arrived at the Freeman's early the next day to begin the investigation. The two missing dogs had been at the family place of business and had some how went missing during the evening hours twelve days earlier.
Upon our arrival, an ecstatic family greeted us to report that they had received a phone call during the night from a woman who had seen a poster and thought their female Great Dane was in her neighborhood. She said that the dog was being kept by a woman on her street but that she did not think the dog belonged to this woman. The Freeman's jumped in the car and sped to the address only to find that Miracle was not there.
The woman who answered the door stated she had in fact kept a Great Dane for a couple days but had just had the dog picked up by the dog pound. The Freeman's asked if she had seen a big black male Great Dane and the woman replied that she had seen him on another street when she picked up Miracle in her car. The Freeman's ran back to their car to get to the animal shelter before it closed. As they were leaving they looked back and noticed the woman who had kept Miracle approaching the lady who had called them and began screaming and yelling at her. It was obvious that the woman was upset that her neighbor had called the Freeman's to report that she had kept their dog. It seemed strange but they were in a hurry...maybe they could find Miracle tonight. This woman's strange reaction would become important later.
The dog at the shelter was Miracle... so named because she had miraculously appeared in her litter after a pup that looked identical to her had died. Her collar and ID tags were missing but she was alive and anxious to go home.
After hearing the story of Miracles recovery, I decided that the best place to start would be near the house where Miracle had been kept by the woman.
I took the dog team to a location about two blocks away from the house where Miracle had been kept. Cade began the search for us. I gave him Willie's scent and he quickly turned south towards the street where Miracle had been held. He crossed a busy street tracked the length of two houses and ran to a building behind the house where Miracle had been captive. This was suspicious as we were using Willie's scent not Miracles and the woman had said unequivocally that Willie had not been near her house.
Dodger and Twist took their turn and each was started from a different place in the neighborhood. They too ended up at the big building in the woman's back yard. I knew the dogs would have not went to this house unless Willie had been there but I decided to take the dog team to a sighting that the Freeman's had received on the second day the dogs were missing. It was a mile and a half away but I felt it was prudent to see what this sighting might turn up.
As I turned towards the truck, Miracle's finder came out of the house to ask what I was doing. She had never seen me and did not know who I was so I explained that I was looking for a black Great Dane. She then realized I was looking for the Freeman's dog and said she had found their Great Dane female but that she had never seen the male dog. She had told the Freeman's that she had seen Willie when she found Miracle on the busy street near her home but she could not catch him. I knew she was not being truthful. I left and went to investigate the sighting to see what the outcome would be.
Willie and Miracle had been seen together the day after they went missing behind an industrial park that bordered a railroad track. I started Dodger and he immediately picked up the eight day old trail and headed for the railroad tracks. I was not surprised as wandering dogs frequently travel railroad tracks when they are out roaming. We went a half mile and then decided to confirm the trail with Twist. Little Twist jumped forward in her harness and picking up Willie's scent continued to follow the big Dane's trail for another three quarters of a mile. Through fields, woods and industrial complexes Twist continued until she arrived at a busy street adjacent to a large manufacturing plant. Twist wanted to go into the plant and I could not see anyway a dog could get in or out so I decided to bring in Cade to see what he had to say. Cade immediately went to the same place in the fence that Twist had tried. The big eighty pound dog pushed on the fence and it easily slid aside. We climbed through the large opening left by the break in the fence and kept going.(My lesson...always trust your dogs... even when things look impossible!) Three hundred yards later the big plant opened into a stream with a railroad track running next to it. We crossed the stream and again found ourselves tracking along a railroad track.
We continued near the tracks for about a quarter mile and then Cade abruptly turned into a neighborhood and headed down the street. He turned east onto another street and began to pull hard on his harness. As we picked up speed, I glanced quickly to my left at a street sign... we were on the same street where the woman had kept Miracle. Cade ran for another two blocks and then ran up the same driveway in an attempt to get to the building in the back. I was now certain Willie had been kept at this house... I also knew he was no longer here.
A very angry woman stepped from the house when she saw that we had now returned and another tracking dog was running up to her house but this time from a different direction. She threatened, yelled and accused us of harassment. At the top of her lungs she yelled she had never seen the black dog. She then told me a different story about finding Miracle... and now she said she had kept the dog for four or five days. I wondered if she even knew that she had now told three different stories about finding Miracle. The pet owner had been behind me and he now caught up with us. Before he had been suspicious of this woman and her story but now he knew that Willie had at one time been here at her house.
I made the decision to leave the area. Willie was not here and the woman was becoming more threatening so it was best to go to a neutral place to discuss the options and a plan of action.
After discussing the options, the Freeman's had to make the decision as to whether or not to ask the police for help. The dogs had been in a very high crime area and it was doubtful that the police would be interested in helping with what they perceived was a stray dog that someone had decided to keep. Unfortunately, in many areas the police take a "finders keepers" attitude with missing dogs. The Freeman's wanted to think about their next step as they did have a business in the area and they had to be concerned with retaliation and vandalism as well as law enforcements reluctance to intervene. They would call me the next day so we could go forward with other steps if the police option was not feasible.
30 hours later...
email to Karin:
hi karin, you wont believe it,but we got willie back last night! a girl called about 6:00 last night and said she had our dog. the little girl said he had been running around on her street. We are elated! Thanks to you and your puppies they obviously turned him loose.Thanks so much, Ken
What further investigation revealed:
Willie was found within a mile of the house we tracked him to. We know the angry woman found and captured both dogs and we believe she sold Willie. We now know Willie was being kept at house about a 1/2 mile away. The finder was going to keep Miracle for herself but the female escape artist kept getting out of her fence. She did finally turn the dog loose but Miracle would not leave the street as this was the last place she had seen her brother. Never having been separated from Willie, she stayed in the area looking for him. Miracle's rescuer called the pound to come and get the dog because "it was just hanging around."
We knew the woman was over reacting when she saw us tracking on her street and that was strange. This area is known for drug trafficking and meth labs and it is highly likely that the big building in the back of her house with its blacked out windows and padlocks on the doors, was more than just a garage. When we tracked to her house the second time, she assumed we would return with the police. Not wanting the police at her house, she notified the people who had Willie and they turned him loose.
Willie's captors lived on the same block as the little girl who found Willie and called the Freeman's. The little girl found Willie soon after he was released from the yard.