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As told by Karin TarQwyn
When I moved to Oklahoma, the ranch I purchased had two country dogs living on it. They belonged to no one and they felt they ran the place. I really think they spent a lot of time laughing at us green horns that first year. One of the dogs was an Australian Heeler cross and the little guy just wiggled his way into my heart. We were buds and compatriots. I still don’t know why. I called him Jack and have never felt like I was his owner. He elected to stay living at the ranch and he made it clear that we should feel lucky he decided to stick around. I was glad he did.
Losing Jack and Finding a New Life
In February of that first year, we had the worst storm I have ever experienced. From the first clap of thunder I knew something had happened to Jack. My family thought I was crazy, as I ran up and down the pastures in gale force winds and rain screaming for him. This was Jack, the country dog, he knew his way around storms and lightning but I knew something was wrong. He didn't show up for dinner and I spent most of the night driving, hiking and calling for him.
Jack still was not back the next morning. I woke with a grief and panic unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was inconsolable and unable to do much of anything. My thoughts were unclear and depression just sat down on me. I had lost close family members and friends but I had never experienced the grief I went through when Jack disappeared. Here I was an investigator with a trained search and rescue dog and I had no idea how to find my friend. My SAR dog had been trained not to ever follow the scent of an animal and his training held; he would only look for people not Jack. I was a mess. I did not find Jack and I was convinced that he had been killed trying to scamper back to the ranch house.
Jack did finally get home but not because of my fantastic investigative skills or through anything other than an act of God. In what could surely be an episode out of Lassie Come Home, Jack was found. This is his story pieced together by different people and events that unfolded after his return:
While crossing the pasture, a bolt of lightning smacked the earth followed by a loud clap of thunder, Jack, afraid of thunder, panicked and ran for the ranch house but the creek had risen 25 feet and was about to come up over its banks. Jack most likely tried to run across a log as I had seen the acrobatic mutt do many times. But the creek was now a river and it was moving fast; Jack probably misjudged it and fell in the raging torrent.
I knew this part of the story on Jack's second day missing because, believe it or not, Jack's friend the other country dog, Sam a feral German Shepherd cross, brought me to the river the next morning when he saw me crying. The half wild dog wanted me to follow him which I reluctantly did. Sam would walk about fifty feet then stop and sit until I caught up with him and then he would walk another fifty feet until we had traversed the quarter mile it took to get to the river. Sam then went and sat down at a log and howled as he pointedly stared down stream. I knew then that Sam was trying to let me know that Jack had fell in. It was unbelievable at the time but we did later find that Sam was right.
Jack was washed down the river one and half miles and was then picked up by a passing motorist who saw him laying along the side of the road and thought he had been hit by a car. He was exhausted from fighting the river; this is the only way Jack would have let a stranger pick him up. He sprang to life a few hours later leaving the guy to wonder what had happened to him. He liked Jack and decided to keep him. The next day, he took the now recovered dog, in his truck to a town about 10 miles southeast of my ranch. He then lost Jack in that town! He jumped out of the truck and would not let the poor guy catch him. That’s Jack, his way – or no way.
Some days later, Jack was picked up by that town's dog catcher. We have never really figured out how that happened. I called the shelter but never went down to the little kennel. Jack was there but I was calling him a heeler and the staff called him a corgi cross. They told me on the phone that he wasn’t there and I never went to check. Heed this lesson - always go look!
After 28 days, Jack was put on death row and transported to the vet to be put to sleep as is the procedure in some parts of Oklahoma. While on the vet’s table with his death imminent, a rancher walked in and said, “Let me take the little dog.” He snuck him out the back door and the records still show that Jack was put to sleep that day.
The rancher lived 50 miles northwest of me and I did not know him nor did he know of me. If it was not for my blacksmith, Wayne, who was at the big ranch four months later, I would have went to my grave thinking Jack had drowned in the river. Jack lived with the rancher a little over two months and the rancher really did not want to give him back but Wayne pleaded my case and he agreed to let me come and look at the dog to see if he was mine.
When I got there, my heart was pounding and I tried not to get my hopes up; this was so far away, how could Jack have made it this far? Wayne, however, was sure it was Jack. As I walked into the huge barn, I saw a grizzled gray and black dog under a truck; I clucked my tongue, a greeting I use with my dogs and horses. The dog whirled around and ran to me. It was Jack! He jumped up gave me one perfunctory lick and headed for my truck where he sat waiting for me to open the door. The rancher sadly smiled at me and said, “I guess he is your dog.” I could tell he was sad and it was evident that during his stay that Jack had become the rancher’s friend too.
Today, Jack lives and presides over the ranch. He is still hard headed but now does not cross the creek if it is over a foot high.
Jack’s incredible journey changed my life. Within a month of his return, I was studying behavior and planning how to select and train a dog in the search and investigation of missing pets. I owe this all to Jack...