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Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Sophie", Norfolk Terrier, Oroville/Butte County, CA - Found

Sophie is a five year old Norfolk Terrier. She is wearing a purple collar with a bell and ID tags, and she is microchipped. She lives on a six acre farm, and she disappeared from her home as her person went inside to answer the phone. Her people also have a puppy from Sophie who is about four months old. Her people did not know how she left the property, which is fully fenced except for the front gate, which is always open.

Day One:
She had been missing for a couple of days when I was called out. After a three hour drive, I arrived around 10 AM. We found the track that led out of the front gate and then made a left down the street and went down a large driveway that led down to a house with a lot of loose dogs. Then the track led out and into another house. This place was very suspicious because it was all fenced in. The tenant swore that no dog could get in and that the gate is always closed. However, he did allow us in to check and we found Sophie's scent all over the yard, but we couldn't find a way out. I decided to check the surrounding area for her track out. We finally find it coming out of that yard into a next door neighbor's yard and then down their driveway and back out onto the main road. We know she was in that house, but we don't know for how long.

From here Sophie's track took us on a trek all over the area for miles in many directions. This is a very remote, rural and mountainous area with many farms, ranches, abandoned homes and everything in between. At one point, in one of the yards, one of the people said she had seen a mountain lion in her yard just a couple of days before. I mentioned this to Sophie's person, and he patted his left pocket on his safety vest. He said that since moving to this area, he never wandered around with having a hand gun with him. I didn't know if I felt safe or not.

Sophie's track took us that day from one end of the town all the way to the other, which ended at a very large open space that appeared to be a large dirt lot where men would come and drive their massive 4x4 trucks around and get covered in mud. There wasn't a single sighting of Sophie all day. Sophie's person asked me to come back the next day and pick up the track, and I agree to come back the next morning.


Day Two:
We started day two from where we left off yesterday. We continued to follow Sophie's track through Oroville on all types of roads in every direction. This took all the way back toward the other side of Oroville, closer to her home. The track went into some very remote mountains where we found ourselves totally stuck in a bunch of thick berry bushes and practically crawling on our hands and knees. Remember, Sophie is only an 11 pound dog, so this would not be difficult for her.

We finally crawled our way over some fencing and the dogs crawled underneath. The scent continued up a road, and we found ourselves on a very isolated farm with very large, modern buildings. The woman who came out with a very large and aggressive dog was not nice and ordered us off the property immediately or she would call the police, even after we told her we were tracking a dog that came through here.

We did find the track off the property and it went out onto another remote dirt road. Among ourselves, we figured that we had stumbled upon either a pot farm or a meth lab. Strangely enough, before we entered onto that property and we had just climbed over the fence we found a ShihTzu type dog hiding in some bushes. I walked right past him, but Sophie's person saw him hiding. She walked up to him and picked him up. He was very scared and hungry.

Once we were out onto the road, we called the husband who came to pick up the dog and his wife, who was having a hard time walking since recent knew surgery. The daughter and myself continued following the track down the road.

About a mile down the road, a small truck drove past us and the daughter flagged them down and asked if they had seen Sophie. They said they had seen her, but they didn't remember the day. Today was Thursday, and I asked if it was in the last couple of days, and he said "no." He thought it was on the weekend. I asked Saturday or Sunday and he thought for a minute and said "Saturday." I asked him morning or afternoon. He said morning. I asked him around what time and he said around 9 or 10 because he was coming back from an event. He said he tried to help Sophie, but she ran away. He looked at the picture, and said it was definitely Sophie. He confirmed the purple collar and the tag.

We were estastic because that was the first sighting we had the whole time, but we were also dejected because that was several days ago. Where was she since she passed here on Saturday?

We continued on the search. The track led down the road and then made a right. About a quarter of a mile, both the dogs dragged me over to a spot on the left side of the remote road where there was a lot of old and dried blood and a lot of tufts of brown and black hair. The hair and blood was across the road and on the right side, but heaviest on the left side. I showed the hair to the daughter and she thought that the hair looked like Sophie's, especially since Sophie had a recent hair cut before being lost. We looked all over the area, but could not find her collar.

I also double checked with the dogs to see if there was any more track past the spot of the blood and hair and they said "no scent."

Since we were in a very remote area, and it would be dark soon (we were in the sixth hour of the search), we decided to call her father to show him the spot to get his. We had to walk quite a ways to get cell phone reception. When we did, we called him and asked him to come pick us up. When I saw him, I could tell he knew something was up.

We drove back to the area, and showed him the hair. He thought it was Sophie's, also. I told him I had a scanner back at my van, and that I could follow him back here to see if we could scan the road for a microchip. I scanned the bag of hair he had picked up and I scanned the road, but could not pick up the microchip.

He took the bag of hair and told him about the service to do a DNA test on the hair to see if they could confirm it was Sophie's. I emailed him the form the next day when I got home.