In a small closely knit rural town, nothing draws us closer than when one goes missing. This is especially true for the disappearance of one who does not comprehend his situation and cannot ask for help. Here is the story of one such anxious vigil and how an entire community, Graeagle, California, pulled together…and searched.
(The following is reproduced in its entirety from an article published in Plumas County Online News. Story by Carolyn Shipp, Staff Writer, January 16, 2014.)
A dog is a creature of remarkable loyalty and courage. The Tors family experienced firsthand the true capacity of those canine characteristics when the couple’s dog, Fredo, disappeared for nine days and miraculously found his way back home.
Ryan and Jane Tors have been coming to the Graeagle area for years. They bought a cabin on C road in Clio in 2010. There the couple from Reno and their two rescue dogs, Quincy and Fredo, spend the weekends enjoying the beauty of the mountains.
The night of December 4, 2013, the two went to The Coyote Bar and Grill in Graeagle for a meal, leaving Quincy and Fredo in their camper in the parking lot.
When they returned to the camper it was dark so the couple didn’t notice that one of their dogs was missing. It wasn’t clear until Ryan opened the door when they got home and out leapt only one dog.
“I thought it was very odd”, Ryan said, “Like somebody had opened up the camper door..It was just crazy, like someone had stolen him.”
Ryan said the 70-pound black-and-white border collie was an especially skittish dog, because he had spent most of his life in shelters. His cautious behavior resulted in him being returned to shelters multiple times.
According to Ryan, when the Tors finally opened their home to Fredo, the employees at the shelter in Reno were clapping and in tears because he had finally found a forever home.
However, the night he got lost, the Tors knew his fear of humans was going to make it very difficult for them to find him again.
The couple returned to The Coyote that night and started combing the town looking for a border collie with a red collar, but the blackness of the night prevented them from making any real headway.
Ryan, a slot director at the Peppermill in Reno, spent his mornings and evenings searching for the dog, even taking days off.
Signs were posted all over the town and an ad went out in the newspaper. Then the record breaking cold front hit Plumas County.
“It was just looking terrible,” Ryan said. “We just expected the worst.”
He recollected driving around and the temperature gauge reading negative 22.
Then on day seven, they got the first telephone call. Someone reported seeing Fredo near Graeagle Meadows.
The telephone leads continued to come in. The Graeagle Fire Department got involved. Graeagle Land and Water set out a trap, and Graeagle Community Church made an announcement alerting people to be on the lookout for Fredo.
Ryan said Fredo was too scared to come up to anyone, and every time someone saw him he was trotting with his tail between his legs. Ryan would go to try to bring him home, but by the time he got there Fredo was gone.
On December 13, Ryan had the night shift in Reno. He returned to the cabin at 5 in the morning. He said as he was pulling up a shooting star splashed across the sky and he thought it was Fredo finally saying good-bye.
However, when he got out of the car he saw a silhouette inside his camper. It was Fredo, weak and scared and right back in the place they left him.
“I was ecstatic,” Ryan said. ‘It would’ve been a very empty life without him.”
Fredo had swollen paws, a few scratches and had lost weight. It took him a few days to readjust to his old life. But Christmas morning he was there at 5 am pulling the blankets off the couple’s bed to wake them up.
“He’s a miracle dog,” said Ryan. “We will never know the stories…Who knows how he got by when it was so cold and miserable. But him coming back was just the best Christmas present I could have asked for.”
There are many theories and speculations as to how Fredo found his way home. Hunters often advise leaving an article of clothing with the owners scent on it at the last place the dog was seen, along with a bowl of water to stave off he likeliness of dehydration. They say a dog always returns to the last place he saw his master.
But I’d like to propose another possibility, the one element that is always present in any survival story…caring. The warmth, hope and prayers of the entire population of Graeagle provided the spark that kept Fredo going until he could get his bearings. Once again I can say without hesitation or doubt, “People of Graeagle, You Rock!”
And if you still haven’t gone to pull a handful of tissues from the Kleenex box, I’ll leave you with this: A musical production by one of my favorite artists, Kate Bush, from a recent project produced at Lake Tahoe.