Pet Tips 'n' Tales

Part I
Lost in the Wilderness
- Blind Dog Survives 19 Days! -

Courtesy photo by Toni Benfit
Lost for 19 days in the Oregon mountains, this 9-year-old blind, crippled, and 60% partially deaf Border Collie, Happy Jack, was found barely alive by a thread of a miracle.  Burnt Spur Ranch owners and horse trainers, Linda and John Keeter, show off a recovered Happy Jack, along with his relieved buddy Bulldozer, a 9-year-old Australian Shepherd.


Most people don't give rolling thunder in the distance a second thought, but it created a nightmare and a miracle for Burnt Spur Ranch owners Linda and John Keeter!
Burnt Spur Ranch 

Four years previously, they fostered, and then adopted, a Border Collie discovered in frigid  weather, starved, crippled, blind, and beat.  They helped breathe life back into the dog along with the aid of his new dog-brother, Bulldozer.

Linda named the foster dog "Happy Jack" (Happy) because as he healed, he was filled with joy and wagged his happy tail nonstop.
"Bulldozer's name is a result of his awkward habit of never watching where he was going and plowing into everything," laughs Linda.

On this fateful camping weekend, Linda and John packed up horses, dogs and friends for a fun trip of trail riding in Oregon's beautiful Ochoco mountains.

The night was very hot.  The dogs usually sleep in the horse trailer with Linda and John, but this evening the dogs bunked down beside the trailer.  Just like the dogs had during 30 previous camping trips, they stayed close to the horses.

It was a peaceful happy scene -- until morning. 

John awoke early and discovered that Happy had wandered off, possibly scared of the distant thunder. "How far can a blind dog go," John thought as he searched, until realizing, "very far."

In a panic, he woke up other campers. Many were All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and motorcycle riders.  Horse and ATV riders don't usually mesh well because of uncomfortable encounters between animals and vehicles on the trails. But the moment they heard about the blind dog's disappearance, "People who don't like sharing trails, but love dogs, bailed onto what they had and searched for the next two days, nonstop for 30 hours," said Linda.

The search expanded with the modern age; emails were sent to friends, hundreds of flyers were printed and posted on trees and campsites in the forest.

You have to understand that the forests in Oregon go on forever.  If you wander, you can end up meandering through trees all the way to Alaska, Idaho, or California. 
Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Douglas Fir trees grow as thick as a Persian cat's fur.  Trees, 200 feet tall, carpet the mountains like grass. Getting lost is easy, getting found is harder than finding the broken tip of a needle in a haystack.

"A friend forwarded an email of Happy's LOST flyer to Prineville county and city heads.  They, in turn, sent it to all their departments. The forest service also sent flyers out to their workers, log-truck drivers, and woodsmen cutting firewood.  Our dog's mug-shot-poster was up in the police department, the dump, everywhere except on milk cartons," recalls Linda.

"Happy pulled a whole community together," says John. "County workers, forest fighters, loggers, school children, everyone was looking for him."

"I felt responsible for finding Happy," explains Linda.  "One way, it is a 3-hour drive from our ranch to the location of the remote campsite. We were hopeful that Happy would be found because the forest service had located all lost dogs this summer.

"In three weeks, we searched for days on end on ATV's and on horseback.  It was a daunting task and we never lost hope even though I would feel frustrated and sad. We returned home to get more food, hay, fuel, clothes, print more LOST flyers, then head back out, search, and talk to people.

"Because Happy is deaf, he does not bark, so he could not hear us or alert us if we approached.  This would have to be a human visual rescue.

"Poor Bulldozer, he missed Happy as much as we did.  He was so depressed that he would lay in the same spot for 24 hours, not moving, and not eating. We knew just how he felt.

"The third Sunday, I knew we could not return for several days, so I walked into the woods and prayed, 'God, I turn Happy over to you. I have done everything I can do. I know you help those that believe.'  Then I had a good cry, loaded up the horses, and drove home.
"Amazingly, three days later Happy was back in my arms.  It was a miracle.  I would not give up hope.  Yes, some days I was scared, but I had this gnawing feeling that everything will turn out."  And it did. 
Next week....the details of Happy Jack's miraculous rescue and if you can't wait!
Read Part II of Happy Jack's story:

Courtesy photo by Toni Benfit
Lost for 19 days in the Oregon mountains, Happy Jack is happy to be home!


Linda's tip for pet parents with blind or deaf dogs, "We put a bell on Happy and a flashing collar light.  Now if he wanders we can see and hear him easily." 
Linda and John are no strangers to pet miracles.  Their  28 year old blind horse, Bud, was featured several years ago in Animal Miracles, "This Bud's for You."   View Blind Bud giving lessons and taking short trail rides around their property. 

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