The Return of Winky (formerly known as Lincoln) – 2/23/14

This post is a link for WINKY, PART 3. Don’t read unless you are dying to read a dog story that is 6 years old!

This is the account of getting Winky back after he’d left the night before. this picks up the next morning. If you love animals, you will love it. If you’re indifferent, you might become impatient and want to move to your Words with Friends or the book on your night stand, because it is a long post.  But it’s a long story, 27 hours to be exact. Winky escaped at about 3:30pm on Friday, and at about 6:15pm the next day, we all returned home.  “All” as in Winky, Rocky, and me, along with my good friend, Dori who was instrumental in helping me orchestrate the capture of Winky.

You know the chain of events that occurred on the afternoon/night he escaped.  The next morning I got up at 7 and put on the grubbiest of clothes and went out looking again in the general area where we’d been the night before.  The 6 pieces of meat I’d left on the road were gone. I know that another animal could have gotten it, but it was also a glimmer of hope that I was concentrating my efforts in the right area.  Alex informed me that he had a friend who lived in the area, and that the friend had Facebooked him a message that he’d seen Winky. I don’t know how that association transpired, but I wasn’t concerned with that to probe.  I asked Alex if I could contact the friend, and I did so about 8am. The friend was very supportive and told me exactly where he and his wife had seen Winky, and it was exactly where the meat had been left. Score!

The neighborhood where Winky chose to hide out is interesting.  Winky was covering an area of about a half a square mile and about 6 different streets.  The houses, lots, and landscape are random. There’s no HOA in this neighborhood. Neither do most homeowners concern themselves with considering the view with which their neighbor has to contend.

Some houses are very old and in ill repair.  Curtains are stained, windows are cracked, paint is peeling, and junk laces the yards. It’s difficult to know where one yard begins and another yard ends.  Some homes are simply tired, and others are just old and haven’t been updated. The backside of many homes butt up against a creek with overgrown blackberry bushes, where it’s also been designated as a free dumping zone, and in spots, downright disgusting.  Some of the back yards are no better. And some of the front yards may not be a dumping zone, but they’re definitely a catch all the things with which people can’t part. Dumpsters, campers, cinder blocks, boats that haven’t been in the water in years, Jet Skis, lawn mowers, you name it.  Unfinished projects make me wonder what happened. The wheel barrel left upside down in the front yard looks as if someone was called off in the middle of moving the bark dust pile, years ago. It makes me sad. I’ve lived here (not literally) before, and it makes me grateful. There are also newer homes, and older remodeled homes.   Some whose backyard fence is a gigantic cement wall that separates the yard from the freeway. The homes and yards are varied, but one thing is common. No one is keeping up with the Joneses.

I started out, more brave than I was the previous night.  It was relatively early in the morning, and I felt most people might still be sleeping. If a house looked quiet, I was quiet and walked around the side of the house, quietly calling Winky’s name.  It was a little creepy in some cases. One house in particular was camouflaged with low tree branches and blackberry bushes. I discovered the house was basically a cement cube. The back of the house faced the street, and as I wrapped around to the front, there was a small coal barbeque sitting directly in front of the front door.  The only windows were one on each side of the front door, and through one I could see overgrown plants stuck to the window, and on the other window was a blanket. There was a bike leaning up against the front of the house. I noticed the letter B stuck on the corner of the house. If it weren’t for my objective, I would have skeedattled fast out of there.  But I knew this was the perfect place for little Winky to hide, and I had to give it a good shot. I ventured beyond this yard and into neighboring yards, and then ended up on another street. I went to this house more than once. If I had been a dog who wanted to hide, I would have considered this yard.

I continued this type of search in and out of yards.  I visited the back side of a stretch of homes that contained the small creek.  There was a big tunnel and I looked into it, thinking it would be a place to hide and possibly stay warm.  Two of the yards had chickens and I checked out their coups. I’d visited these backyards the day before and had gotten permission to check things out, then.  I wasn’t sure what they’d think if they saw me prowling around in the morning, but I hoped they’d understand. Once I was finished with that area, I got in the car and drove around to the front of these houses, which was on a different street.  I explored that neighborhood, too, which included some of the same house I’d just searched, but in the front and sides. There was a large wood pile and a garden shed that would have made great hiding places. Across from this house was an open area that was connected to a wooded area, and I checked that area, too.

This search went on for a couple of hours before I decided to return home and get Rocky, a cup of coffee, and check in with Bridgette.  She had a busy day and I wanted to update her and connect before she left for the day. Before she left, we prayed together, asking for God’s hand in Winky’s safety and return.  I loaded Rocky up in the car, and because he doesn’t like car rides, I put him in his kennel.

We headed over again, and I parked in the spot where I’d laid the meat the night before.  I let Rocky out and followed where his nose led him. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I had him smell the blanket Winky had been sleeping with in the kennel Rocky was using on this trip.  I hoped Rocky would understand what I was asking of him. I don’t know if he did, but his nose seemed to lead him to many of the same places I’d been hunting. After about an hour however, I got a little frustrated that there was no sign of Winky and I wondered if Rocky really smelled Winky, me, or just other dogs.  Rocky isn’t a tough animal, and after the initial excitement of this field trip began to wane, his intolerance of surprise noises, car noises, and walking distances greater than a block got the best of him. He would stop and want me to pick him up, and he was getting in the way of productivity. I returned him to the kennel in the back seat of the car, and slowly drove back to the other part of the neighborhood, quietly calling Winky’s name out the window.  There again, I ducked into side streets and stopped people driving out of their driveways. I knocked on doors, talked to people, and left our simple flier that Alex had made the night before. I returned to the front of the houses whose back yards contained the creek. I took Rocky out here, and we checked out the wood pile, the garden shed, and the open area that led to the forresty area. We travelled up and down that road, quietly calling Winky’s name.

After some time, I decided I would return home.  But I got a message from a friend who said she and her daughter wanted to come help for a bit.   Rocky and I drove back to our original spot and met up with my friend. I gave them the run down and talked about strategy.  There was a house that was full of good hiding spots, if one were a dog. They had a camper trailer, a dumpster, a boat, a wood pile, and all sorts of nooks and crannies, perfect for a small dog who wants to be invisible.  I decided I was going to do a little trespassing and snoop around. I suddenly became very aware that 11am was well into morning, and that I could be found out. I emerged from behind the dumpster, that I’d hoped was concealing my hunched body, but I was greeted by a woman.  I began to tell her what I was doing, but she’d interrupted me telling me that she knew about our dog from the flier, and the homeowner behind her had told her that Winky had been in his backyard the night before. She was very nice and supportive and allowed me to continue looking.

I needed to get to a designated post office to pick up a certified letter.  I decided to go to the man’s house who had seen Winky the night before. My friend and her daughter continued to hand out fliers. Again, I drove back to another part of the neighborhood, quietly calling Winky’s name.  I got to what I thought was the man’s house, but it was someone else’s house. I gave him the information, and left to go to the post office. On the way out of the neighborhood I stopped at a dog grooming business and gave them our makeshift flier until a better one could be made.  My friend called shortly after I’d left the neighborhood to tell me that she and her daughter had talked to the man whose back yard Winky had been in. He and his mother were leaving food out for Winky.

That was the message I gave anyone to whom I could talk.  “Don’t call him. Call me” I would say. “If anything, give him food.”  My hope was that it would satiate him until I got to him, and then I would sit and wait for him to come to me, because I knew he would run if anyone made an attempt to capture him, including me.

I went to the post office, drove through McDonalds to get some hot wings (I had hardly taAlex the time to eat much), went home and showered, realizing that Rocky also needed a change of scenery.  I then went to the store to pick up a prescription and a couple of items. On the way home from the store, in spite of having purchased a half gallon of ice cream, I decided to drive slowly through the neighborhood again.  I ran into a woman who was on the outskirts of the neighborhood. I hadn’t stopped at her house before, but she was outside and I decided to give her my number, on the off chance she should see him.

I left for home, with the intent that I would go home, make new improved fliers with a picture and specific instructions on how to manage Winky should anyone see him.  It probably looked like a person who needs to control and micromanage, even on a LOST DOG flier. But I knew the information was crucial to Winky’s successful capture, so I risked humiliation.  Two minutes after I left the neighborhood, I got a call. It was from the woman with whom I had just spoAlex. Winky was in her backyard!

I zipped back to her house (ice cream still in the car) and by that time, Winky had crossed over to the neighbor’s house.  By the time I got permission from that neighbor to go into his backyard (his car was in his driveway, indicating that I’d better ask), Winky was sniffing around in the creek, and as soon as he sensed something was up, he jumped through the blackberry bushes and over the creek, up into the back of some pathetic looking apartments.  This time, not with my grubbies on, but my nice five year old tennis shoes, I too found my way through the blackberry bushes and over the muddy creek. Crawling on my hands and knees, I found my way up the hill and on to the back driveway of the apartments. A man sitting in his car under the carport asked if I was looking for my dog, and pointed in the direction Winky had gone.

I proceeded swiftly, but working hard not to run, when I noticed that I could see the back of the houses that I’d been to a few times already.  Some people were standing in the back yard and I asked them if they’d seen Winky. They told me they hadn’t, but just then they shouted, “He’s in our back yard!”  Winky had crossed the creek again, into their backyard. I tried a yell whisper (I just made that up), telling them not to call him. Right then one of the men started to whistle.  I upped my yell whisper to a plea, “Please, don’t do anything! If you’re going to do anything, give him food.” I couldn’t get to their back yard because of a fence. I ran back to my entry point, crossed back over the creek, ran through the first man’s back yard, over to the woman’s house, got in my car, and drove around the street to the front of the last house, where I was yell whispering. I jumped out, and the man greeted me to tell me Winky didn’t wait for food.  He raced right past them. I stayed in that area for about twenty minutes, sweetly calling his name, and then again, slowly headed back to home, calling his name from the car, and stopping to ask people when I saw them on the road.

I returned home and made the new fancy fliers.  My friend Dori called me from the airport asking if I needed help.  Initially I didn’t think there was much she could do, but I decided it would be more efficient to have her help me hand out the new fliers.  She got to our house about 4:45 and we set out equipped with tape, staple gun, and more meat. My plan was to start from the back of the neighborhood, and work our way back.  We again drove slowly, calling out Winky’s name. We got to the back of the neighborhood and handed out a couple of the fliers to two neighboring houses on the dead end street.  One of those houses was the one with the wood pile and garden shed, among other things. Across the street from that house was the open area that stretched into the forresty area.  I wanted to get the fliers out while it was still light, hoping that Winky was also visible during daylight. But Dori said, “Let’s look over in that area.” I told her I’d been there routinely, and at this point I had no sense of where he was.  With limited daylight left, I didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, so I felt we should move on. But she said, “Well, let’s just give it a look.” I didn’t protest, and we began to walk softly along the way. The terrain changed from dry grass, into a thick carpet of ivy, tall firs, and dense brush.  Carefully, I lead the way, and then I saw him, in the distance.

I stopped suddenly, and put my hand out to stop Dori.  He was there, stunned for a moment, looking at me. I stopped, and slowly (everything is S-L-O-W) knelt down.  I sweetly called his name. He moved, but he didn’t run. I sat there, and immediately decided what had to be done. I had to wait.  I texted Dori. “Go home and get me a blanket, a hat, and an Ensure (I knew I needed nutrition).” She walked to my car and proceeded to comply.  The text exchanges were numerous. I asked her to bring Rocky. Bring a McDonalds hamburger (he needs to smell beef!). The lunch meat I was holding up wasn’t luring him.  At one point he retreated, but I didn’t react. He came back. Occasionally I said his name, “Hi Winky, want a treat?” It’s our lingo at home. I held up a piece of turkey lunchmeat.  He very slowly, meandering around until he finally was about 10’ from me, and that’s where he stayed until the capture.The man who had put food out for Winky called. He’d seen Winky run through his yard.  I was able to tell him I was looking right at him, and he at me. 

Dori texted me: Where’s Rocky’s leash?  What blanket? Where’s his kennel? Back and forth we went, and she brilliantly did as I asked.  As Dori got closer, I gave her an update, telling her exactly what to do. I had her bring Rocky and the food in first.  I didn’t think I wanted Winky to see her, so I had her stand behind a tree close by, and I went to get Rocky and the food.  She retreated and got the blanket. Once I knew Winky saw Rocky, I felt fairly confident that Winky wouldn’t leave. I met Dori and grabbed the blanket. I laid it down, prepared to stay for a good while if I needed to (yet the thought of Coyotes did cross my mind).  I had thought this is what it would be, a waiting game.

I remembered that Winky came to us when we were loving on Rocky.  So I loved on Rocky and fed him a McDonald’s hamburger. Winky stared.  Then I decided to see if they would like to see each other. With Rocky on his leash, I said, “Rocky, do you want to see Winky?”  I slowly got up, and slowly walked toward Winky. And Winky slowly, with his tail wagging for the first time since we had owned him, walked up to Rocky, and kissed him.  For a split second, I wanted to believe I could let this moment happen, and this wasn’t a capture, but a normal exchange between two old friends. But I snapped out of it, and grabbed his collar, picked him up, wrapped him in the blanket, and walked away.

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