Eli‘s Absence: The Uplifting Story of a Family Getting Lost Dog Back

By Donna Chadwick

It was a Tuesday. A brisk and sunny morning, February 15, 2022, about 7:45 a.m. Eli our 2-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog who came as a puppy to our family from “Cherished Swissy”, Ohio, was on his routine exercise with a pack hike of 10 other dogs.

Eli is normally picked up from his parents at about 6 AM to meet the timeframe allotted at the Tigertail trailhead.

I had spoken to my mother briefly after Eli’s departure and she said once again he was reluctant to go. My mother even put the leash on him and guided him out to the dog walker’s van where he rides with his canine buddies to pick up other dogs and then to the trail. The dog trainer and dog hiker reassured my mother that he will eventually get used to this routine and be happy. So, off he went.

The same dog walker comes to my house two canyons east of my parents to pick up my English bulldog, Harry at about 6:20 AM.

It all seemed like a routine hike and a lovely morning to do so.

I took my shepherd Nala and baby girl Zoe who is 11 weeks old and a bulldog to my trail at the top of Kenter for our morning exercise. 

At 9:30 am I received a text from the dog walker.

“I’ve lost Eli”

I immediately text back “I’m on my way, where are you?”

He said at the Tigertail trailhead.

“Ok” I replied. Without any hesitation I jumped in the car and dashed up there from my house. On arrival I park behind Aki’s white van and walk as fast as I can yelling out “Eli!” at the top of my lungs. After five minutes I see the dog walker descending down the trail with three other of his tracking sniff dogs. The look of despair and freight on his face. I asked him how he got lost??

The dog walker said he bolted from his van when he was loading the dogs to go home. I told him he needs to call my mother and inform her, in the meantime, we need to keep searching. With no luck on the trail in the mountains we left hoping he may have ran down the road towards the dog park. I called my sister and told her as she came out as well to the area that he was lost. 

We heard two hours later that he was spotted running on a street near my home but would not be caught if he was chased. He ran faster when he was scared of any stranger trying to grab him. This of course is Eli‘s character. He only trusts his family members and those he knows.

A whole day passes with no luck. The first night came and horrified, all of our hearts empty, no one really slept.

I told my mother I had a plan to go back up to the trailhead and leave familiar belongings of Eli’s plus food and water.

Sightings of Eli or typical of the neighbors that lived in the area and as we were given word we rushed to the spot that he was last seen yelling his name with no luck. On day two I was exasperated, my energy sources depleted. I broke down and cried yelling his name. It was absolutely a mystery as to how he disappeared. How could a big black dog just disappear?

I took it so far as to hire three female psychics from California psychic. All of them had pertinent and valuable information which put me in the direction closer to finding Eli and also the comfort that he was alive and well but scared, confused and turned around.

My mother and father were also complete nervous wrecks and helplessly trying to find him as well. Their breeder reassured them that he was now in flight mode or feral mode and would not come to anyone; he was basically on the run and wild!

We had an amazing lead on day three that he was staying at a very very expensive construction site, sleeping there and then getting up early to start his journey and search for home. Initially he was trying to find my home and was very comfortable in my car at one point I left my car open with his belongings in it near the dog park for what she was last seen unfortunately our dog walker stayed there overnight which was a deterrent because Eli does not feel comfortable with his smell as told by the psychic and my mother‘s breeder.

The dog walker was informed not to follow him any longer but to let us take over the search.

On day three my youngest son came home early from college with his drone hoping that we may be able to search the woods with his camera. Again, no luck and no sign of Eli.

None of the family members could sleep well, as all of us got up intermittently to take a drive with our flashlights and yell out his name. The restlessness and hopelessness grew stronger. It was not until The end of day three that we heard that Eli has been cited at a construction site sleeping overnight

On day four and still no Eli, I left my vehicle open at the construction site hoping that maybe this was going to be it. We all had high hopes that he would hop in my car overnight. My mother made bacon bits for my father to bring. We met in the evening before I parked my car in the cul-de-sac above the construction site.

The plan of course was to meet early on day four in the morning with hopes that Eli would be there.

Unfortunately and in despair, there was no Eli. I demanded that we look into a professional search and rescue at this point I was starting to get angry and helpless.

It was now February 19th and my 60th birthday, day five of Eli’s absence.

In a zombie state, I took my daughter for an early hike on one of our favorite trailheads the reception there is very sketchy.

Apparently, Eli was working his way back to my parents but thankfully using the trail system to do so and not the busy boulevards the timing again was critical.

Some dear young man apparently spotted Eli on his camera he is not a fan of social media but happened to use it that morning and posted a picture of Eli on the Nextdoor app which is a neighborhood watch app. My sister Lisa again who looks at the app from time to time was at Staples waiting for it to open so she could buy more neon paper for the signs we were posting left and right for a lost dog with reward. 

At 8 o’clock in the morning she looks at her phone and sees a picture of Eli standing on a retaining wall. The caption reads “does anyone know this guy”??

My sister of course freaks out in response to the ad. “yes yes yes this is our missing Eli.”

One thing leads to another and before we know it, the whole Chadwick, Reid and Nettleship family caravan follows like police guarding the president to their spot of destination, Eli was found in Mandelville Canyon.

The picture taken of my father, mother, sister and niece sitting in the back of my mothers Audi and Eli in the middle is absolutely priceless like one picture tells 1,000,000 words! Thankfully we had a happy ending and a very blessed birthday a birthday that will never be forgotten.

The moral of the story is, never ever give up.
And amazes me how our canine family members can connect us to guardian angels and good people that we’ve never ever met!

in News
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