By Pete Barkelew
This could have been an extremely “heart wrenching story.” In hopes of encouraging people to come to the aid of those who may loose or have lost their precious pet, I’m writing about what happened to our Josie.
On May 30, 2019, my wife and I went to the Georgia Mountain Fairground Campground in Hiawasee, Georgia, for a camping trip. It’s in the North Georgia mountains near the North Carolina border on Lake Chatuga. We took our two little dogs, Josie and Rocko. “Josie Girl of Kingswood” is a 7-yr. old, full-bred Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie). Rocko is a rescue dog from Seattle (where our oldest son found him freezing in an alley, had him Vet treated and flew him to Athens to meet our Josie as a possible companion), and we assume he’s about 5 years old. He’s mainly a Long-haired Chihuahua with a part of Pomeranian, we think, and he looks just like a little fox with his reddish color.
Shortly after setting up our camper, at about 5PM that Friday evening, we kicked back to enjoy the sunset and meet our neighboring campers, including their three kids. I gave some old bottle rockets to the boys for them to use after dark, if their Dad allowed it. After awhile, we enjoyed our dinner at the picnic table while the dogs sat at our feet. My wife did the dishes while I built a campfire in the ring. She then left the site, just before 9 PM, to take a shower up the hill at the Comfort Center.
I let the two dogs out of the camper. But, instead of putting a leash on both dogs immediately, I let them sit in a chair on either side of me to stare at the fire and the sunset on the lake just beyond. It was a very peaceful moment before tying them up.
All of a sudden, a bottle rocket was fired through our camp and my oldest dog, Josie, took off running. She has always been extremely scared of thunder and fireworks. And, before I could get her out from under the camper, another bottle rocket blew off and she disappeared into the night, running scared through the campground. About this time my wife was coming back to the campsite and asked if I knew where the dogs were. I said, “no, they took off when the fireworks started.” She put her stuff up in the camper, got dressed and immediately went searching for the two dogs. I jumped in my truck and drove up the hill calling for them as well.
At the top of the hill, next to the Comfort Center my wife just left, our little Rocko came up to the truck yelping. I stopped, got out and picked him up… he was soaking wet. I think he was so shocked, he ran into the lake water. So, I toweled him off and drove back to the camper to put him up safely. Then I went back to where I left off and talked to some folks who were playing cards and saw my Josie run by them. I showed them a photo on my phone, and they were sure it was her. She stopped for a few moments under their camper, but took off running out of the park when they tried to catch her.
We spent the rest of the night calling out and walking around the campsite telling everyone we saw to keep a watch for her… and told them which site we were at. I took my truck out onto the highway and traveled at least 4-5 miles each way (from the campground), calling out for Josie and talking with anyone who was still out, including Policemen. This went on for 3 more hours, until I was exhausted. I returned to our camper, to a crying wife, and we tried to sleep at 1:45 in the morning. All we could do was lay there, wondering about the safety and whereabouts of our little Josie. Did someone find her, or take her down the road, home to be with them? It was agony.
The next morning, we hit the floor running. First we got in the truck and started driving around the campsite, hoping someone took her in or heard something. We called our Vet, hoping someone may have called them, as Josie has one of those satellite location “Chips” implanted in her neck. Then we called every one of the Veterinarians in the area, leaving details and contact info with them. Next, we found a Copy Center and had some flyers made up with her picture and a $1000 Reward, and printed about 150 of them. YES! She was worth that and much more to us. From there we spent the next 5 hours taping up the flyers at any restaurant or store that would allow us. We also talked with a lot of folks who shared their stories and advice. It was a long, frustrating day. All we could do was hope and pray.
After rising early the next day, which was Sunday, we planned to go to church to beg for a miracle. Our minds were wandering to all sorts of ideas of what could be happening. At 8:45 AM I got a phone call from a lady I met the day before at a restaurant. She insisted that she saw our dog going into a campground about 12 miles away (they were going back home). She described the directions and we took off, thinking our Josie might try to find her way home. She has done that before in our neighborhood. Well, we drove over 16 miles one way, asking everyone we could, with no results. So, we headed to the church.
After having breakfast, we headed back to the campsite and sat there… waiting for someone to call or something to happen. Our thoughts were that whoever found Josie would take her to a Vet first thing Monday morning and have her scanned for the Contact Chip. They would then call our Vet and our Vet would call us. It was our only hope before we would have to leave the campground and head home, 2 hours away in Athens, Georgia. While sitting there, my wife got anxious and took Rocko for a walk around the area, hoping for a miracle.
I stayed behind, feeling blue, and feeding the ducklings that wandered up to our site from the lake. I was feeding them some Coy Fish Food I carry for feeding the fish when we travel. After 20 minutes or so, I had the urge to get into my truck and go looking again. So, I left the campground and spent the next 3-4 hours driving back roads and asking neighbors if they saw our dog. Of course, all along I am yelling out, “Josie, Josie, please come… it’s time to go home.” The last lady I talked with suggested I go to a Camper and Boat Storage place across the lake from our camping spot. I never noticed it in all the times I drove by, but I did as I returned to the campsite. As my wife approached, I said, “let’s go… I have one more spot to check before we call it quits.”
As we drove out of the campground, and turned left on the highway, I immediately turned onto the first left road off the highway. We had taken this road on Saturday, all the way up to the top, with no results. But, this time, I saw a dirt road to the left again and took it. We drove down a ways until it ended. But, there was another rough road to the right that took us to a big lot with a sizable ranch-style home on it. There was an arch at the entrance that had a sign saying, “Private Property. Keep Out.” My wife says this may be as far as we can go, and I replied, “Hell No.” We didn’t come this far to turn around now. So, I drove right in. That’s when we saw all of these campers along the lake (opposite from where we were camping). Most were closed up for storage, but there were a few that had campers packing up to leave for the weekend. It was almost 6 PM Sunday. Cathy jumped out of the truck with our last flyer to talk to a few of them. I told her I was going to drive up the rocky road to the water’s edge and see what I could.
As I got to the end of the road, I yelled out of my open window, “Josie Girl, where are you?” Then I noticed my passenger window was up, so I rolled it down and continued to yell. As I looked over a patch of grass, about 25 yards away, I saw a brown dog, that was sitting under a closed camper. She looked up at me and cocked her head (as she often did when befuddled) and I yelled, “Josie, Come!” She shot out from under that spot and raced across the grass to my truck. As I was getting out to meet her, my wife was running down the rocky road yelling, “Peter, Josie is here. She’s here!” I said, “I know, look!” Josie ran around the front of the truck to find me, but I went around the back. By the time she got to us both, we exploded into laughter and tears and joy as Josie jumped into Cathy’s arms. I was smacking the back of my truck, yelling, “Thank You, Jesus! You did it. You gave us a Miracle! I do believe in Miracles. Thank you!” Of course the folks Cathy was talking to probably thought we were crazy, but so what. We WERE!! Crazy Happy!!
As we gathered our “Pup” and drove off, we stopped to talk with the father of the family of four. He said, “We saw your dog come in here Friday night. Ain’t that right? He’s been here since Friday evening.” So, I said,”You know, that’s about 45 hours our dog has been missing. It would have been real considerate for someone to have come over to the campground and ask if anyone was missing a dog. Virtually every person over there knew our dog was lost. You didn’t even have to catch her… just drive 1/4 mile over to ask around. I offered a $1,000 Reward for finding her. You lost that, by not doing a thing. Have a nice day.” And we drove on out of there.
Thinking back, the people who were there, and perhaps others as well, would have never thought to take our dog to a Vet for a scan. Too much trouble and too much expense for them, they would’ve thought. So, it was a blessed miracle the good Lord put that spur in me to get up and go look one more time… one last place. Because, as the saying goes, “If you find what you’re missing, it’s always in the last place you look.”
Now, here’s the moral of the story. For heaven’s sake, and the sake of those who lose their precious pet, take a moment to let others know you have seen or found a stray animal that may be lost and wanting to go home. It’s the simplest, easiest and most considerate thing you can do… even if you can’t actually catch the animal. Make an effort to find its owner and return it home. God will bless you for it, and so will the pet’s owners.
Josie is such a talented dog, and very strong for her size. When we go for walks, she pulls me where “she wants to go” like a Husky pulling a sled. She can push a soccer-size ball all over the yard with her snout, sometimes flipping it in the air and popping it up like a seal. She will run it all over, keeping it away from you, and then bring it back so you can kick it for her to chase. She also catches full size Frisbees in the air and returns them for more “Fetch.” It’s hard for her to do, because she has to flip the disc over first, in mid air, in order to catch it upside down in her tiny mouth. This makes her, not only a beautiful Yorkie, but a wonderful “Catch” as far as an entertaining dog can be. We are extremely grateful for the miracle we were given in her return. Praise God. You can see Josie playing “Soccer Ball” with me in our back yard March, 2020 – click here.