Extraordinary Love


One Woman’s Ongoing Search For Her Lost Pet

By Larry Burge

Searching desperately for a male beagle she named simply “B,” Shena Hodges believes her loss is an emergency. It’s as if she’s a parent looking for her missing child. She has gone to extraordinary lengths to find her lost pet and recently upped the reward for information leading to her dog’s return from $500 to $2,000. “B” has been lost since May 15.

The irony: “For 15 years I’ve been helping dogs that have been dumped or lost at my Animal Haven Reserve, a nonprofit and no-kill shelter,” Hodges said. “Now I need help finding my dog.”

“When people call me and say, ‘I lost my dog,’ I tell them what they should do,” Hodges said.

After advising those searching for lost pets for many years, Hodges is now following her own advice.

Sparing no expense to find her dog, in addition to the most common ways like putting up posters, calling local shelters and contacting neighbors, she’s also hired a pet detective with search dogs, turned to the Internet and says that when she finds her dog she’ll invest in a GPS service.

The techniques that she is using can be helpful for anyone who is searching for a lost pet.

Hodges, who lives near Prairie Grove in rural Washington County, has contacted the Prairie Grove police and animal control officers, Washington County animal control, KURM Radio, craigslist.org, Pets 911 and “put his posters up in most convenient stores, the one’s that let me. Most have been nice, some haven’t,” she said.

She started with handwritten posters and got no response. She then had eye-catching posters printed and distributed across the county.

“I put close to 500 posters up, called everybody I knew and posted notices in the papers,” Hodges said.

She has contacted veterinarian offices, mail carriers and UPS drivers. She also contacted a service that is supposed to send her wanted posters to veterinarian offices and shelters within 250 miles of Fayetteville.

When dogs are lost, they are often scared and skittish and will not come to a stranger. Some people have better luck than others enticing a stray dog to come to them, but with animals like “B,” it would be unlikely that a stranger could catch the dog. Hodges hopes that someone will call her if they see the beagle instead of trying to catch him.

“He had been abused when I found him, and he’s very skittish,” Hodges said. “He’s not going to walk up to someone and let them pet him.”

What would help Hodges the most would be calls about sightings of the dog’s whereabouts. She believes if “B” stays in an area long enough, she will be able to rescue him using some unique animal rescue techniques.

“There’s certain tricks you can do,” Hodges said. “I’ll bring my pit bull out there and have him walk around and take a whiz. I’ll take an article of clothing, part of a rug he (“B”) slept on or blanket and leave it out there. I can leave some hotdogs to start a feeding station. From there I can proceed, depending on his state of mind.

“I’m panicked, I’m tired and sometimes feel I want to just give up,” Hodges said. “But I’ve heard stories about three to four months later a dog showing up home. You think, ‘Well, what else can I do?’ But I’m too stubborn to give up, you know.”

Hodges even hired a pet detective with search dogs to look for her lost pet. They followed “B’s” scent close to Greasy Valley Road (County Road 8) and traced his path as he followed a creek bed circumventing Prairie Grove’s city limits. The search led about five miles north of her home ending at the Illinois River.

From there, the tracker said the beagle most likely veered west along a creek bed.


Using Technology

On the Internet, Hodges found a service that calls neighbors with landlines to ask if they have seen a missing pet.

“From that, I got a call from a lady about a week and a half ago that swore she saw him along Greasy Valley Road,” Hodges said. “Beagles can travel a long way. He’s really lost. I’m sure people have seen him. But they don’t know I’m looking for him. That’s what I’m trying to do, let people know I’m looking for him, that he’s very much missed.”

Because “B” had been missing for a week before Hodges found the call service, the service estimated they would have to call 10,000 of Hodges neighbors at a cost of $850. Hodges said that if she had contacted the service the first day the dog was missing, the service would call 500 of her closest neighbors for a cost of $95.

The longer a dog is gone, the further away it might be, so it cost more for the service calls. Being lost in a rural area compared to an urban area makes a lost dog less likely to draw attention to his position. There are more hiding places, greater uninhabited areas and more places to hide from people.

To track the dog herself, Hodges has learned how to use Google Earth to locate streambeds, a likely place for lost animals to go.

“When I get him back? He’s getting a GPS tracker put on him,” Hodges said.

GPS units for dogs weighing 30 pounds or more are currently available.

Hodges said that new Pocket GPS units for smaller dogs should be on pet store shelves soon.

“You can log into the service on the Internet, and contact the Pocket GPS and they give turn-by-turn directions to your lost pet,” she said. “You can also download it onto your computer to find their exact location.”

Hodges estimated the charges to be about $150 for the unit and about $15 a month for the service. It “would have been well worth the cost in this case,” she said.

Thinking From A Dog’s Point Of View

Hodges’ years of experience in dealing with animals has given her the skills to thinkffw-0709-feature-2from a dog’s point of view. She also has another advantage. She is a professional bondsman and bounty hunter. She says that tracking people is much easier than tracking dogs.

“People are a lot easier to catch than dogs,” she said. “You can talk to other people. I wish I could go out and talk with other dogs (like Doctor Doolittle), but it’s hard to say, ‘Have you seen this dog? Bark two times if you have.’”

When talking about her lost dog, Hodges held back tears, but her voice inflections revealed that she was more concerned for “B’s” safety than the loss of her best friend.

Some of her words subjectively implied what her red and white beagle with a red leather collar around his neck might be feeling.

She believes the beagle became disoriented after a number of events came into play.

When her job took her to Denver, Hodges had someone tending to “B” and her other dogs. During that time, “B” dug a hole under a fence to escape, which he had done about 10 times before during their very close eight-year person-to-dog relationship.

“He escaped to go on an adventure,” Hodges said. “I thought he would come back like before.

“He likes to chase rabbits. He won’t let me catch him when he’s chasing a rabbit. But before, he’s always stayed around my house. Usually I hear him out there bellowing. At night he would come to the fence or to my gate and want back in.

“It’s not like I’m new to this. I’ve helped people find their missing dogs. This is definitely the hardest case, maybe because I’m so close to it.”

Hodges has put together a scenario based on clues provided by neighbors in the Hogeye and Prairie Grove area.

“He is a digger. I even poured cement under my fence to keep him inside. He dug a hole while I was gone. Another dog (Mandy) followed him and there was a thunderstorm that scared him. I found Mandy three miles south of my place. A lady said she saw “B” too, but a Rottweiler had been chasing him.”

Hodges believes Mandy took “B” further away from home than usual, outside his range of orientation. The thunderstorms drove him into hiding, further away still, and a Rottweiler chase added to his confused sense of direction.

The first sighting came from an observer about three miles south.

“I don’t want anyone shooting my dog. He wouldn’t hurt a cow. He’s just a little beagle, a little lost beagle. He’s just a sweet little dog,” she said. “When I first got him, he was urinating blood. The vet said he had been kicked hard in his kidney. He’s been skittish of people. If a person comes over to him, he might run up and stand a few feet away. But what happens to domestic dogs when they have to survive in the wild, it’s as if awaking one morning on a different planet.

“He’s just trying to survive right now. Dogs live in the moment. He’s not thinking about how he used to sleep on my bed. He’s thinking about how he is going to get his next meal. How he’s going to survive without getting chased. The wild takes a great toll on lost dogs.”

“It’s like if you woke up this morning in China, naked. You’d be on a different planet. You know? Nothing is familiar,” she said. “ There’s no feeding time at 4 or no cookies before bedtime. He’s just trying to stay alive. He’s probably eating bugs. If he can catch a rabbit, he’d eat it. He might be getting into trash. Maybe someone is putting out food for a cat and he’s eating it.”

“Many people might think he’s just a stray dog, and not realize he belongs to somebody. He’s a pretty smart dog. It’s very unlikely he will be eaten by another animal. There is a chance he could be shot, though, maybe on someone’s property. There is a guy that lives behind me that does that, you know. I just have a feeling he’s somewhere out there alive.”

This is not the first time Hodges has used her bounty hunting skills to locate a lost canine friend.

“Actually, I had adopted Mandy out to a man, and he had lost her. She was gone for three weeks,” Hodges said. “When I finally got sightings I found Mandy staying in the woods off Sunbridge Road. I took Mandy’s mother over there and staked her out, and scattered food. After coming out of the woods, she didn’t at first recognize me. I hid and softly called her by name. She started to spook, but when I said her name again, she recognized my voice, ran over and she about body-slammed me over. She followed me around, wouldn’t leave my side for about two weeks — really, really happy to be home.”

But, Hodges’ search for her beagle “B” continues.

“I’m trying to open every avenue. Time is of the essence. My mistake was to think that he had been out a day or two before and would return home.”

Upping the reward for information, she hopes will produce more people calling in

with sightings.

“All my posters say $500 reward on them, which I thought when I first started I would get reports of sightings and get him back. Now, though, I think to myself, ‘It’s been a month. I haven’t gotten any sightings of him since a week and a half.

What can I do to put it in people’s minds to have people talk to others? If I raise the reward, it raises this possibility, you know?’

“I feel like he’s alive and he’s out there somewhere. I don’t want to give up on him. Most people have been very nice and told me they don’t want any reward. They say, ‘I saw your dog. I’m an animal lover, too.’

“I feel like my child’s out there. If it were a missing child there would be people all over combing the woods and fields. I also know there are a lot of animal lovers out there. I want them to know how very important “B” is to me. The thought of him out there, unknowing, is almost too hard for me to bear.”

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