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Devotion finds its limit . . .

After the two probable sightings mid-morning of the day before, I had spent the rest of the day and night in the surrounding woods, searching and calling - to no avail. Downtrodden, I had returned home the next morning, the ninth day Edie was gone, for breakfast and more gas for the four wheeler. Readying to leave again mid-morning, about the same time of the sightings the previous day, the phone suddenly rang again! A young couple had just seen a Jack Russell cross the road about a mile further west than the sightings the morning before, and were calling and trying to follow her. I asked them to hold tight, not to push her, and tore out the door. I have no recollection of how fast I was going. I was there in ten minutes, at the spot the young woman waited, to show me where they had seen the dog cross the road, enter a big bottom, then head west in the direction of the sightings the day before. Her boyfriend was in the woods, trying to follow her, where, as related later, he had gotten within 20 yards of the dog at one point, but it would not come, immediately turned and ran. I tore up the hard road in the general direction the dog had gone, and after roughly a quarter-mile, whipped into the first farm trail south I could find.

At the end of it, there was a small, green field bordering pines, and just as I reached it, mud flying, the dog appeared at the woods line. It was Edie! The first time I myself had seen her since she was lost, knew for sure she was still alive, and I was overcome and overjoyed. I was only about 40 yards from her, and suddenly it seemed this graven nightmare was about to come to an end. I felt certain I could get her to come to me, and tonight, at last, she would be safely home!

But her immediate reaction to the truck was to turn, tuck her tail, and flee in an absolute, undivided terror. More than I could believe. I piled out of the truck, called with every beckon, first soft and then hard, that had always worked in the eight years of our bonding. Disbelievingly, she never turned to look at me, never paused to look back, never registered on me at all. She was scared and totally terrorized, riveted to flight, and ran away as hard as she could go. My heart hit rock bottom. Desperately, I called with pet names, and then with hoots which should have turned her, and all I could do was helplessly watch her fade away across the field, the road, and into the next big wood block and bottom. Never stopping. It was the worst moment of my 70 years with dogs, and I'll never get over it. For the rest of the day, and nights to follow, I kept seeing her fade away. I could have had her, had her safely home that night, but couldn't. She would not respond.

The young man came up then, and we tried for the next two hours to find her again; finally, he sighted her one last time a quarter-mile further west, running back in the direction of the woods block in which she had been seen the morning before. For we knew then that had to have indeed been her. That was a good thing, that he last saw her headed that way, and I prayed she would keep going that way, go back into the former block. It was a mile closer to home, rather than further into greater highway danger, and just maybe she would hold there for a few days. I waited with a good vantage, hoping to see her cross the next road and back into the desired block, but never saw her. So could not know for sure.

Once again, she was against the world, alone, I had failed to bring her home, and now ahead by every weather warning lay four solid days to come of cold, cruel, rain and freezing rain. I was totally demolished emotionally and physically.

I had had the chance to end it all happily, to bring her home that very night, had her right there, and could not.

I broke down that evening, thinking of it all, what now lay ahead for her, wondering where she was at that moment, listening to the relentless, pounding downpour of the cold, cold rain on the roof.

I felt utterly, hopelessly helpless, wanted to go get here as much as I wanted to live, but where? And even if I could have found her, it was doubtful she would even come to me.

Loretta was at her lowest point. "We're never going to see her again."

Tomorrow: Rain, cold, cruel rain, and more cold rain, freezing nights, hope is tenuous, remains scarcely afloat . . . the darkest hours of the watch . . . but there will be no quit . . .

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