Monday, May 25, 2015

Bowser's Great 8-Day Escape Has Happy Ending Thanks to Fort Thomas Community


Nick and Ticiana Darland, with their Yorkshire Terrier, Bowser

This is supposed to be a story about Bowser, an almost-1-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, except, it isn't.

Most good stories start at the beginning and the beginning of this story is quite precise: Monday, May 4th, 10:15am. Connie Hall's nephew, Nick Darland, and his wife, Ticiana Darland, of Newport, Ky., were traveling in Miami, Fla. Hall's son, Sammie Hall, was dog sitting the couple's dog—Bowser—at his home in Newport, Ky. On Monday, May 4th, Sammie brought Bowser to Hall's house for a visit.

"My dogs were in the backyard with me, when they heard the garage door open," Hall says. "In their excitement, they ran into the house to wait by the door when Sammie was bringing Bowser in. Bowser was spooked by the dogs and took off like a rabbit. My dogs also ran after him! I was able to get the big dog back in the house as Sammie ran after Bowser. I got my second dog back in and jumped in the car to go after Bowser. Sammie was directed by a neighbor [as to] which direction Bowser was running. By the time I got to St. Catherine, Sammie was heading back down to get his car. Bowser disappeared that quickly."

Hall and her son searched for an hour before Hall decided to print Lost Dog fliers. The two then spent the afternoon putting signs all over town.

"Day turned to evening and before we knew it, it was dark," Hall says. "The owners did call earlier and Sammie didn't have the heart to tell them Bowser ran off. We were sure we'd find him, but as it started to turn dark, I told Sammie I needed to start posting it on some lost-and-found sites. He agreed."


sign created by Connie Hall to help find Bowser
Word spread. Fort Thomas resident Lisa Massa called Hall and told her she had seen Bowser in a neighbor's yard. The Darlands discovered Bowser was missing and booked a flight back home—they were back in town by Tuesday morning. "You can imagine their distress," Hall says.

More signs went up and those looking for Bowser started knocking door to door.

"Late Tuesday we got a call that someone had seen the little dog at the bottom of Tower Hill heading south on Route 8," Hall says. "We all directed our search in that area—more signs, more people starting to get in on the search. Bloodhounds were hired to search the area around Route 8 but that led to a dead end. Another night and no Bowser."

Wednesday morning the search crew got another call—Bowser had been spotted turning off N. Fort Thomas Ave. onto Burnett Ridge. More signs went up, more volunteers searched that area. "We walked that area until dark," Hall says. "The problem with Bowser—he was so frightened. If someone called his name or tried to approach him, he would run."

Thursday morning the search party received two more calls—Bowser had been spotted near the woods off Miami. The bloodhounds were brought back out with no success. Massa, who had been checking different lost-and-found pet sites, also sent her nieces and nephews into the woods to search. "I stopped by her house to tell her we had a sighting over off Miami ... she left me standing on her porch right then to go search that area," Hall says. "Her enthusiasm helped so much in this search!"

Thursday and Friday passed with only random sightings. Saturday family members met in the Burnett Ridge/Riverside area to concentrate on the area in which Bowser had been seen last. "The Fort Thomas residents in that area were so helpful and kind," Hall says. "We knew it might have been annoying for all these strange people to walk the sidewalks, hang signs, and stop them sometimes two and three times to make them aware of this little dog. They all were looking, telling their children to look—it was such a community effort ... We never got one hateful remark—only positive comments ... people are good."

The search resumed Sunday morning at 5:30am. Nothing. Monday evening, May 11, someone called to say Bowser had been spotted by Water Works Road and Memorial Pkwy. It was 7pm, and raining. Hall drove around the area, adding more signs, asking more residents—nothing. "This dog seemed to vanish as soon as it was spotted!" Hall says.

Tuesday morning, at 4am, Hall got a call from Fort Thomas resident Lisa Kelly's daughter—Alex Kelly.

"I was out late with friends and on my way home," Kelly says. "I turned off of Water Works and onto Memorial Pkwy., and he was just standing on the corner. It was kind of surreal because I had been seeing signs for the missing dog all week and then he was just standing there out in the open. I stopped my car and opened my door and called to him but he bolted. I saw kind of where he ran to but didn't want to chase him and make him get farther away. I called my mom around 4am and she gave me the number of the owners. So I called them right away and waited until they got there and showed them where I saw Bowser and where he ran to."

Except Kelly didn't call the owners—she called the Halls. "My husband and I jumped up and got dressed," Connie Hall says. "I grabbed some cheese and a flashlight. We are less than a minute from that spot. I saw her parked on the street and she said she saw the dog walk along the sidewalk into the reservoir but lost it. I thanked her and started walking."

Kelly's mother, Lisa, arrived on the scene. Lisa Kelly is a lover of all animals, and owner of Dirty Hairy's Self and Full Service Dog Spa on N. Fort Thomas Ave. "Currently we are bottle feeding two kittens, one of which has cerebral hypoplasia," Lisa Kelly says. "I also work with SAAP (Stray Animal Adoption Program) and allow their foster dogs to get free self-serve washes at my shop. All of our pets are rescues. We are big suckers for animals in need. Alex is doing most of the bottle feeding and is doing a great job working our special-needs kitty."

Back to Bowser.

"So I'm walking down the sidewalk and I see this deck," Hall says. "I flashed my light under the deck and lo and behold—there he is! Curled up like a ball shaking and just a mess. I did not take my eyes off him but I dialed my phone to let my husband know I found him. I dropped the phone and got out the cheese. I was softly asking him if he wanted some cheese, slowly doing my army crawl, easing towards him. I was not going to let him run—when I tossed a piece of cheese, I would scoot closer. When I got close enough to where I thought I could reach him, I grabbed at him. We had a little showdown there but I got ahold of him and wasn't letting go! He took a little chunk out of my thumb but I had him! I can't tell you the rush of adrenaline going through me. I yelled to my husband, 'I've got him!' He took off his jacket and I wrapped Bowser and got in the car. He laid his head down as if to be so relieved."

Hall didn't have the Darlands' phone number with her, so she contacted her son. Turns out the Darlands were staying at her son's house in Newport, so that is where Hall took the dog. "They were outside waiting and I can't tell you their disbelief and excitement and shock!" Hall says. "I had a death-grip on the dog as I handed it to my nephew. We all cried, laughed, screamed, jumped up and down, hugged and breathed a deep sigh of relief. They took him inside and we left. On Wednesday, they brought Bowser back all cleaned up (on a leash this time) to visit the neighborhood that helped find this little escapee. They stopped by Lisa Massa's house and she took a picture of the happy family. "It was a wild week for sure. Our lives basically stopped and everything was put on hold. I was so proud of my community for the support they gave this family."

And that right there, that bit about community, is the story within the story. A community that will come together for the big things—Clay Frink, Brady Walz, Bill Jurgens and Casey Kilgore #FTPD4210STRONG, just to name a few—as well as the small. For what may seem small to us is big, personal and dear to someone else.

While midwest suburbia takes a lot of flak as many lament the loss of community, Fort Thomas is noted for its small-town feel. That is a good thing—everybody knows your business—and a bad thing—everybody knows your business. But when that business is to help, so much good can come from community mindfulness.

And like the best stories, this one has a happy ending.

"We painted a bright red FOUND on one of the signs and I actually got calls that their kids saw it walking home from school and what great news that was," Hall says. "These are people I don't even know. We are forever grateful to live in a community where people really do care about each other and we have each other's backs."

And the Darlands? "We just want to thank everyone for all the effort that was put in to get Bowser back," Nick and Ticiana say. "Without all the phone calls we wouldn't have known he was still in the area. We couldn't be happier to have him back."

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