For 43 days Cookie was in flight mode.
After running away from her owner in January, Cookie braved Spokane’s freezing temperatures, snowstorms, coyotes and a property owner wanting to shoot her.
Her green leash, still attached to her collar, dragged behind her as she tried to find shelter, water and food. There were reports that she fed on a rotting deer carcass.
But after surviving the winter and wilderness, Cookie, the 40-pound pug and cattle-dog mix, was reunited Tuesday with her owner, Judy Campbell.
On Wednesday, Campbell looked at Cookie, safe at home, with a sense of wonder.
“I looked at her and said, ‘God, I wish you could talk. Where did you hunker down? Where did you eat?’ ” she said. “We have mysteries out of this story.”
Campbell first saw Cookie a few years ago when she was volunteering at the Spokane Humane Society. Cookie, and her brother Cracker, were taken into the Humane Society by a man whose 89-year-old father, the dogs’ first owner, had died.
“I saw how scared they were,” she said. “They were undersocialized.”
A young couple adopted them, Campbell said. They drove the dogs home, but when the car parked and the door opened, Cookie ran. That time she was gone for more than a month, around October 2017.
Campbell called a dog catcher who helped catch Cookie, and after that, Campbell decided to adopt Cookie. But Cracker stayed with the couple.
Months passed and Campbell took good care of Cookie, but Cookie’s social skills didn’t develop to the ability of an ordinary dog.
On Jan. 22, Campbell needed to take Cookie to the veterinarian for a rabies shot, nail clipping and teeth cleaning at Lincoln Heights Veterinary Clinic, which her daughter owns. Campbell gave Cookie anti-anxiety medication, knowing Cookie had a tendency to flee.
Arriving at Lincoln Heights, “I opened the crate, picked her up. Her leash was in my right hand and she was in my left,” Campbell said.
“She jumped out of my arms and ran,” Campbell said.
Dragging her leash in full sprint, Cookie ran east, past Trader Joe’s, into Thornton Murphy Park and out of sight.
“My heart was just in my throat,” she said. “I knew how Cookie could be.”
The search begins
Barb Baumann often scours online communities, like a group on Facebook called Spokane Area LOST and FOUND Pets, to volunteer her time and knowledge to help owners of lost dogs.
“If they post a lost pet on Spokane lost and found, I will respond to them and say, ‘Here’s some recommendations that will help get your animal home,’ ” she said.
In the 15 years she’s been helping people, there is one piece of advice she always offers: “You can’t do it just sitting on the couch,” she said. “You’ve got to get out there and get going right away.”
Baumann didn’t hear about Cookie’s escape from an online forum – she’s friends with Campbell.
“It was ironic that it was a friend of mine that it happened to,” she said.
So after Cookie fled from the vet clinic, Campbell reached out to Baumann, and the two got to work.
“We put up posters right away,” Baumann said. “We had it on Facebook and Craigslist. We took out an ad in The Spokesman-Review.”
“Urgent… Lost dog,” stated the posters that were stapled to poles around the spot Cookie fled. “She is very scared of people and has been lost before. She is in total flight mode.”
It wasn’t long before calls started coming in.
“As soon as we started getting sightings, we were trying to get her to settle in one place,” Baumann said.
Campbell said a man called from the Glenrose area, where he spotted Cookie running.
Each time, Campbell or Baumann would go check near the sighting, but they didn’t find Cookie.
Snowy February arrived and calls came in regularly from people who spotted Cookie.
When dogs escape, “you try to figure out their pattern, because they usually circle,” Campbell said. “But her circle was so big and unpredictable.”
The duo pieced together the sighting calls, and Cookie was making her way southeast toward Browne Mountain, where snow fell heavier and temperatures dipped lower.
It’s a mystery what Cookie did for food, water and shelter, but Baumann and Campbell have some theories.
For food, they suspect Cookie found a deer carcass that a caller had reported in the area of some Cookie sightings.
“At one point, a caller said there was a dead deer in a ravine that she could have eaten on,” Campbell said.
If that sounds gnarly, that wasn’t the most foul theory.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of poop around and if you’re hungry, it’s probably pretty good,” Baumann said.
For water, Baumann said a stream in the area probably kept her alive.
“As we were tracking her up and down the hillside, there was a spring that ran through there. She was able to get water,” Baumann said.
Cookie likely found shelter in or around old sheds and buildings of residents in the area, Baumann said, but she’s not quite sure.
Cookie also escaped predators, according to a caller, who told Campbell that he “looked out the window and saw her running and two coyotes chasing her,” she said.
All while her leash dragged behind her.
“Every time she was seen, she was running as fast as she could,” Baumann said.
Thanks to people calling in, Campbell narrowed down Cookie’s location to northern Browne Mountain, near South Corkery Road and Red Fir Lane, a forested area with few houses.
Every day near the end of February, the same people were calling in and reporting Cookie in the same spot. She seemed to have settled.
That’s when Campbell called the man who helped her catch Cookie in 2017.
He lives in Yakima, and for 11 years, he’s been helping people in the Northwest find their lost pets.
He doesn’t want to reveal his name because he said he has too many dogs to help and he doesn’t have the heart to turn down people who are missing their beloved lost pets.
“I’m not smart enough to say no,” the dogcatcher said. “I want to retire one day.”
The dogcatcher has an arsenal of tools that he uses to find pets. Thermal cameras, drones and kennels stashed with chicken meat all help him catch dogs, but one trait of his is most valuable: patiently waiting.
The dogcatcher drove to Browne Mountain four times in late February and early March.
To attempt catching Cookie, he set up kennels with rotisserie chickens and hooked up cameras that showed when Cookie was near.
Cookie popped up before each time he would visit.
On Monday, the dogcatcher showed up after a sighting.
“She’d go in and grab the food and go out,” he said.
The dogcatcher spoke with property owners on northern Browne Mountain. One said he was going to shoot Cookie if he saw her.
“That’s ridiculous,” the dogcatcher said. “I had to stay because they’re going to shoot this dog if they see it.”
Instead of driving home, a more friendly property owner let him set up a kennel near a parked Jeep.
So the dogcatcher, for 60 hours, waited in the Jeep with a rope running through 2 feet of snow to the kennel door.
A few times he left to go to the bathroom and get food, but most of the time, he sat and waited.
“On Tuesday, I got myself comfortable in my sleeping bag,” he said. “At 7:33 p.m., she showed up.”
“She finally got the nerve to go in the third time.”
Cookie took the bait. He pulled the rope, closing the kennel door.
“I went up and latched it,” he said. “Very simple.”
Campbell got a call from the dogcatcher Tuesday night.
“At 8 p.m. I get this call,” Campbell said. “He said, ‘Do you have some milk?’ I said, ‘No, it doesn’t agree with me, but I have some almond milk.’ ”
“He said, ‘I’m asking because I have a Cookie.’ ”
“I just couldn’t feel any better,” Campbell said, “Just heaven. Just heaven.”
She drove up Browne Mountain to get Cookie that night.
Campbell said she will not make the same mistake again when taking Cookie to the vet: “Do not take her out of the crate until the exam room door is shut,” she said.
Campbell said Cookie is skinnier, but she’s happy, eating well and mostly sleeping on the couch.
“She’s a survivor.”
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