GRANVILLE — Have you ever had a pet wander away? How would you feel if your dog was found after 5 1/2 weeks?
A Granville widower is feeling relief after his 5-year-old blue heeler was found safe after 38 days wandering around Putnam County. Bob Erickson said he left Buddy with a caretaker who left the house door open.
Erickson expressed his gratitude to many neighbors and to Illinois Valley Animal Rescue, which issued an all-points bulletin for Buddy and provided Erickson with two live traps — baited with several varieties of dog food and pet treats — one of which worked successfully, though not before Erickson’s concerned friends and neighbors launched a lengthy search.
“We were out there morning, noon and night looking for that dog, and it wasn’t just us,” said Tami Whittle of La Salle, rattling off a list of helpers concerned for Erickson after the recent loss of his wife, Betty.
The turning point in the recovery came when Erickson got a call from friend Sarah Lucas, who saw Buddy nibbling on a dead raccoon on Route 71. Whittle recalled seeing the road kill near Boggio’s, giving her and Erickson a starting point for the search.
By the time Erickson got there, Buddy had wandered away and Erickson turned his attention to the nearby fields.
He thought to check the live traps, and Buddy was safely enclosed.
“I felt good,” Erickson said, admitting he worried about coyotes and hunger. “After looking for him all that time, I wondered if he would survive.
Buddy recognized him at once — “He knew it was me” — and showed no sign of injury. Buddy was indeed hungry, however, and Erickson estimates he lost 30 percent of his body weight.
“There had to be several guardian angels looking out for Buddy,” Whittle said, “and one of them had to be Mrs. Erickson.”
IVAR volunteers received the news happily but also with surprise at the length of Buddy’s absence.
“This was my first experience in 20 years of a lost dog gone for this long,” said Chris Tomsha, executive director of Illinois Valley Animal Rescue. “I usually can get them within a few days.
“I never doubted or lost faith that Buddy would be found.”
Erickson wasn’t as confident, but it was a joyful reunion.
“He’s glad to be home. He’s doing everything he did before he left. He looks out the window and sleeps in the bed with me,” he said.