Delilah's Second Gotcha Day!
Delilah’s mountain sabbatical touched thousands of people’s lives, it didn’t matter what political party you belonged to, what religion you were, or the color of your skin – Delilah brought strangers together, forever! Elementary school friends were reunited, faith in god restored by some, and two towns actually came together, Boone and Blowing Rock, to create one North Carolina mountain community. Delilah’s story involves many chapters and untold stories, this is only an overview of her adventures. Once all told there’s little doubt this would make for a great Hallmark Holiday movie! Following is just a brief glimpse of one year ago today…
There are times in life that one will always remember, and March 4th, 2019 was one of those days, it was the day we were able to bring Delilah home. Looking back at the emotional roller coaster ride that my family and the thousands of volunteers went on in search of our adventurous puppy still brings me to tears. Through sheer selfless acts of kindness Delilah was able to come home.
It all started on a blustery January 2nd when my family wanted to take a peaceful hike on a North Carolina trail we had never previously visited. Moses Cone Manner, located in a national park off of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, offers stunning view and an abundance of trails. We were under-prepared for the cold (hence the cargo shorts) but did have some gloves and other winter apparel. As we began our walk my daughter handed me Delilah’s retractable leash. With my hands just starting to warm up in the newly worn gloves I grabbed the leash halfheartedly and at the same moment Delilah, easily skittish having been abused by her birth family prior to our adopting her, was startled. The leash fell out of my hands, creating a crashing boom as it fell to the ground, sending a terrified Delilah on her way.
As I ran after our puppy with my 50-something “in-shape” body, with cheers of “Go Daddy!” in the background, I kept thinking surely Delilah is going to stop any moment…..seriously, she has to stop any minute now….it’s time for our family hike…holy crap, she is not going to stop! With the free-wheeling retractable leash bouncing behind, Delilah was encouraged to run faster and faster from the terrifying noise. She was like Forest Gump and continued to run…and run….and run. In comparison, I kept getting slower…and slower…and slower. With thoughts in my mind of making plans to return to the gym I continued to pursue her, but Delilah increased her momentum running so fast through the parking lot no one even saw which way she headed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The only clue, the broken retractable leash sitting in the parking lot. This was the beginning of our 62-day journey.
From the first moment, we were in full search and recovery mode. This was all new to us, we were unprepared, and fortunately we ran into complete strangers along the paths who stopped what they were doing and helped us look for Delilah. Lynn, Anna, Leslie to name only a few of the folks that immediately become our friends through this quest. The situation become increasingly surreal, it was like a flash back to the Brady Bunch episode where Cindy and Bobby were lost in the Grand Canyon and Mike and Carol where shouting their names endlessly. Now it was our “Cindy, Bobby” moment, calling out Delilah’s name. As the sun began to set, we were forced to make the 40-minute trip back to our friend Beth’s cabin with one less family member, an empty feeling filling us all. Upon our return Paige immediately got on social media to send out the SOS across digital platforms. Within hours, thousands had shared our call for help. Game on Delilah, time to find you and bring you home.
The following morning, just before sunrise, we returned to Moses Cone Manner hoping to see Delilah at the same spot she took off. We thought she might just have wanted a little “D” time and would come back after a night in the wilderness. After searching the area of what only the day before had been our enthusiastic first-of-the-year hike, sadness set in, and then so did guilt. A guilt that would haunt us as we drove 5 hours round-trip daily from Charlotte every day over the following two weeks continuing to search.
The journey brought no shortage of advice and suggestions, phone calls with experts, and others experienced with a lost pet. We were the recipients of an abundance of well-intentioned and thought-out comments on what we should do and what we should not do. After several days of not bringing Delilah home, it hit us that we needed to change course. Welcome Delilah’s Angels (Michelle, Nancy, JC, Virginia), and many others who graciously gave their time and talents towards our cause. Epic Animal Recovery came to the rescue: https://www.facebook.com/epicanimalrecovery/. There is so much that can and will be written about Epic, a most appropriate name for not only Epic the dog but the incredible efforts of Michelle and her team. This is the heart of the story, and so as to not shortchange the unselfish acts of kindness Epic performed, I will better expand on this chapter in future.
Fast forward, JC helped establish a Go Fund Me Page via the Find Delilah Group on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/457659504767187/?ref=bookmarks. Raising $6,000 towards the efforts in bringing Delilah home. Paige and I were awed by this generosity, and humbly want to thank everyone for their caring support. We will never be able to pay everyone back, so we will pay it forward.
Delilah’s journey took her over Grand Father Mountain at a time of record winds (150 mph – yes 150!), single-degree temperatures, ice and snow storms. It was thanks to a snow storm that a volunteer spotted her tracks, how this volunteer was able to distinguish dog tracks versus coyote is still beyond my comprehension. She followed the tracks and saw our puppy! A great start, but Delilah was in survival mode and not yet ready to return home. So, of course, she ran some more. Ugggg. Michele brought her team’s efforts into high gear, placing 11 camera’s around the area to monitor Delilah’s movements. See images below.
Creative thinking Epic built a make-shift trap in an abandoned, rodent-infested house. We went in trying to put our scent on the place, the smell that greeted us outdid Sunday morning at a frat house – just saying! For two weeks Virginia and Nancy supplied daily yummy meals of steak and eggs, and finally, Delilah was caught! She suffered being clipped by a car, had a broken leg and deep cuts on her other leg, and it was this injury that finally slowed her down long enough to take the bait. Here is the raw footage from the vet’s office when Paige and JJ met up with Michelle and Nancy.
The incredible emotion when we brought Delilah home was covered by a few television stations, we were blessed for their coverage, giving credit to all of the incredible folks who helped bring her home.
While things began to return to normal life did not stop for us, my father-n-law passed away roughly 2 months after he was diagnosed with stage-4 terminal cancer and the company I had helped build over the last five years was sold and my position was eliminated. My family experienced the trifecta of life’s challenges within the first six months of last year. There was only one thing to do – push on!
Delilah Home was created to support my family and build a company that gives back to the community in which we serve. Today, we celebrate all of the people who gave us their time, talents, resources and most importantly love. Words cannot convey how eternally grateful my family is.
Welcome home Delilah (for your second gotcha day)! We love you.
P.S. Picture taken just now…..Ruffff! Life!
PSS, we are in contest with Fedex to receive grant money. Could you help us my registering your name please?