NORTH ANSON — When Christine Pierce heard about a family from Maryland who lost their dog while visiting relatives over the holidays, she piled her children and younger brother into her Jeep and went to look for it.
“I have a dog myself and I just know I would be devastated if anything happened to him,” she said. “I felt like I needed to go look, even if it was just for 10 minutes.”
The dog, a one-year-old boxer named Dempsey, disappeared during a trip to visit family in North Anson with his owner Jamie Cyrway and her three children, who live in Severn, Md., but were visiting Cyrway’s mother, Janet Boothby, for Christmas.
Boothby, a teacher at Carrabec High School, said Dempsey jumped over a backyard fence and ran away on Dec. 28, when Cyrway and her children left her home for a Christmas celebration with other relatives.
She said as the family left for the party, “They went out the door and took Christmas presents and their winter clothing so they could sled. I think he thought they were leaving,” said Boothby. She said she drove around the neighborhood for two hours looking for Dempsey before calling her daughter to say he was missing.
The Boothbys live on Madison Street, about two blocks from the post office in an area with other homes but not a lot of traffic.
They spent the rest of the night walking and driving around with no luck while Dempsey eluded neighbors who were out looking for him.
The next door neighbor said he saw him on the corner, but by the time Boothby got there, he was gone.
He was seen the next day in a garage on Union Street, but when the owner of that home tried to call him, he ran out to the main road then into the woods.
After nine days of temperatures below freezing, and often dropping to single digits and below zero, snow and freezing rain, Pierce found Dempsey on Monday morning in an abandoned warehouse in North Anson, his leg broken. He is being cared for at the Madison Animal Hospital and his owners plan to visit him on Friday.
Like Depmsey, according to a 2012 study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 93 percent of dogs and 74 percent of cats that are lost are recovered.
Pierce, 30, an animal lover who also has a boxer, said she saw posts about the missing dog on Facebook and heard about multiple sightings in the area. She’d been a student of Boothby’s but didn’t know Cyrway.
“She’s the biggest animal lover I know and she just kept telling me, âMom, I know that dog is around here,'” said her mother, Maddy Pierce, Madison’s deputy town clerk.
On Friday, after a light snow had fallen, Pierce’s husband, Dan Parent, borrowed a pair of snowshoes and went to look for Dempsey in the hopes he would find fresh paw prints.
Boothby said her family also spent days driving around looking for tracks and set up scent stations, where they put food and clothing that smelled like Cyrway and her children.
They never lost hope that they would find the dog, who was a Christmas present for Vivian, 2, Jayden, 8, and Tyrr, 12, in 2012.
“Until we had proof he couldn’t or didn’t make it, we were going to believe he would be found,” said Boothby, 57.
On New Year’s Day, Jamie and the children had to return to Maryland, a departure they’d pushed back a day. Before they left, they spent the morning looking for the dog.
“It was a horrible departure with her and the children leaving their loved one behind,” said Boothby. “It was heart-wrenching.” To compound their pain, they got in a car accident on the way home, but no one was hurt.
Cyrway said she refused to give up, even though she was hundreds of miles away.
The family’s hope was renewed on Sunday, when an animal control officer went to the Boothby’s house and said there’d been a report that a big brown dog had been hit by a car on U.S. Route 201A. The man who hit the dog didn’t have a phone, so he went to a nearby house to call animal control before coming back to check on the dog, but when he returned the dog had disappeared.
The family went out again to look, but the only tracks they could find went in a circle. They said that sounded like Dempsey, an energetic dog who likes to run, said Boothby. On Monday she moved the live animal trap that the family had borrowed from the animal control officer to the area near the accident, she said.
Nearly an inch of rain fell on Monday, closing schools and roads and making travel difficult. Pierce, who has a five-month-old son and six-year-old daughter, piled the children and her 11-year-old brother, Roy, into her Jeep and went to look for Dempsey after seeing the post about the accident on Facebook.
She headed to the former Wood Tech building, an old warehouse near Williams Farm on U.S. 201A.
And there huddled in one of the old buildings was a skinny, soaking wet dog.
“Picture the worst a dog could look. It was a little better than that,” said Pierce. “You could see every bone in his body and he was curled up in a little ball. It was just horrible.”
She picked him up and Roy sat with him in the back of the Jeep.
Boothby, who was nearby, heard Pierce yelling Dempsey’s name. She said she was surprised to see one of her former students appear with the dog. She rode with them in the back of the Jeep to the Madison Veterinary Hospital, where Dempsey is being cared for.
“You don’t come across people like that every day. Not only did she find our dog, she went with our mom to the vet. She’s visited him at the vet and given me updates. She calls me just for support,” said Cyrway.
All of Dempsey’s toys are still in his crate and although the family will probably keep him in Maine for the remainder of his recovery, they plan to make frequent visits and are anticipating his return home, Cyrway said.
When he was brought in, Dempsey was severely hypothermic and was having seizures. He has a broken tooth and broken right tibia and will have to have surgery, said Darren Richards, a veterinarian at the Madison Animal Hospital. He said Dempsey had improved significantly by Wednesday morning and is expected to make a full recovery. He doesn’t have evidence of frostbite, although it can take up to 48 hours for signs of it to appear.
Dempsey’s chances of survival in the weather conditions were low, Richards said. “It’s really unusual, especially given the temperatures we’ve experienced.”
Richards said he thought that since Dempsey was found near a farm he might have found some warm hay to sleep in.
“It’s truly a miracle. When I look back, I think we were probably crazy to believe, but I never gave up hope,” said Boothby. “Even after they left, I still went out looking for and calling for him. I wouldn’t give up until we had reason to.”
There is a fund at the Madison Animal Hospital for Dempsey under Janet Boothby’s account to help pay medical expenses. Money is also being collected at Irving Circle K on Main Street in Madison.
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org