Sometimes, right in the middle of Nextdoor.com's usual neighborhood posts about tweaker break-ins, handyman recommendations and debates about over what business should move into the former Top's Market location (Grocery Outlet!), there comes a post that takes on a life of its own.
So it's been since May 5, when a fellow west-Redding Nextdoor.com neighbor posted the subject line, German Shepherd, and said he'd seen the dog wandering around Cumberland Drive at about 4:30 p.m.
That started a flurry of what would grow to more than 140 comments within 11 days as neighbors banded together on social media to help locate the dog so they could return it to the safety of its owners. People reported dates, times and locations of their German Shepherd sightings. They shared encouragement, prayers, advice and information.
I saw him this morning at 5:45 in the Whitehawk neighborhood. I was running with my Golden and he came up to her. Unfortunately, I reached my hand out and he ran away. He is beautiful. Angela, Eagle Ridge Estates.
Cody, of Ridgeview, whose home would eventually be the place in which the dog sought refuge, shared this message:
That is a good sign, that he came up to your Golden. I spoke to Katy Yoder, a very experienced German Shepherd handler. She communicated that his behavior is that of a "dumped" dog, and he is very frightened. Thus, he will not come up to a person. She communicated that, if the opportunity arises, and he is in a yard, etc., the best way is to not approach him, or try to touch him, but to sit down on the grass and at first look away. Then sprinkle some treats at a distance. By doing this, there is a possibility that the dog may trust you. However, due to the state of his fear, somehow, he needs to get into a contained area, like a fenced yard or garage. Has anyone sighted him, since early morning?
Neighbors monitored security camera footage. They set out bowls of food and water for the dog as it migrated through Ridgeview, Eagle Ridge Estates, White Hawk Estates, and streets like Siskiyou, Andes. Misty Glen, Aspen Glow, Dartmouth and beyond.
Soon came posts written by other dog experts, who reiterated Cody's plea.
Please, to all of the wonderful people trying to help this boy, don't chase him or try to touch/catch him. He needs to connect with someone or be coaxed into a safe enclosure. It sounds like he is staying in one area which is a really good beginning. The more comfortable he gets, the better an opportunity to capture him will happen.
Cheryl, Country Heights.
Finally, success came when Darlene from Ridgeview Estates wrote that the dog had visited her house, and had eaten two bowls of food they'd left outside for it.
The message by Morgan, of Ridgeview, expressed many neighbors' sentiments.
That’s great, Darlene. So glad to hear it had food and water. He will come back to check again, so if it’s consistent, maybe you’ll be the ones building trust, although it may take a long time. Just good to hear the poor dog had a meal and water! Thank you!
Thanks to her security system, Darlene from Ridgeview was able to give a detailed update to worried neighbors.
The Shepherd had a full tummy last night. Like I posted last night he was at our house at 9:12 p.m, 1:02 a.m, 3:25 am. He ate and drank water each time. Also we feed someone's cat about midnight. We will continue putting out food and water all day and night until this lovely animal is safe and off the streets.
Neighbors stealthily searched street by street in hopes of finding the elusive dog. One man made a crate that he placed strategically outside his home with food and water. Hour by hour neighbors reported sightings, or logged in to ask about the dog. People in Mary Lake Subdivision, across Placer Road, said they were on the lookout for the dog, too. Prayers and well-wishes came from all over west Redding, such as Sunset Terrace, Walnut Avenue, North Street and the Garden Tract.
Two new threads appeared that speculated whether the dog was one of two missing German Shepherds: Jager, who was stolen from the area two years ago; or perhaps it was Tosen, of Chico, assumed to have been stolen from its farm property more than a year ago.
I contacted the number on the poster and spoke with Susan, Tosen's heartbroken owner, who said her beautiful 3-year-old beloved German Shepherd has been missing 13 months and three days.
“Not a day goes by that I don't wonder and miss him,” she said.
In these last 13 months, she has followed up on countless dead-end leads. She's contacted shelters, German Shepherd rescue groups, posted messages on social media and has passed out more than 2,000 flyers that offer a $2,000 reward for the dog's safe return.
She was anxious to hear more about the west-Redding German Shepherd sighting, though she isn't optimistic the Redding dog is her dog. She said Tosen had a distinct identifying characteristic: He has just three toes on his back right paw – not the dewclaw - the result of an amputation from an injury.
Susan said she's tortured by the fact that she didn't have her dog chipped, something she didn't think was necessary at the time because they lived on a remote farm down a private road.
Her gut says someone stole her dog while she was at work. She said her instincts also tell her that her dog is still alive, and that she'll find him one day.
Meanwhile, the dog experts, including Katy Yoder, had a plan in place to secure the wandering west-Redding German Shepherd, but it required everyone's cooperation.
Cody and I have a plan in progress. So far, so good. If every else backs off, we should have Pup/Pup in tow and HAPPY by Sunday or Monday, at the latest. I actually know what I am doing here. Those leaving water at the mailboxes, move it to Cody' s house. This dog, for whatever reason, has been 'dumped'. I beg for everyone to cooperate in bringing this dog 'in'. I actually know what I am doing. Fifty years a dog handler. Katy Yoder, West Redding.
Patricia of Ridgeview reported a sighting, and expressed faith in Katy and her plan.
I saw him yesterday just lying in a front yard on Crescent Moon. He was lying there, looking around. He's a beautiful dog. I've been thinking he was just dumped, too. I'm so glad Katy knows what she's doing. I'm rooting for you.
Ridgeview Tina wrote what many felt:
Can’t wait to hear about this poor dog when he is in a home. So happy that everyone is trying to rescue him. Poor little guy is scared. Time for him to have happy days And be loved.
Katy put everyone's minds at ease.
Thanks everyone!!! We will let you know when he comes 'in'. It should be very soon. If everyone would pull their aid, it will steer him to Cody's gated courtyard. Once we have him, I will bring a 'comfort dog' and goodies.
Messages overflowed with expressions of neighborly love, hope and camaraderie.
You are all wonderful in working together to get this boy home. Wishing you all success. Thank you all for caring. Tom, Placer Hills.
Eagerly waiting to hear if this is Tosen or someone else’s missing pup! Good job to all involved thus far! Holly, West Redding.
Can’t wait to hear about this beautiful dog. I also have 4 months of heart worm med and a bottle of shampoo that I can’t use for our dog. If you need, and some dog toys for this sweet little boy. Tina, Ridgeview.
Perfectly according to plan, the dog entered Cody's courtyard where he found food, water and a comfy bed. All was well. The joyous message was sent out that the dog was safely secured in the courtyard behind a gate.
Got him! Please spread the word!
Within less than 30 minutes of that message, the dog was taken.
The next message was from Cody, who told what happened.
Upsetting news, everyone... This beautiful German Shepherd was contained and sleeping soundly and quietly in our courtyard all evening, as we were awaiting professional handling in the morning. He ate well and seemed content. I was up all night, checking on him. Just within the last 40 minutes or so, someone opened the gate and let him out, or took him. Someone took the roping off the gate that we had devised to softly close the gate from the house last evening in order to contain him, while he was feeding. This is how we know a human being was involved. Katy Yoder believes he will return to the courtyard …
Please continue your prayers and communications on his whereabouts. Thank you all neighbors, for your continued concern and support with regard to getting this poor dog safe.
Neighbors shared grief and outrage.
... Why would someone do that and let that poor dog out when they know everyone is looking for it?
... Just too sad and painful not knowing.
Katy, who knows a lot about dogs, floated another theory:
He may have gotten separated from a homeless camp and found his way back. These guys are fiercely loyal. If he gets separated again, I think he will find his way back to Cody. Nice place to sleep, nice food, clean water. These guys are VERY resourceful. Thanks to everyone for your efforts on his behalf. As Cheryl said, it looks he has moved on. We still have our 'game plan' if he returns. To the person who let him out of the courtyard, shame on you!!!
Cheryl McMillan, one of the west-Redding dog experts, elaborated.
It's impossible to tell for sure, but from the pictures, he looks pretty good for being out alone. If he was missing from a local home, the guardians would normally be looking, posting, advertising, etc. if they knew he was missing (they're not on vacation.) There have been at least two camps in that area, probably more. Other people may be feeding him. There are just too many “what if's”. Say a prayer, hope he will be safe and rescued soon.
The dog hasn't been seen since Saturday.
What's creepy is that for all the good Nextdoor.com provided in terms of providing a vibrant gathering place that allowed strangers and neighbors alike to join forces for the sake of the dog, the same site potentially served a darker purpose if someone was able to monitor the messages, identify the neighborhood and courtyard and steal the dog.
Cody is convinced there was human interaction involved.
"We were up all night, making sure he was OK, and he was content," Cody said. "We proceeded to get dressed. Within that 35 min of posting, someone took him, or let him out. We believe he will return if he is able to; I sincerely hope he will."
Cody, who named the dog "Good Boy" - a name that was whispered to the dog all night as the dog rested in the courtyard - doesn't just hope the dog will return, but Cody believes the dog will return.
Meanwhile, in Chico, Susan shares the same belief.
"There are dogs, and there are soul dogs," Susan said. "This was my soul dog."
Update: I spoke with Katie Yoder this morning, who cleared a few things up. First, the dog was first successfully secured at Cody's house more than a week ago, and returned multiple times for food and shelter, lured by the scent of some objects, including Katy's dog bed. While it appeared someone did open the gate and release the dog a week ago, the dog returned, was secured in the courtyard, but the dog climbed something in Cody's courtyard and escaped. It was last seen Saturday.
Katy encourages people to not confuse the rescue by putting out dishes of food and water, but rather, allow the dog to seek comfort at Cody's, which is by now a familiar place for the dog. Katy urged people to not try to capture the dog, but to let it return to Cody's house on its own, which is when Katy and others will take things from there. Katy's number is 530-246-3015.
If you think you've found Tosen, the missing Chico dog, contact Susan at 530-514-0046. If you think you've spotted the elusive west-Redding German Shepherd, call Katy Yoder at 530-246-3015.