Editor's Note: We're running a multi-part story of the survival of Jilly, a collie that was lost this summer in the High Country, and the miraculous discovery of the dog over three weeks later. The WATA Pet Patrol and Pet Patrol Page on GoBlueRidge.net followed the search and offered our on-air and on-line help. Jilly's owner, Linda Plaster is the writer.
FINDING JILLY (condensed version)
Part 2 of 3
Then, on Sunday, 8/30, I had the car packed to go poster a 25 mile radius starting down in Lenoir (20 miles away) …had postering supplies, purse, cell phone, and had locked the front door…decided to go down the mountain behind our house one more time.
Unlike any other day since Jilly went missing, I just couldn’t get going…I didn’t get the car packed until around 4:00…I had taken some quiet time and had been contemplating going down the mountain behind our house one more time…. We had searched down the mountain 4 other times, twice with tracking dogs.
A few things led up to looking down the mountain again, but never really thinking that I was really going to find Jilly: (1) I learned that the little dog I found while searching for Jilly, which we were fostering and named Watson, was a Feist – a breed I’d never heard of until the tracker arrived with her dogs – one was a Feist. By chance, I gave him Jilly’s scent article 4 times within a minute or so and asked him to find Jilly. Later (can’t remember how much later), I saw Watson go down the mountain behind our house. He may have done it more than once; and (2) a friend had told us that a client’s dog had tried to dig its own grave the day prior to its death.
While watching Watson, I notice a big pile of dirt behind the house - down the mountain but still within view. I went down to check it out – a tree had fallen over creating a mound of dirt and an animal size hole – no Jilly, but I could see another one of these mounds of dirt a little further down the mountain. I checked out that mound too, no Jilly – I could see yet another mound of dirt a little further down – I can’t remember if it was at this point, or if I decided to check out the 3rd mound of dirt since I was already down so far, that I saw a very small bit of white way down below me. I had been so disappointed so many times already that I didn’t think much of it, but decided to go down a little further – then saw more white. Still never thinking much of it…I went down a little further and thought I saw brown and white, a little further and realized that it was something brown and white and then it started to click that these were the colors of Jilly’s fur. I went down further and could see part of her body – I was thinking to myself, or maybe I said it out loud, Oh my God, it’s my dog, and at the same time thinking that I was having another bad dream about Jilly – I finally could see her whole still body and she looked dead. I was still relieved, in a terrible way, to have her body and to have closure so I could finally rest. As I got closer and could see her whole body, she definitely looked dead- she looked like she’d been dead for several days, maybe even a week. When I approached her, I knew she was dead…she had flies all around her and she smelled dead. She was just lying there still… Then, I saw her leg jitter and I said out loud, Oh my God, she’s alive. I still thought she was very near death and would be unconscious. When I picked up her head to caress her and say goodbye, she opened her eyes, immediately recognized me, jumped up and gave me a kiss… then, she layed right back down. I’m in shock now – I think I’m definitely having another bad dream about her…
I’m frantic; I pet her and know I have to climb the mountain to get her help. Even though she can hardly hear, I yell and motion for her to stay…as I start up the mountain, she gets up and starts pacing and tried to follow me up the mountain, but she couldn’t. We were in a very precarious position; a wrong move would have landed her (and me) down on the rocks in the ravine. At this point, I figured that if God let me find her alive after all this time, I needed to trust Him…so I kept yelling for her to stay all the way while I climbed back up the mountain.
When I got to the house, I called 911 and the Sheriff’s department, neither could help me – I believe that the Sheriff’s department paged Animal Control, but I couldn’t wait around for them to call me back. I tried to call several people that work here on the property, to no avail. I called an animal hospital that was closed. I started calling people out of the property directory…finally I reached someone that lives here full time, Mark and Leslie Bradbury – Leslie answered and knew all about our lost collie – I’m sure I sounded frantic- Leslie handed the phone to Mark – I told him to come to the house and yell and that I would blow the Coast Guard whistle that I had been using when trying to find Jilly. Mark recruited a friend, Tony Grant, to help. I quickly gathered wet food, water, a sport’s drink and a blanket and headed back down the mountain.
When I approached the area where I’d left Jilly, I could see that she was no longer there – I was so worried that she had fallen further down the mountain or ravine – again, I could see her white fur – she hadn’t gone too far…
I covered her up with the blanket to keep her warm and to keep the flies away…I didn’t realize that she had maggots on her hind quarters. While laying down, she only had a few licks of the fluids but she gobbled down the can of food and kept nosing and nibbling the ground looking for more food…we actually were in a much better place the first time I found her, now we had very little room to move – a few inches and she could easily have tumble down the mountain – I had to move below her to keep her safe with only a small plant to hang onto – it was precarious for me too, but I had more strength to hold on…there was no way that I was going to find her after all this time and then let her fall down the mountain…I was going with her if any falling was going to take place…
The rescuers called out to me and I blew the whistle – they arrived and were considering taking her back up the mountain but I knew from having hiked all the way down the mountain 3 times before that it would be easier and quicker to get to the bottom. Mark went to investigate the best route while Tony stayed with me and Jilly…Jilly was so pitifully hungry that I searched my backpack and found a trail bar and gave that to her to eat
The guys decided to go down the mountain, taking turns carrying Jilly. I was to climb back up that mountain one more time to get the SUV and meet them at the bottom of the mountain. When I got to my car, the volunteer from Friends for Life, Kacy Krieg, met me there and rode with me to pick up Jilly. She had received my frantic voice mail trying to find someone to help me rescue Jilly off the mountain. When we got down to the road at the bottom of the mountain, Tony was running toward us and he turned around and motioned us to follow him.
We got to a fire road and pulled up in it just as Mark came out of the forest with her. Several people were there to meet us – a volunteer fireman, Jerry Cates, and neighbors from the mountain, Margaret Ivey and Dean Neilsen (and maybe others) had heard that we needed help…Dean had a camera and took pictures of the rescue…including one of me carrying her…Mark wanted me to have a picture carrying her out of the woods to the car…I remembering him saying that this would be the picture I wanted some day – of me carrying Jilly, not him carrying her, so he handed Jilly to me. Several other pictures were taken with others helping to get Jilly in the car…I remember Tony saying, don’t call me again…Mark said he also told me he was changing his pone number to unlisted…I needed the sense of humor to break the stress. Kacy from Friends for Life rode in the back with Jilly all the way to the animal hospital…about 30 minutes away.
We were both thinking the same thing…what if they want to euthanize Jilly…there was no way I wanted that to happen after I’d seen Jilly stand up to kiss me, try to follow me up the mountain, and inhale a can of food…however, there was still the possibility that she was wounded or ill beyond help…