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The Miracle of Jilly--A Survival Story PDF Print
Written by Linda Plaster   
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 20:00

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 1 of 3 
  jilly.jpgpeanut_and_jilly.jpg

  Jilly (a smooth, short-haired collie) and Peanut (a rough, long-haired collie) have been with me and together
since Jilly was 6 months old and since Peanut was a year old.  Jilly is a full-breed smooth collie – her parents
were both champion show dogs.  Peanut, on the other hand, is a three-legged rescue collie that’s also a pet therapy dog.  Peanut has inspired many ill, injured and elderly patients with his determination to overcome his own handicap.  He’s visited Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, nursing homes, etc.  Peanut and Jilly are inseparable – when they can lay anywhere in our house or backyard, they typically lay touching each other, often back to back.

 

  We arrived at our vacation home in Deep Gap, NC, just outside of Boone, at 9:00 p.m. after a 12-hour drive.  Jilly has been coming here her whole life.  This was the first time we had ever arrived after dark. We let the collies out of the car right in front of our house to do their business after not stopping for 6 hours and within 10 minutes Jilly had vanished – we didn’t even make it into our house to put Jilly’s North Carolina collar on.  This was so odd – Jilly has been coming here almost her whole life and she always stays right in front of the house to do her business, especially at night.
  On a dime, things changed.  We looked frantically for her from 9:10 pm – until 2:30 in the morning, and then got up at 5:00 am to start searching again.  We had no idea that this would be the beginning of a 25 day grueling search – most days for 18 hours. We called every place you can think in a multi-county area – vets’ offices, animal hospitals, humane societies, animal control facilities, a local radio station, and we placed lost dog notices in area newspapers.  We postered the immediate area and handed out flyers to our neighbors.
  Peanut, Jilly’s 3-legged rescue collie companion, was very upset – he didn’t eat for 2 days and just layed in front of the door. We had to hand feed him to get him to start eating.
  We hired a tracker who drove for 17 hours from Oklahoma to get here with her 4 tracking dogs.  She had us poster a 12 x 18 mile radius before she arrived.  When the tracker had us use Google Earth to view our area, I was overwhelmed…nothing but mountains surround us – the search seemed futile then, as it did many times over the coming weeks.
  When the tracker arrived, we tracked Jilly off our mountain and into the woods.  We were ready to start into the woods when we received information about a collie sighting in Boone, over 10 miles away.  We ultimately had another sighting in another area of Boone.
  We all moved to a hotel in Boone to be closer to town after we had these calls about sightings and we chased these leads for another 4 days with the tracker.
  After the tracker left, we stayed in Boone. One night, we went to stage an area where we’d had sightings with food to try to catch what we hoped was our dog – the staging area was at a rundown roadside motel off the highway where you can live for $10 a day.  After almost two hours, we got frightened by people there watching us and decided to leave.
  The next night we felt we really needed to rule out a collie sighting in a neighborhood less than a mile from the seedy motel, so we set up a feeding station in a large yard with a trail camera and we spent the night out in the area. Fortunately, we had a sighting while we spent the night out – we were so excited until we came upon a dead animal laying in the grass on the side of the road in the area of the sighting – we could only see it’s behind from the road and as we approached it - I remember saying “she’s dead.”  It was pitch dark and we were on a busy 4-lane highway – the stress was terrible – I dropped my cell phone and other items in the dark.  As we got closer, we saw that it was a deer that had apparently just been hit by a car.  We continued looking, with tremendous anxiety, thinking we were just about to find our dog.  We finally spotted the dog and were able to see for ourselves that it wasn’t Jilly.  A huge disappointment. 
  We stayed out all night anyway as we weren’t sure whether or not there could have been two stray collies in the area.  We had been told by a resident who saw a collie run through their yard the night before that they heard dogs barking like crazy about 1:30 in the morning after the collie went through their yard.  They allowed us to park overnight in their driveway.  We were out in a remote area and sure enough, dogs started barking like crazy right around 1:30 am.  We waiting anxiously to see if the dog would come to this other feeding station that we had set up.  It was abundantly clear that the dogs were barking at something.  I thought any minute that we might see a bear – and maybe our dog or the other collie we had seen earlier.  At about 1:40 am, a small black and white cat showed up at the feeding station in front where we were parked. 
  I stayed until noon or so that day and then had to get some rest.  That night, the trail camera we’d set up at one of the feeding stations captured a picture of this same dog we’d seen the night before up on the highway. 
  The community was unbelievable:  people helped us poster, they called with ideas and stories that they thought might be helpful, they left messages of support indicating that they were praying for Jilly and for us.  My brother and his wife spent every day of their vacation here looking for Jilly and helping with Peanut
  After the first week of our search, it seemed that everyone in Deep Gap, Boone and surrounding areas knew about Jilly.
  After 3 weeks, we received information about a sighting down in Lenoir, about 20 miles away, so, we had the tracker map out a more extensive postering area
  Every sighting gave us hope…we would email pictures of different dogs to see if the people might really be seeing OUR dog.  We were still consulting with the tracker and she sent us a doggie line-up card to send to people who called about sightings.  Each sighting ultimately ended in terrible disappointment when we learned that the people didn’t see our dog. 
  One sighting close by ended up being another stray that had been abandoned at a local vacation area.  We took that dog in, acting as a temporary foster home, and named him Watson (after Doc Watson).
  I learned later that most people did not believe we would ever find Jilly alive, if we ever found her at all. 
  It was all a spiritual journey for me – hope, then no hope – faith, then no faith – at one point I was so mad, almost hysterical, from long days of searching with little sleep or sustenance – no time to groom or wash clothes, etc. – I said some terrible things to God…then felt terrible about it…went to a dear friend’s funeral and talked to a family member that’s a minister…felt better and came full circle with my faith …was reminded that we think we’re holding on to God, but God is holding onto us – so, I forgave myself and realized how much I can’t stand feeling separated from God, no matter what’s going on in my life, good or bad. 
© Copyright 2009 Linda Plaster
  
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