by Winona Post Editor-in-chief Sarah Squires
If the sweet prayers and earnest sleuthing of readers brought home missing puppies, my little (OK, gigantic) boy Anchor would have been by my side at first mention in the Winona Post. Sadly, Anchor, the big bouncing Spanish mastiff/Pyrenees mix and little brother to the infamous Captain, is not at home where he belongs, nor is he snoring by my feet as I write this. We may have the most promising clue in his mysterious disappearance yet, though, and I must give you all an update and share my gratitude for your thoughts and prayers.
For those of you who don’t know, I got Captain to serve as a kind of companion/therapy dog after my husband passed away and our other dog died. He’s got the personality of a very loving, but timid, 100-pound field mouse, and as a puppy he developed a very serious and aggressive bone cancer. We amputated his leg and did lots of rounds of chemotherapy, and he is doing very well today. He is, however, really lonely after losing the best little brother a boy could ask for. Sometimes at night when he’s restless and wants to play, I think he might be asking that I chew on his neck and pull his tail for awhile.
After Captain began recuperating from the chemo, and saddled with a rather grim prognosis, I decided to head down to the valley farm where Captain was born and get him a little brother. There I found little Anchor amid a dozen frolicking little snow white puppies playing in the barn. I chose the one who looked the most like Cap and carried him out to the car. Captain and I had been talking about this “little brother” to come for a few weeks, and he was rather excited to find out what that might be. As I lifted Anchor into the car and Captain gave him a sniff, I could almost see Cap’s eyes roll. “This! This is a ‘little brother’?” He’d clearly been envisioning a massive BBQ in his honor, or at least a few of those processed cheese slices in which we’d been hiding his medication.
Everyone has to be a little annoyed with his little brother, right? This Captain picked up right away, but it didn’t take him very long at all to learn the next lesson about little brothers: They are also your best friend. Anchor worshipped Captain, and Captain loved his little sidekick, and Captain suddenly seemed like he’d never been sick at all.
Then on October 1, the two little mischievous pups escaped and went running around in Merrick State Park. It was a Sunday morning during duck hunting season, and the park was crowded with hunters packing up from their trip. The two ran around and were spotted together just after escaping. But then the only sightings were of Captain alone, and then Captain came home, alone. Those two were inseparable, so something happened to Anchor soon after the two escaped.
I put up posters everywhere. I tromped through the swamp. I walked along the railroad tracks and the highway. Sometimes I would leave my house just so I could come home again a few minutes later, I was so convinced he would be waiting on the front steps when I pulled down the street. But Anchor didn’t come home, and rather than his love holding this ship steady, his absence has been a weight wrapped around our hearts ever since.
Many of you have called and written to me, even if to simply offer your support and prayers, and to promise that you’re keeping an eye out. Sometimes, because they look so similar, people will see me driving around with Captain and call, relaying the make and model of my car to me. Every so often, my friend Wendy will take Captain for the evening, and people will spot his big white goofy smile through the window of her truck, and Wendy will watch as they eye her suspiciously and jot down her license plate number. It’s all evidence that these two pups are very well loved, as am I, and I am forever grateful for you all. Your hope and prayers have helped me keep up my spirits over these months, as it isn’t easy being so worried about a companion whom you adore.
Because so many of you have been looking, and because I have scoured the area and park around my home, I have long thought that one of those duck hunters from out of town got one slobbery kiss from Anchor and decided he was better off going home with him. Captain is pretty shy, and even if a stranger had a spare steak, he probably wouldn’t allow the stranger to grab him. Anchor, on the other hand, would insist that every person he meets allow some kissing, so it makes sense that Captain would come home while Anchor went on an adventure with a stranger. And while there have been a few stray Pyrenees mixes I have come across since Anchor went missing, none were a promising lead, and none were my little slobber boy. But last week, a reader sent me an email about a big, white, curly tailed boy running around in rural North Dakota. I immediately made contact with the people who have been trying to catch him. There is a grainy, far away photo of a white boy, the curl of his tail just right, the flop of his ear just so, running through a field, a patch of blood on his shoulder. They have been trying to catch him for six weeks, but this boy is smart and he’s scared, so all they have managed to do is feed him and investigate various different traps that might work for such a large dog.
This is obviously really scary and hard. I want this to be my Anchor. I don’t want my Anchor to have been running around in below-zero temperatures, so traumatized he won’t even go near people who have special treats for him. But I have read a bit about how even the friendliest dogs, if they have been afraid and on their own for awhile, sometimes won’t even come to their own owners; their survival skills kick in and they can’t think the way they used to until they feel completely safe.
The folks in North Dakota had just gotten a trap big enough for the big white dog last week, but he was too smart to go inside, no matter what they put in it, so they had to find a different kind made for the most skittish of gigantic pups. They are out there right now trying to get him inside, and I have so much hope for a reunion. Right now, I am praying for a few things — that Anchor comes home, and if this boy isn’t mine, I pray that he is warm and safe and is reunited with the people he loves.
Thank you all, so much, for all your prayers.