The Thursday before Thanksgiving, I took my three dogs for their morning walk and then to my house on Akron’s near west side, where I worked. At 4 o’clock, I told the dogs we were heading home, but the eldest one, Lily, didn’t join us at the door.
I checked the house to see if she was stuck behind a closed door or on a landing, afraid to descend a flight of stairs. But she was nowhere to be found. My best guess is that she didn’t come inside with the rest of us earlier that day.
Lily, whom I adopted more than 10 years ago from a breeder, is different from all the other shelties I’ve owned over 35 years. A bi-black, or black and white, she’s perfect in size and structure because she was bred to be a show dog.
However, Lily has too much white in her coat for American Kennel Club standards and, thus, was rejected from her would-be career.
Typically, shelties are unbelievably easy to train, particularly if an older dog is in the home. But Lily, who was over 3 months old when I adopted her, first stepped outdoors on the day I picked her up. She took so long to house train a friend began calling her “Betsy Wetsy.”
Eventually she learned to go outside and became the dear companion to our other sheltie, Hoover, who was 9 when we brought Lily home. As his faculties diminished over the next six years, Hoover increasingly relied on Lily. After he lost his hearing, she’d let him know when I was calling them inside or for dinner.
The relationship was good for both dogs as Hoover’s mildest of manners never intimidated Lily, who is rather anxious. I suspect she spent most of her early life isolated in a crate because playful dogs and people who approach her directly both make her nervous.
And yet, she desires affection. Like a butterfly, Lily approaches only when someone quietly minds their own business. She likes to sleep by my partner Max’s feet when he’s in his office and sidles up to me when I’m working at the dining room table. She doesn’t come to my office because it’s on the second floor and Lily’s no fan of stairs.
Any other dog I’ve owned would have gone to the door and barked if I’d accidentally left them outside. But instead, fretful Lily went on a walkabout.
We searched the neighborhood and I texted the neighbors for whom I have phone numbers, which they forwarded on to other neighbors. I also posted on multiple social media sites, including the Facebook page, “Akron Summit County Lost and Found Pets.”
On Friday, a neighbor spied Lily in the driveway of another neighbor who puts food out for feral cats. Lily presumably stopped by for a bite, but when we arrived, she was gone.
We again walked the neighborhood, with no luck.
Meanwhile, several friends also searched for her on their own. Joy, who drove around with fried chicken to lure Lily into her car, asked anyone she saw if they’d seen a black-and-white dog. A few streets from my house people told her Lily had been seen heading toward Krispy Kreme.
On Saturday, Maureen Foley and her husband, Steve, who regularly help find the lost pets listed on “Akron Summit County Lost and Found Pets,” offered to help us. They set up a feeding station with a motion-activated camera near the Krispy Kreme on Saturday evening, but only cats visited.
Then, at 3 in the morning on Sunday, a man called and said he was “100% certain” he’d seen our dog. She’d been on West Market Street near St. Vincent’s church when he followed her down Walnut Street and the grand Glendale Steps into the adjacent cemetery, where he lost her.
Like Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston or Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Akron’s
Glendale Cemetery, with its Civil War Chapel, avenue of distinctive mausoleums and newly restored bell tower, is an iconic 19th century memorial park that invites visitation, which at its inception was a departure from church graveyards.
Our family enjoys strolling the hilly grounds where the names on many gravestones match those of area streets, buildings and schools. In the predawn hours that Sunday, Max and I walked every section of Glendale, streetlight peacefully reflecting on polished granite obelisks and orbs the size of my exercise ball.
But Lily was not there. Sunday evening a freezing rain poured and I prayed our dog had found shelter.
On Monday, I spent $40 to laminate several missing-dog posters. That afternoon, Leif and Lyra, my two youngest children, were helping me staple them to telephone poles when my phone rang.
“I think we have your missing dog,” said a man. Tim Hite’s wife, Meg, found Lily crossing
Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. In just one day, our little 10-year-old dog had walked roughly 13 busy miles.
The Hites posted a photo of Lily on Facebook and within minutes someone shared with them my Facebook post about our missing girl. In less than an hour after they’d found her, Lily was in our van, headed home. Fortunately, other than bleeding paws, she was perfectly fine.
That day the internet, assisted by our community, was a tool for goodness.
While I wish she’d never been lost, curiously, Lily’s solo journey seems to have affected her personality for the better. She’s been more animated and less anxious since her return. If only she could tell us about her four-day adventure.
There are many who helped in our search for Lily, prayers included. We thank you all from the bottom of our dog-loving hearts.
This was first published in the Akron Beacon Journal on Sunday, January 10, 2021.