Reunion with lost dog may keep owner from leaving Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2012

SALISBURY — Tina Stanley walked by herself into the woods near Cottage Street.
She knew Sam, her 12-year-old Catahoula hound, was more likely to respond to her whistles if he thought she were alone.
Anne Lyles and a small contingent of Salisbury firefighters stayed back.
Sam had been missing for almost three days. Firefighter Ted Reaume, who was checking hydrants in this Rowan Mills area, was sure he had spotted the distinctive 85-pound dog with blue and gray markings.
He called it in. Other firefighters who eventually reported to the area saw him, too. Public Information Officer Chris Kepley described the dog as “very spooked.”
“They called him, and he appeared to recognize his name, but he would dart back into the woods,” Stanley said.
Closing in
An off-duty battalion chief, Currie Butler, tracked down the visiting Stanley by cellphone. She and Lyles, mother of her Salisbury friend Karl Sale, were in the Westcliffe area, chasing another report of a Sam sighting.
“Time was of the essence — they were 99.9 percent sure,” said Stanley, thankful that Lyles was driving and knew her way around.
So there was Stanley, alone in the woods, whistling for her dog. She soon heard a racket in the brush.
It was Sam — on the opposite creek bank. Because the water was too deep for the exhausted dog to cross the creek toward her, Stanley coached the yelping animal along the side to a spot where he could forge.
Back together again
The reunion Wednesday afternoon was emotional.
“Not only was I weeping for joy, he was like, “Could it possibly be true?’ ” Stanley says.
Sam walked out of the woods with her and into the back seat of Lyles’ car. They returned to Sale’s house in the Brooklyn-South Square neighborhood, from where he had disappeared Sunday night.
“”He is so exhausted right now,” Stanley said early Wednesday evening. “Normally he trots along like a Morgan horse. Right now, he’s weaving like a drunk.”
She hand-fed him bits of food and predicted he would be quick to recover.
Stanley had vowed she would not leave Salisbury without Sam, a companion since he was a 6-week-old pup. They have been through a lot together, including the forced evacuation from their New Orleans residence when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Leaving an artist-in-residency program in Massachusetts, Stanley was driving toward her mother’s home in Atlanta when she and Sam stopped for the weekend at Sale’s home in Salisbury.
Sam slipped out a door at Sale’s house off East Fisher Street about 9:30 Sunday night. Stanley thinks he was on the trail of a feral cat and could not find his way back in the unfamiliar surroundings.
Sale described Sam as a timid dog, who is “very bonded” to Stanley. He and Stanley assumed Sam spent much of the time he was missing hiding in woods, because he loved that environment along the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
Community helps out
Word spread of Sam’s disappearance through Facebook, neighborhood fliers and emails. Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell sent out an email about the dog Tuesday, and that’s how Reaume identified him.
Some early reports of Sam sightings placed him in the Jake Alexander Boulevard area near the Waffle House and Hood Theological Seminary.
All in all, he covered some ground.
Kepley said Reaume deserves the credit for finding Sam. Other departmental personnel who helped were Kepley herself, Butler, Lauran McCulloh (on maternity leave) and student Michael Freeman.
“The firefighters have basically changed my life right now,” Stanley said. “I am so grateful. … How in the world do I thank these people?”
As an artist, Stanley paints and is an accomplished photographer, but she said her “bread and butter” comes from her jewelry designs.
Her whole dog-hunting experience in Salisbury has made her a big fan of this place. The woman who declared she wasn’t leaving Salisbury without her dog now says she may not leave Salisbury period.
“I have not seen a community like this in action, where all the members are fully engaged,” she said. “… Now I’m looking around Salisbury. I like it here.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost. com.