Finding Dory: The story of a dog in trouble and the generous community that saved her life

By Camie J. Stockhausen

The pups and I enjoyed a lovely trip from central Iowa to my sister Carrie Hellestad’s house on North Street in Plymouth.  My diesel Silverado hummed along in the fine weather, and the two dogs and I enjoyed the rolling scenery gracing highway 151 through southwestern Wisconsin. Dug, the beagle-cross graduate of the Ames Animal Shelter, and Dory, the red healer cross who’d had a bit of an unappreciated start in life but never looked back, gazed out the windows or napped as the spirit moved them. 


We bought a twelver of Spotted Cow in Barneveld, which was our tradition since SC isn’t available in Iowa. We arrived in Plymouth a little earlier than planned, so instead of meeting Carrie and her husband Dave at church at 5:30, I drove to their house thinking maybe I could ride together with them to church. Sure enough, they were just getting ready to leave for church when I arrived. Carrie and I decided my pups would be most comfortable in the house.  They had been there many times before and my pups and Carrie’s two adorable dogs get along well. So we put them in the house and went to Christmas Eve service at Redeemer Lutheran Church – God’s house with a really good vibe. If you are looking for a church home, check it out.

After the service, we came home and Carrie remarked that my truck couldn’t stay on the street because of the snow ordinance, and suggested I move it while I was outside.  I had just gotten in it and was backing up to the neighbor’s driveway since they had given permission to park in their driveway while they were out of town. Suddenly I saw Dory streaking across North Street like her tail was on fire. There was a car coming, but the kind driver slowed down and let the drama pass.  Miracle number one.  

I put the truck in park right where it was and shouted to my nephew Grant to please park it in the neighbor’s driveway.  I ran across the street and trespassed everywhere looking for her and calling her name. When it became apparent that she wasn’t in the vicinity, I looked out across the dark expanse of the Mullet River with a sinking feeling in my gut.  Dory is a light dog and probably could have run across on the ice, but the geese floating in the open water were a frightening sight. If she had run out onto the ice in her panic, she might have gotten too close to the open water and gone through the ice and drowned.  

Carrie came out and helped me look and told me how Dory had gotten scared when Carrie’s dogs had excitedly barked upon their return.  Dory had been attacked a few weeks earlier by large dogs when we were on a walk, which may have contributed to her terror. Dory uncharacteristically pushed her way out the door.  Both Carrie and Dave tried valiantly to stop her but it wasn’t to be.

At least it was a beautiful evening for December – no wind and mild temperatures – as I sat in the chair Grant had brought me and called for Dory every few minutes. Now, with Dory gone and perhaps dead in the river, Christmas Eve had turned from holy to solely silent.

My family wanted to help call her, but they all know that Dory is skittish and might be scared if there was too much activity.  The best thing they could do was go in the house and enjoy the party Carrie and Dave were hosting for the family. After a while I went to my truck and turned it on to stay warm and also perhaps to encourage her to come back.  She knows the sound of this truck and might come to it. Carrie brought me out a lovely plate of food and I ate my Christmas Eve meal in my idling truck. In spite of the situation, I couldn’t help but giggle a little, thinking I might be racking up some decent streetcred points in the trucker world.

Carrie and I spent that night “sleeping” on her porch.  The weather was cooperative and we had a depth of bedding that could nearly be measured in feet, so we were relatively comfortable. I called for Dory every few minutes and we talked and even laughed a little about the ridiculousness of the impromptu adventure we were having.  The night wore on and the sun came up and no Dory. I had the exact opposite feeling I’d had on Christmas morning as a kid. Anticipation and excitement replaced by exhaustion and dread. My fitbit reported I had slept an hour and 23 minutes.

I realized that Dory’s situation was worse than a usual lost dog scenario.  Dory was not a runaway type dog. She, Dug and I had been camping together, took frequent on- and off leash walks and are very connected.  She would always come back to me or to home, if she knew where to go. But in Plymouth, she didn’t have the advantage of knowing the area. She had been terrified and was truly lost.  I realized I needed help.

So on Christmas morning while the family was getting ready to go to my Mom’s for Christmas day activities, I was distractedly and hopefully posting on Facebook.  A friend had mentioned that Lost Dogs/Cats in Sheboygan and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Helping Lost Pets were good resources and she was so right. Even though I am pretty tech savvy, it felt like it was taking me hours to create accounts and passwords on the sites, fill out forms and more, but in reality it was not that long.  With the sites’ help, I created a great flyer and shared it on FB.


I also posted pictures and text on my timeline: 

“Plymouth peeps, a little help please?  Lost in Plymouth Wisconsin, North Street, Christmas Eve. Dory is very skittish. Not likely to be caught. About 35 pounds. Pink collar with number, current on all vacs. If seen please call 515 231 9875. She is visiting family with me, so truly lost, doesn’t know the area. Thank you. God bless you this Christmas Day. — in Plymouth, Wisconsin.”

My phone rang about a minute after I posted about Dory.  It was Jay, my wasband (because X-husband sounds a little harsh to me.  We get along.) He loves Dory and was going to come up to help look from Newburg where his family celebrates Christmas.  Great, because Dory would come to him too.

I felt very desolate.  For all I knew she was drowned in the Mullet River.  But I had to try to find her. I posted those items on Facebook and hit the streets walking and calling for Dory, with Dug on a leash with me.  

I got a call from a volunteer from Lost Dogs of Wisconsin who was very kind and offered tips and encouragement.  It was great to have an experienced, caring voice take an interest in Dory’s situation.

Every once in a while I checked my FB account on my phone and was astonished and encouraged with how people were coming through.  The number of shares was growing by the minute. Friends from high school were sharing it with encouraging notes. People were posting that they were praying for Dory’s safe return.  People were asking if they could come and help call for Dory. Friends from Iowa who had connections in Sheboygan County were contacting each other to see if they could help. I tried to acknowledge each post with an emoji and I hoped people would understand that I was too busy looking to express my gratitude more appropriately.  

All of this encouragement lifted my spirits, but the fact was that I had no clue where Dory was.  I just kept walking and calling. I am not given to worry or catastrophizing. I thought it was true that she could be drowned in the river, and of course she could have been hit by a car or caught in a trap or any number of things, but ridiculous as it was, I just didn’t think so.  My friend had given me a plaque for Christmas which says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or troubled. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” When I found myself worried, I simply repeated in my mind, “Do not be afraid or troubled.” And I mostly wasn’t. Miracle number two.


The first Dory sighting was reported on Christmas day in the early afternoon.  Michelle Meyer Klemme had heard from a friend of hers, who turned out to be Jen Lund.  Jen lives just north of the fairgrounds and saw Dory walking down her street at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning.  When I read this in one of my frequent FB checks, I was elated. Sure, the tip was nine hours old, but it also meant she hadn’t gone out on the icy Mullet River.  Good news.

So my search moved to the area north of the fairgrounds.  I had the pleasure of talking with Jen’s quite charming children who were out playing when I was walking around calling Dory.  They took me to their house and introduced me to their mom and dad and Jen told me Dory had been walking north, so the fields north of the houses were as good a guess as any.   I trespassed like I was on a Viking in the fields around the subdivision north of the fairgrounds, knowing that Dory is more comfortable in the country, farm dog that she is. Dug and I walked every fenceline south of Highway 23 to no avail.

I took a break to get some diesel and some snacks at the Kwik Trip on the east side of town and by chance two sheriff’s deputies were there fueling up as well.  They were very kind when I briefly told them my story and they called in the Plymouth police and I reported Dory missing to the officer on duty.

By this time Dug was getting tired of walking and the sun was going down on Christmas Day, which would be Dory’s second night out.  I was grateful that the weather was kind. Being injured by cold was not a concern, very luckily.

Some friends from Iowa had mentioned on FB that I could put out things that smelled like me or Dug or Dory and put food on them to attract Dory if she was in the neighborhood.  I didn’t know where to put them, so I flat-out guessed that she might have come back south toward Carrie’s house. I put some little nests of items and food in the neighborhood east of the Mullet River pedestrian bridge and I walked the streets in the evening, calling for Dory.  I used my truck as a base. I encountered kind people out and about and they offered to keep an eye out and were genuinely encouraging. At one point I was sitting in my truck warming up and I looked up and a man was standing passively with his hands in front of his body, trying not to scare me when I saw him in the dark.  He smiled and walked over and said that he wanted to offer his wife’s help to get the word out on FB or other places. What a truly thoughtful offer. I was amazed.

Around nine p.m., I figured the neighborhood had tolerated enough of my calling, so I reluctantly headed to Carrie and Dave’s house to rest.  Carrie made me food because she is kind and I am too focused to eat sometimes. Oh dear. Anyway, after some conversation, I headed for bed. My fitbit registered 13 miles of walking.  I released Dory to God’s protection with a prayer and I went to sleep.  

I slept well and woke up early with a plan.  I was going to print flyers and post them all over Plymouth.  The Lost Dogs of Wisconsin site said that flyers were really effective so I decided I was going to invest whatever time was necessary to get that done.  The people at Walgreens were so nice to me when I arrived at their door the instant they opened. When they learned of my situation, they dropped everything to help me get the flyer out in hard copy.  Then they sent me off to the library to make copies. The library staff was wonderful and helped me make color and black and white copies and even let me post one on the upstairs desk and the front door.  I wish I knew the names of all the people who were so kind, but I was distracted and on a mission and I forgot my manners. I’m very grateful for their kindness.


Carrie got a scad of flyers posted on the east side of town and I worked the downtown.  Thank you to the Post Office for not pointing out that posting a flyer on a mailbox is a federal offense, which I learned much later.  Ooops.  

My niece Ali Kuhn posted flyers at Sundance Farm, a horse farm owned by my sister Kelly Mahloch and her husband Steve.  This was potentially a great help because the group at that barn is a bunch of observant dog lovers.

Meanwhile, my mom, Jeanne Nonhof, was driving around looking for Dory and my brother-in-law Dave was doing the same thing as well as walking around looking under every bush or overturned canoe in the neighborhood.  Everybody was doing anything they could think of.

About this time, a tip came in that Dory had been spotted by the Catholic church at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  She must have high-tailed it up Nutt hill to be up there then! We only arrived back at the house near Riverview Middle School at 6:50 p.m.  Then to be all the way over at the fairgrounds by 3 a.m. on Christmas morning? Without apparent mishap? Miracle number 3.


I spent some time talking to people on Nutt Hill.  I handed flyers to joggers, dog walkers, a wonderful family out working on a car together (ok, heckling the dad who was working on the car), and a young girl who, in empathy, literally dropped the bike she was walking when I told her my dog was lost.  Just by chance, as I walked around a corner, a couple was pulling their car into the garage. Emboldened by my plight, I sidled up their driveway. To my surprise, the woman got out of the passenger side and put her bare feet on the concrete and walked my way.  I refrained from comment at first and explained my situation. She was very empathetic and said she would look out for Dory, but that if she found her she wouldn’t call me right away, and looked at me with a sparkle in her eye. I said, “Um, what?” “Well, I’d feed the poor thing first!”  Now this was a woman I could ask about her not wearing shoes. The smiling woman, who I later found out is Sandy Sippel, said, “I’m a tough Wisconsin girl.”

I hadn’t had a tip about Dory’s whereabouts in 24 hours when I got a text from a person who only identified herself as Betsy who was creating signs for posting in yards.  She sent pictures of the signs and asked where I wanted them posted. I was floored. I said thank you and probably north of the fairgrounds because that was the location of the last sighting.  I was still hoping for another sighting when her call came in, but Betsy’s kindness was a huge lift.

Inspired by a comment from an Iowa friend, Derith Vogt, Jay and I both walked around areas of Plymouth dragging our dirty laundry – literally. We were trying to lay scent lines that she could follow home.  I had been wearing my favorite jeans all Christmas day, so they were the best candidate for dragging around for Dory. After two hours of dragging them around town, they looked like a Tide commercial. Carrie gets 1,000 sister points for washing them in her washing machine without judgement.  Thanks, girl.

I’m not sure laying the scent lines did any direct good, but at least it was something to do while we looked for Dory and hoped for another tip.  

Another friend, Jane Morse from Iowa, suggested getting in contact with people with drones who might be interested in helping the search.  I posted a call out for drones on Facebook.

I had just gotten back in my truck when my phone rang and it was a 920 area code.  My heart skipped a hopeful beat. At the time I didn’t realize who it was, but later I made the connection that it was Sandy Sippel.  She had just been walking into her house when she heard on the police scanner about a dog in the ditch. She said later, “I knew it was Dory.  I hoped it was good news, but I knew it was her.” She told me where the dog was and I was glad I was already in my truck and rolling. It took me a little bit to find the spot because the scanner had said South Milwaukee Street, which was unfamiliar to me, but google maps informed me it was Highway 67.  I saw the officer’s car parked on the access road to Meyer’s Nature Park and I pulled over near it. I asked him where the dog was and he said that it got up and took off to the south. I stupidly asked if it was my dog, as if he would know me and my dog. I plead overtiredness and a little bit that Dory had reached a small tier of local fame, judging by the number of people who said they saw her on Facebook when I stopped to hand them a flyer.  He asked me what color she was and I said, “White with red freckles.” “Was she wearing a collar?” “Pink” “That’s your dog.” I said thank you and starting walking south and calling, just as the officer I had talked to the day before drove up, handily saving me from repeating the process of providing my contact information. Maybe not a miracle, but a small favor anyway.

I kept my feet moving and continued to call for Dory, and called Jay with the news.  We were happy to know a little more about her location but we were both deeply concerned.  We had once witnessed a dog get hit by a car, get up, appear fine, and die an hour later due to internal injuries.  The ditch that Dory was lying in was not one a healthy dog would choose to lie in. It had large, sharp rocks in it. 

IMG_7662We were hopeful that she was simply terrified from a near miss or exhausted and scared from her journey in general and crossing the long concrete bridge that spans the Mullet River south of town.  But we both were aware that she could be dead by morning no matter what we did.


We had some daylight left, and a potentially injured dog, but a clue where she was so we doubled down on our search efforts.  I called for Dory in the South Hills neighborhood and in adjoining fields while Jay, and I learned later, Carrie and Dave and some other friends, searched in Myer’s Nature Park.

We all walked and called to no avail, and at about 8 p.m., I decided I needed to eat something.  I was exhausted emotionally and physically. I thought if I ate something things would probably look better.  I got in my truck and drove back to Carrie and Dave’s house, parking the truck in the neighbor’s driveway as usual.  During the short walk from there to the house, my phone rang with a 920 number. I answered it and Abigail Strand said, “Is this the person who is missing Dory?”  I said yes and she said she just saw her cross County PP heading south. Abigail said she was driving east on PP coming up to the Highway 67 stop sign and saw Dory in the headlights of the car in front of her.  Dory had followed the fence in front of Miller and Boeldt Implement, and after crossing PP she dove into the cornfield on the SW corner of the intersection. “She was running so fast that at first I thought she was a coyote.”  At that point, I thought, “Yep, that’s Dory. She really does look like a coyote when she is running hard.” Abigail continued, “Then I saw her pink collar and I KNEW it was her!” I asked if she looked like she was hurt and Abigail said, “Not really.  For the more part, she mostly just looked fast!” Dire as the situation was, I had to laugh.  

Hope filled my heart.  Our conversation was one minute long but it was a game-changer. I thanked her, quickly went into the house to tell Carrie and Dave the news and that I was going back out.  I completely forgot how tired and hungry I was and jumped in the truck with Dug. This was a huge break. If she looked like she was moving well, maybe she hadn’t been hit by a car!  Also, she was now in a big section of fields and woods which was more familiar to her than city streets. I hoped she would settle and find a place to hole up for the night. She liked cornfields, so the one on the corner seemed a likely place for her to hole up.  

Dug and I walked around the cornfield calling for Dory in the dark night.  There was light from nearby houses, but it was the day after a new moon, so no lunar help.  When we didn’t immediately find Dory, it was a pretty low point for Dug and me. We were both noticing that we were tired and hungry, even though we were hopeful that we would find Dory soon.  At least the wind was down and temps were in the 30s. At one point, when I stopped to call, Dug saw a bunny and took off after it (that would solve the hungry problem for her anyway).  She wrapped the leash around my legs and I had my hands full of dog beds and food to place around the field. I had to drop the cute little fox throw blanket I had in my left hand to get Dug back on task.  I was a little annoyed, and then when I went back to pick up the blanket I saw that I had dropped it squarely on a thriving burdock bush.

IMG_7658At that point, I had to laugh. I mean seriously? I picked it up and held it at arm’s length as it clumped and bristled with burdocks.  I dropped it in the truck bed for the time being.



By this time, Carrie, who was way ahead of me once again, called and asked if I would like dinner delivered.  Pronouncing blessings on her, I gratefully accepted. She showed up with white chili, fudge and Christmas cookies, lots of water, a metal deck chair and a microwaved heating pad wrapped in a blanket.  Dug joyfully jumped into her car, signifying her desire to follow this wonderful food lady home and spend some quality time on her couch. Dug is not terribly subtle, very food motivated, and also generally gets her wish.  Because she can do this:


I sat down in my chair after Carrie and Dug left and started eating the chili which was both delicious and fragrant.  I ate half of it and then divided the other half over the three pet bed food stations I’d put out. I also added the lox I’d brought from Iowa for a Christmas day platter.  Putting both out where they would likely be eaten by racoons seemed a travesty, but they smelled great and I hoped they’d pull Dory in. She had to be hungry by now. Unless she had gotten lucky somehow, it had been more than 72 hours since she’d had a meal.  Though Dory is a skittish dog around strangers, she would come happily to me or Jay or probably Carrie or Dave if she could find us. The food was just an attempt to get her in the vicinity.

After I got the food plots set up, I grabbed a moving blanket, the blanket Carrie brought and the heating pad and sat down on the chair and set my phone on a ten minute timer so that I would be cued to call Dory every ten minutes, but not constantly, to save my voice.  The first hour passed easily enough, but then the cold of a west breeze started seeping through the seams of the shoulders of the barn jacket I had in my truck. (Yes, I travel with a barn jacket and breeches and boots in case a riding opportunity arises. Once a horse girl, always a horse girl.)  As I began to shiver from the cold I started to re-think that fox blanket with the burdocks. Could I wrap it around my shoulders like a shawl and use the burdocks to hold it shut in front? I unwrapped from my various blankets and retrieved the fox blanket from the back of the truck. I got inside all the other blankets and topped it off with the foxy burdock shawl with its au natural fasteners and was oh-so-chic and snug as a bug.  Between my calls for Dory, I read aloud from my kindle app, “Choosing Gratitude 365 Days a Year: Your Daily Guide to Grateful Living” by James A. Autry and Sally J. Pederson.  Sally is a former Lt. Governor of Iowa. Its firehose of positivity and gratitude was a big help to me mentally and I also envisioned it pulling Dory in like a tractor beam of acceptance and warmth.

Meanwhile my classmate Kay Halle was communicating with me that her friend Anna Marquardt had drones and would be out in the morning to help with the search.  Keeping in mind that I had a total of six hours of sleep the previous 2 nights, I must admit that just for a few minutes before responding to her I was thinking, “How does Kay Halle know my friend Ann Marquardt from Nebraska and why does she keep calling her Anna?”  Luckily, none of this made it out my fingers in electronic communication and it all became clear that Anna and Pete Marquardt and their kids live in Plymouth and are experienced in searching for dogs with drones. The thought of experienced and kind help in the morning made the dark night a little brighter.  

But it was still a dark night.  At midnight I opted to get in the truck and fire her up and let them ponies run and keep me warm.  I set my phone alarm for every half hour and cat napped, prayed and laughed at Steven Colbert monologues on Youtube when I needed a break from the heaviness of the situation.  

That Dory could have internal injuries hung heavy on my mind.  She could very well have been dying in the corn field in front of me.  I prayed that if she had to die, that she would hear the love in my voice and know she was not alone.  That was the lowest point of the night. Abigail had said Dory looked pretty sound when she was running, but everything looks a little more dire at 3 a.m. My other prayers were of pre-gratitude for us reuniting in the morning.  I visualized her happy and healthy and hearing my voice. I paid attention to how it feels to hold her face in my hands and look into her eyes and kiss her forehead. Over and over I visualized this. I prayed that God would watch over her that night and that she would be safe with me before the cold rain and snow predicted for the weekend hit.

About four in the morning the wind started freshening and I was reminded of the big system heading for Plymouth. The truck was buffeted by the wind and I was like a horse with a spur dug in its side, but still tied up.  I started googling for the sunrise time, which turned out to be 7:25. Three hours to go. I kept thinking the search could be over in a minute with her showing up, but also told myself to plan on that not happening. I can do a lot of things, but I can’t allow myself to get my hopes up and dash them in a repeating cycle.  I kept calling.

I went out at first light and checked all the pet bed food stations.  I don’t know what I expected to happen with them, and I was a little afraid to check them.  If she was injured maybe she would smell them and crawl to them and at least have a bed to get out of the cold mud.  I was prepared to have my heart broken, and I did, but just not in the way I expected.

The beds were not touched. Not even by a raccoon.  Maybe I kept them away with all my ruckus. At any rate this was tough to take because now I knew either Dory was dead in that field or she had only passed through it and hadn’t been there all night.  Of the two, I picked “hadn’t been there all night.” That option only cost me the reality that my calling all night was for naught. If Dory was dead in that field, Pete Marquardt, who was the member of the Marquardt family available on this Friday morning, would easily find her with the drone.  Pete arrived about sunup (with coffee for me, what a star!) and was a breath of fresh air, even though he told me he was “Oh-fer,” as in 0 for 5, in his dog searches, which actually made me laugh in a sleep-deprived, punchy kind of way.  

Without telling Pete that I was afraid he might be looking for a dead dog in the cornfield because I couldn’t actually put words to that thought, I asked him to look there first and showed him other areas I thought she might be.  Meanwhile I walked south since the last two sightings had indicated she was tending south. I was tired and I was tired of looking, but I could not quit. I just put one foot in front of the other and things popped into my head as I went.  “Do not be afraid or troubled.” Funny, I never really thought about the “troubled” part of that statement. Ok, I won’t be troubled. I will walk as if I haven’t a worry in the world, like its a summer day and I am walking to the beach with friends and dogs.  I called like Dory should come and join the party.  

Which fenceline to walk, which direction to turn?  I decided I was probably going to walk them all so it didn’t matter which I did first.  That realization made decisions a lot lighter. I just kept walking and calling. I was prepared to spend the whole day just putting one foot in front of the other and calling every ten steps because tomorrow the storm was going to descend on Plymouth.  I was going to do everything I could to have her safe before that happened.

Suddenly I felt a light touch on my right calf.  I didn’t need to turn around to know it was her. I said, “Dory!” before I even turned around, and when I did she was standing on her hind legs, elbows pulled away from her body, front feet in a high five above her ears and a joyful grin on her face.  She stayed like that for a few seconds, like she was dancing with joy. I can tell you I have never seen a dog do that and I will never forget it.  It is burned in my memory.  I had visualized seeing her again so many times that I wondered briefly if my mind was playing tricks on me. I was so excited and relieved to see her and she was so obviously not seriously injured that it was literally beyond my wildest dreams.  I pulled some food from my pocket and offered it to her and I knew she was real when she delightedly grabbed it from the palm of my hand and ate it with gratitude. Miracle number four.

I started walking back to my truck and heard Pete calling for Dory and I said, “Pete, I have her!” 

“No Waaaaay!”

“Yes, you’re now One-fer!”



Not 30 seconds later Jay called with an update on his search so far that morning.  I interrupted with, “I have Dory!” I told him where we were and he was there in what seemed like seconds and their reunion was warm and wonderful.  When I got back to my truck, Carrie was there with breakfast for me and tears of joy streaming down her face. Jay had gotten there first in his truck and told her the news.  We hugged and cried and laughed with joy. I found out later that before Dory was found, Carrie had prepared her dog bath area in the basement for Dory’s return, a beautiful expression of faith.

While Carrie and I were hugging, Jay took a very slightly shivering Dory from me and put her in my warm truck, which had been running since midnight.  She didn’t have an injury or even a burr on her.  

We said a grateful goodbye to Pete and returned to Carrie’s house, where Dory reclined on the couch briefly and then fell into a deep sleep while I updated her FB post with the story of her finding me. I owed an immediate update. I say she found me because that was basically what had to happen.  I needed to put myself in a place where she could see or hear something familiar in a place where nothing was.  Quiet and skittish as she is, and with coloring that lends itself to camoflauge, I guessed I wasn’t going to spot her first. 

That original Facebook post, that had started with “Plymouth peeps, a little help please?” had been shared over 800 times. The outpouring of kindness and attention on Facebook and in person was extraordinary. The goodwill shared by people whose names I may never know is a reminder of how generous people want to be and are.  Plymouth can be proud of the benevolent, beating heart of this community.

Dog-tired but elated to share the good news, I called the police to update them.  The young man who answered the phone sounded very pleased that she was home, and said that he’d just read it on FB, which, of course, was perfect.  I changed Dory’s status on Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Finding Lost Pets to “Home Safe.”  I put notes on the doors of the farms where I’d stopped and asked unfailingly-empathetic people to keep an eye out for her.  

Dave had posted flyers on Friday morning at M.A.S. Industries, where he works.  Word of the lost dog had spread around the office like wildfire and minutes later he got to inform them that she was found.  Cake all around!

Carrie shared the number for Kettle Moraine Vet and they were able to squeeze Dory in for a check up after lunch, which meant we had time for a one hour nap.  The odyssey over and the danger passed, Duggie, Dory and I slept the sleep of the deeply grateful in a warm bed at Carrie’s house in wonderful Plymouth, Wisconsin.



RRP – of steers, galloping and jumping!

So those of you who have been following the journey of Howdy and I to the RRP know that we decided to try Working Ranch. That was a really fun journey and I learned a ton about the friendly and knowledgable people that do the sport in Iowa and now at the RRP I met people all over the country who do it. Howdy ended up being pretty ok at it. He had nice work like this in his Reining pattern:

We BOTH had fun in the steer work. If you ever get a shot at doing this, say yes!

We ended up 11th in Working Ranch on Thursday. Woot!

Friday was eventing day at RRP. We did our dressage test in the morning and his tension could have powered a small city in Iowa for a week, which, while an interesting concept from a global climate change perspective, was not overly appreciated by our dear judge, who gave us the score we deserved but was sweet about it, saying, “lovely type, give him time.” And look how cute he was when I told him he did fine after his halt at X.

Then it was a quick rest, water and hay snack at the stall for Howdy, and then a tack change into Xc gear. We did show jumping first and they encouraged riders to wear Xc gear to Showjumping because you went right from one to the other.

There was chaos in the warm up arena with rails flying everywhere and no flags on the jumps, so people were jumping them from either direction which was good fun in a bumper cars sort of way. But Howdy was as unfazed by this as he was completely overwhelmed by dressage. He warmed up like a rock star and jumped very well.

Showjumping was judged by last year’s winner, Cathy Weischoff (sp?) who was kind enough to write “nice lead change!” and “nice, brave, rideable” and “nice type” among some other good tips for improvement. I appreciate all of that, both the encouragement and the critiques. Cathy has always been a class act.

Then it was time to put on the Xc vest and super cool fox print-bunny-tail-ball-on-top-helmet cover that my friend Susan Brigham found for me on her trip to Scotland, and head over to the Xc course.

He warmed up beautifully and we were told we could head out on course. No countdown, no startbox, just pick up canter and go which took off a lot of pressure. Nice 👍!

He jumped the first four fences in a nice rhythm and good form

There was a pretty substantial ditch which he took a tiny look at and popped right over and jumped the jump right after that to complete the half coffin. Then a downhill coop. He was jumping so well that I took the novice option there and for the rest of the course and he sailed them all, including the extra credit up bank out of water.

Following that we were to “show the gallop” and come back before the next fence and he did that really well.

Howdy’s score of 85 on Xc was the fifth highest of the 97 eventing horses. What a satisfying way to end the weekend!

If you are thinking about doing the RRP, let go of the handbrake, put the throttle down and do it. It is a great experience for horses and riders. The camaraderie is great. If you have questions about any aspect of it, I’d be happy help in any way I can.

Tomorrow’s blog: Better to ask forgiveness than permission: Helmet cam video of riding The Hollow at KHP.

Video of jumping phases

Working Ranch

IMG_0935Working Ranch competition was today at the RRP!  We were fifth to go.  He warmed up beautifully!  Our pattern was a mix of triumphs and a few moments of monumental tension.  His cattle work was pretty good – we got the boxing, the turning and the two circles done!  We ended up 11th!  Videos below.

Tomorrow is eventing!

Reining pattern:

Steer work:

We’re here and riding!

We were on the road to Kentucky early Tuesday morning!


The trip was nice and easy wth our new friends Jason and Deb Danley.  Their daughter Megan is a 6′, 15 year old (nice!) who is showing a really cute grey mare, Abby.  I’ll get a picture up for you ASAP.  Howdy even drank water and ate some Purina Outlast on the road.  Excellent!


We kept the horses at Crimson King Farm on Tuesday night so that they could stretch their legs in the bluegrass.  They were loving it!

Our rental house, Crimson King and the Horse Park are right next to each other!


We met Lauren Turner through my friend Bridget Bryson, who trains with her.  Lauren won the Most Wanted Thoroughbred last year and is just sweet as the day is long.  I told her about Howdy’s tension and she loaned us this acupuncture blanket that she won as one of the prizes for MWT.  Howdy was loving it.  Here he is enjoying it.


The below video starts with his hanging lower lip during acupuncture, as well as the slobber he is producing from bingeing on clover last night at Crimson King, LOL.  Jay also videoed some of our warm up in the covered arena.  Howdy was very tight, but settled down a bit and did some reasonable work.

Now we’re having lunch back at the house with the dogs!  Back to the KHP in a few minutes to do a jump school in the jumper ring and maybe a little bit of a technical lesson with Russell Littlefield who is last year’s RRP Working Ranch winner!

Burwell practice

The day started early with riding Howdy in the Burwell rodeo arena.  Peace and quiet and crisp air.  He started out a little tight, but ended up pretty decent.  We did a lot of cantering, which was what we needed.  One could not characterize it as a “lope” yet, but it is getting a little slower anyway.  Relaxed is in our future yet, however.  LOL

After that we went for a little shopping trip to Dry Creek Western Wear which is a pretty nice store in Burwell:


Jay buying me a new shirt for RRP!

And here is the shirt:


Sometime during our shopping trip, I looked at potential curb bits for Howdy.  I was dubious moving him to a curb, and when I looked at the bits, it was a solid No.  Yikes, this looks like a wall of torture:


And this, I believe, is fencing material!


In the afternoon we fox hunted in the sand hills and I snapped a bunch of pictures.  They are uploading to the cloud and I’ll post them later tonight when they get there.

Arriving in Burwell

A beautiful day for a drive, and in the passenger seat I was reading the anniversary edition of The Chronicle of the Horse and came across this image:


Yes, it has nothing to do with Howdy or the RRP, but what magnificence!  Look at how beautifully Dr. Klimke sits!  Look at the confidence in Ahlerich!  Huzzah!

On the way over we also listened to the “Wine and Questions” podcast put on by the organizers of the RRP where they literally drank wine like Kathy Lee and Hoda and answered questions from Facebook as they came in live, and also outlined details of the RRP.  It was hilarious and informative.  Loved it.

Meanwhile, Howdy and his companions, Bravado and Sammy, who will be hunting this weekend, traveled well.  When we got here we gave them a leg stretcher in the paddock.  Then I tacked up Howdy and rode him in the Burwell Rodeo arena.  Burwell had gotten a lot of rain this week and even in the sandy soil, things were a bit wet, but not too deep anyway.  We worked a lot on stop and stand tonight because he was a bit nervous in the new environment.  It wasn’t terrifically impressive, but small progress was made, despite Sammy whinnying like a foal being weaned in the nearby paddock, even though he had Bravado with him.  Sammy is 15.  Goof.  Howdy, to his great credit, did not answer him.


Howdy had on his new (borrowed) bridle, which is on loan from my working student, Aubrey, who happened to have a simple western bridle which is exactly that I was looking for.  In spirit it perfectly matches my saddle, in that it too is borrowed from a friend.  It takes a village to get this eventer girl geared up for Working Ranch.  Thank goodness for the kindness of friends!



Yes, it has been a month since I’ve posted, whoops, sorry.  A lot has happened.  So I’ll catch you up in bullet points and then we’ll move on to the details of the RRP next week!  I am right excited.  We might be having almost daily updates over the next two weeks, fair warning.

Since we have last chatted, Howdy:

  • went to the hunter pace at Catalpa Corner in mid-August and jumped everything, but acted kind of goofy and more tense than he should have
  • went to a xc schooling in Kansas City where he was VERY tense and jumped crooked and oddly (though it should be noted that he did jump everything).
  • inherited Betty’s lovely bridle, which he looks smashing in

Howdy Betty bridle

  • cut his left front pastern deep enough that he should have had stitches, but I found it too late for proper stitching, so I cleaned it out and treated and wrapped it every day for 3 weeks and, thank all that is good, it healed beautifully.  He was never lame on it.
  • had a good eye checkup – stable again!
  • started ulcer medication
  • subsequent to ulcer medication, started being less tense under saddle
  • schooled xc in KC and was much better than last time
  • completed a one day event last weekend – dressage, showjumping and xc – and finished with no jump faults and in fourth place.  Whoop!
  • changed his bit to a mylar snaffle with tongue relief, which he seems to like better than the french link

So, after that whirlwind of activity, we are looking forward to the RRP next week!  We actually leave for  Burwell, NE this week to foxhunt.


Bravado showing off his appreciable “standing like a boss at the check” skills

Howdy won’t be foxhunting, but will be going along so that I can work with him every day on his working ranch skills.  I can’t think of a better setting to do it in than at the Burwell Rodeo grounds!  All that history, and the footing is perfect.


Nebraska’s Big Rodeo Arena is going to become “Howdy’s Big Working Ranch Arena” this weekend.

They posted the reining pattern!  It has rollbacks, flying lead changes and spins, oh my!  My ride time for Working Ranch is 11:03 on Thursday 10/5.  I am hearing rumors about a live feed on the internet, but I don’t have details yet.  Will post them when I do.

The following day, Friday 10/6 we basically do a one day event.  The dressage test is considerably more sedate than the reining pattern.  It has um, walk, trot and canter.  Woot.  LOL

Then we go on to showjumping, followed nearly immediately, the schedule implies, by xc.

If the show was tomorrow, we’d do acceptably.  Two weeks ago, I would not have said that because he was very uncomfortable with his ulcers, and thus acting like a goof, but the treatment appears to be working and things are looking up.  The next week we’ll be putting the finishing touches on things.  “Finishing touches” is a relative concept as we are talking about a horse who was racing on the track about a year ago, so we aren’t yet to the finer point of splitting frog hairs here, rather making things flow a little better.  In Working Ranch at the RRP, you can ride in a snaffle or a curb, with a shank length limit of 4.5 inches.  Right now he is going pretty well in his mylar snaffle, so I might not mess with that.  The next week will be all about him allowing himself to be “willingly guided” as the reining horse rulebook says.

Regarding the eventing phase training, they’ll be on hold until after Working Ranch.  He knows how to jump the bright poles and do banks, ditches and water and he won’t forget that if I change the topic for a week.  And as far as dressage goes, reining done right is just western dressage, so no time wasted.  The spins do not translate at all.  Nope not one bit, and a rollback looks an awful lot to me like a refusal without a jump, but I’ll not mention that to Howdy.  😉





Jumping a course!


Summer morning hacks are worth getting up in the dark!

I’ve been endeavoring to ride Howdy six days a week, even if for only 20 minutes, if that is all I have.  The Thoroughbred Makeover is five and a half weeks away!  I may be getting a little jittery.

Howdy, however, doesn’t seem to be.  The western skills are coming together at times (a quality lope is a fleeting thing for us and over-reaction to leg aids is pretty common).  But it is definitely an improvement over where we were a month ago.  I thought I had video of some western work, but not so much.  I’ll work on that.

But I do have video of last night’s adventure, which was our first attempt at a real course of jumps, rather than the grids we had been practicing.  We are preparing to do a combined test (dressage and jumping) on Sunday at Maffitt Lake Equestrian Center.  We’re pretty fired up for it.

What a good man!

Two hundred!


It started back in late December.  You might remember when I went to look at Howdy and talk to his owner about buying him, Howdy looked at me like this.  If you look carefully, his left eyelashes are pointing a little more down than his right – he was having some pain in that eye.  I picked him up the first week in January and his eye looked like this:

Howdy eye day 0

That is no bueno.  The grey is water/inflammation on the eye, and the pupil is totally closed.  An open pupil looks like this:

Howdy eye day 13

You can read much more about the journey of his ERU diagnosis and the protocol we followed here, but the gist of it is that the brilliant ophthalmologists at ISU helped diagnose and work with me on a treatment protocol.  They took a fluid draw from his eye and his leptospirosis titer was 1600!  Very high.  We treated him with intraocular gentamicin, and systemic baytril and doxycycline.  The eye looked good after that, but we couldn’t tell what was going on with any objective measure.  I wanted to do another eye fluid draw to see what the titer was after the treatment.  They said we had to wait three weeks for all the antibiotics to totally clear.  Three weeks after the last antibiotic treatment was last week, so in he went for a checkup and to have another fluid draw from his eye to check his leptospirosis titer.

First, his eye exam went well.  In fact, this well:


That thar is some great news.

So for the eye fluid draw, first they had to sedate Howdy.  He stands beautifully for his eye exams (he’s certainly done enough now), but he needs to be stock still for the fluid draw from his eye.  I mean we’re talking about literally “stick a needle in my eye” stuff of childhood nightmares.  Moving during that process would be a Bad Thing.

So first the drugs:


Getting dozy here and yes, that is a crutch underneath his chin because horse heads are heavy!

Then anesthetizing the spot where the needle will go in.  Just like your dentist does before she gives you the shot of novocaine.


Then put the nasty metal spreader underneath his lids to keep them open.  This process made me wince.  Thank goodness Howdy had pretty much left the building mentally:


The syringe is a half cc and they drew out that much.  The volume of fluid in a horse eye is 6.5 ccs.  Afterwards they gave him a shot of banamine for the pain the needle caused.  They submitted the fluid to the lab and I learned the results today.

Dr. Foote told me that the results had come in last night but that she needed to discuss it with her colleagues.  My heart sank.  If it needed several ophthalmologists to discuss it before disclosing to the client, I was sure it was going to be a bad thing.  Then she said that his titer was 200.  I had completely forgotten all my science and I thought we were looking for zero and I was a little disappointed.  She explained that 200 is a normal titer for a horse that has had leptospirosis.  The titer is the level of antibodies in the fluid.  It is good to have some antibodies  to ward off any future attack.  Two hundred is in the normal range.  This is great news!

The downside is that they are still recommending his twice daily diclofenac eye treatments and twice monthly atropine.  The diclofenac may be for the rest of his life.  But he tolerates the treatments well, they apparently work, and they are not prohibitively expensive, so I am grateful for that.  Next check up is in two months.

Meanwhile we’ve been jumping and working on Ranch Horse skills.  More details on that in future installments soon.  Here’s a picture of the team, with Howdy still half in the bag and me with a new haircut and the freakishly long fingers of my left hand accidentally doing Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper” sign.  Dr. Foote on the left, Dr. Sebbag on the right, vet tech and students in the middle.  They are really delighted with Howdy’s progress.  It takes a village to get Howdy well again and on the road to the RRP.  I love my village.