By Zirconia Alleyne
Brenden and Jennifer Couchman weren’t expecting things to get crazy until the end of July when their twins, Abigail and Anna, were due, but the mayhem started early when fireworks led the family on an laborious hunt for their spooked dog, Chloe.
It all started on a Friday — June 27 to be exact. Brenden let Chloe, a Sheltie mix, outside for a bathroom break in the backyard. The neighborhood fireworks shows had begun, but Chloe wasn’t enjoying it.
“Somebody shot something big,” Brenden recalled. “We went to let her in and she didn’t come to the door. We looked all over the backyard, and we couldn’t find her anywhere.”
The family of four, with two on the way, stayed up until midnight looking around the neighborhood, but Chloe was nowhere to be found.
“The kids were upset and there was nothing else we could do in the dark except for just go to bed,” Brenden continued.
The first sighting
The next morning Brenden got up to try again. A very pregnant Jennifer stayed behind hoping for the best.
“I searched all over the neighborhood, and I came across her at Coxmill and Woodmont,” Brenden said. “I ran as much as I could to keep up with her, but she kept on going.”
Chloe skirted away as Brenden ran back to the house for the car. He spent the rest of the day watching and waiting near Little River for any sign of the frightened canine.
Before adopting Chloe from the local animal shelter in Sept. 2013, the family had another dog who died from bladder complications.
“We didn’t want to lose a second dog in a year’s time,” he said. “We were hoping and hoping to have another sighting to know where she was.”
Jennifer and the children made fliers to hand out and posted them up around the neighborhood. Once the posters were out, help from neighbors rolled in.
“Some people spotted her after dark at Pyle Lane and Coxmill, so we all loaded up the car and ran down there,” Brenden continued.
With flashlights in tow, the search party scattered across yards and a tobacco patch, but Chloe was still on the loose.
The search continues
“That Sunday morning, I went looking for her again and I came across her in someone’s yard, but she ran from me again,” he said. “She was spooked. It was like she thought she was being hunted — just totally afraid.”
This time Chloe bolted through a tobacco patch, across a wheat field to Eagle Way Bypass and disappeared into a thicket of woods near the YMCA.
Concerned neighbors and friends promised to keep their eyes wide and offered tips to attract the dog back home. Some suggested putting Chloe’s bed and food on the porch for scent recognition.
“It was really surprising how many people spent time looking that we never even met, never even knew,” he said.
Another sighting of the Sheltie didn’t happen until almost a week later when someone saw her on Coxmill Road, but they, too, were unable to catch her.
Brenden and Jennifer were getting discouraged.
“We were running out of areas to look,” he said. “When you’re talking about south Christian (County), it’s like where in the world do you look for a dog?”
As the Fourth of July rolled around, Jennifer worried that the continuous roar of fireworks would scare Chloe farther out of town.
Nonetheless, they refused to give up. Emily remembers her grandparents, who also have a Sheltie, keeping hope alive.
“It was really sad for the whole family,” the 9-year-old said. “The day we found her, for some reason, Daddy told me he had a feeling that we’d find her.”
A man who lived on Ashby Road — a dead end street about 3 miles from the Couchman home — called on July 5 about another sighting. The family and close friends headed out to the man’s farm hoping to bring Chloe home.
“There was one barn boarded up real tight and there was no way in,” Brenden said. “We almost didn’t check, but there was a board
Jennifer stayed in the van with Emily and Evan, 5, while the search party tiptoed around the barns and hay.
All of a sudden Chloe jets out of the barn!
“I’m 34 weeks pregnant — very big — and I see her run out, so I jump out of the car, holding my stomach and I start running,” she laughed.
Chloe made a mad dash down Ashby Road dogged to escape again; however, the family was just as determined to catch her.
Brenden hopped in the van, scooped Jennifer and sped down Ashby toward Coxmill until Chloe made an abrupt turn tail toward the farm again.
“So, now we’re driving in reverse,” Brenden exclaimed. “With the windows down, we’re staying right behind her to keep up with her and she just kept going and going.”
“Thankfully, there’s not a lot of traffic on that road,” Jennifer interjected.
In an attempt to divert Chloe’s escape plan, Jennifer slings a piece of beef jerky in front of her path.
“It totally flew over her head,” she laughed. “She didn’t even notice it.”
The family and the dog near the dead end of Ashby Road, and everyone jumps out for the capture.
“I chase her two or three circles around the van, she goes under the van and it’s like adrenaline pumping,” Brenden exclaimed. “I reach under the van like I’m going to grab something, and I got her tail first, then I got her leg and she actually bit my finger. You could tell she was totally spooked.
“But, when she saw me and I pulled her out, she just looked relieved,” he continued. “In our minds we were worried she was going to be aggressive, but she calmed down instantly and just layed there.”
Chloe’s coat told the story of her week-long getaway. She was dirty and dry, covered in dirt and insects. She also had a gash on her back, which a veterinarian believes came from a fence.
After washing and patching up her wounds, the family expected things to go back to normal. But, the twins arrived the next day — six weeks early.
“It probably was the running,” Jennifer laughed.
Tips for finding a lost dog
- Use calming signals and try to do something to calm and attract the dog. Lip licking, yawning, feigning like you’re eating food off the ground are calming signals.
- Have a crinkly bag, like a potato chip bag, with treats inside it
- When you see your lost dog, get out of your car and watch the dog out of the corner of your eye.
- Start crinkling the bag and start saying very loudly “NUMMY, NUMMY, NUMMY!” as you feign like you are dropping the food onto the ground. Kneel down and act like you’re picking up pieces that you dropped on the ground. Many times the dog will come to you when you’re kneeling with a snack nearby.
Visit petfinder.com for more tips on finding a lost dog or caring for pets.