Some stories just beg to be told. This is one of them.
A litter of nine adorable Anatolian Shepherd-Great Pyrenees-mix puppies are abandoned at birth in early January, somewhere near Asheville, North Carolina. (Who would do such a thing? Bad human! Go lie down!) The pups are discovered under a rickety trailer, so starved that they’d eaten the insulation from the trailer’s underside.
The furry orphans are taken to Rutherford County Humane Society and nursed back to health. Meanwhile, up north in Pittsburgh, Bobby Standish is doing a search on Petfinder.com. He spots a photo of Radley, one of the nine, her eyes peering through cage bars as if to say, “I’m too cute to not take home.”
Bobby and his wife, Lisa, decide to adopt her. Their daughter, Mazzie, 11, and son, Axel, 7, jump for joy. The family dog, Scout, a Lab-Chow mix from the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center in East Liberty, is oblivious that he’s about to meet his new best friend.
Radley’s big adventure north begins on January 31. Initially delayed by a snowstorm, Bobby drives 2.5 hours to the PA Turnpike stop near Carlisle to meet Radley and bring her home to Wexford.
Aaahhh … a warm home, a blanket of her own, and kids! Oh boy, oh boy! The life of Radley! “She was pretty chill that first day and slept a lot,” Bobby recalls. “We’d had a huge snowfall, so she played in the snow with Scout and the kids then we made hot chocolate and sat by the fire.”
This dog tail … err, tale . . . could have happily ended here. Only Radley’s big adventure gets bigger the next day, and winds up involving an entire community of do-gooders who step up to play a role, even without a reward of treats or praise.
Bobby decides to work from home the next day. “Around noon, I grabbed Radley’s leash and opened the front door to let her and Scout outside. I could see something in her eyes. The door was ajar and she ran out and around the corner of the house. It was icy so I slipped, and she was really fast. She took off down the road.”
Bobby could see Radley run. Run, Radley, run!
As the story goes, Radley got hopelessly lost. “I was worried that she’d spent less than two days at our house, so she probably didn’t know it as ‘home’ and also didn’t know the neighborhood.”
Bobby sets out to find her, to no avail. Lisa alerts the local police, animal shelters and veterinarians. “I had no idea what to do next,” Bobby recalls. “I was devastated. You know, I had this sense of responsibility that I lost the dog. I didn’t know if we’d ever see her again.”
At four months of age, Radley was already a survivor, but she was about to get help from some two-leggeds and this human squeak toy called “social media.” That evening, Bobby has a 6 p.m. appointment to meet a friend, Nancy Furbee. “I get there and apologize for not being able to stay. As it turns out, I’m glad I went because Nancy has many friends who love dogs. One of them introduces us to a special group of volunteers.”
Nancy connects Bobby with this Facebook group page: Reuniting Dogs With Families. “We posted something on the Reuniting Dogs With Families page shortly after 6 p.m. and it caught the attention of dog trainer Beth McGonigal. By 9 p.m., Beth was at our home with her dog, Juneau, and a stash of hot dogs, chicken and braunschweiger.”
“As a trainer, I am bombarded with ‘save this dog, help find that dog’ but when I saw Radley’s information on that group page, something about it struck me,” Beth comments.
Once at the Standish’s home, Beth scopes out the environs to see what the situation calls for. “The area was definitely a challenge because there were a lot of good places for Radley to hide: wooded areas, barns, sheds. With North Park nearby, there were lots of deer tracks and neighborhood dogs leaving prints.”
The family makes another search that night but still no signs of Radley. The temperature drops to three degrees. “I was afraid that Radley might not make it through the cold night, but Beth assured us that her breed was built for winter.”