After two weeks on the lam, dodging coyotes and traffic in the blufflands, Lucy is home. Mark and PeriAnne Olson found their shih-tzu mix early Friday morning in a bean field near Burr Oak, a dozen miles as the crow flies from the farm where she went missing Oct. 14.
It took a team of family members, one private eye and a lot of help from people along Lucy’s winding route to track her down.
Lucy wandered away from a farm on Abnet Road in the town of Onalaska, where PeriAnne’s father had brought her while the rest of the family was in Madison with Mark and PeriAnne’s son, who’d been hurt in a bike crash.
Had she made a right at the end of the road, Lucy would have been in the suburbs. Instead, the 4-year-old dog, who has just one lung and is afraid to go out in the yard by herself, headed for the hills.
Tips started pouring in after the Tribune ran a story Oct. 18. PeriAnne got a call just before 5 a.m. from a crank caller who claimed he shot the dog. Others were more helpful, if scattered.
They’d spotted Lucy — or so they thought — on County Road S, or 2.5 miles away on Apple Valley Road, or up on the ridge along County Road M.
Finally the Olsons turned to a professional.
Karin TarQwin is a private investigator from Nebraska who for the past seven years has specialized in lost pets. She said Lucy was a textbook example of an “extreme roamer.” Dogs that get lost away from home have a tendency to wander — most often to the north — and they just keep going.
With her four tracking dogs and profiling skills, the K9PI tracked Lucy for four days over the ridge, down Scotch Coulee, Eggens Coulee, as far east as Holter Road — at least 16 miles. She followed the scent down fire roads, through corn fields and even over a cliff.
At one point she was convinced Lucy had been done in by a coyote.
Meanwhile “Team Lucy” — Mark, PeriAnne and her folks — hung hundreds of signs, handed out thousands of fliers, fielded calls and roved the countryside.
Then on Monday PeriAnne got a call from a woman who thought she’d seen Lucy near the Mindoro Cut. TarQwin’s dogs confirmed it.
By Tuesday Lucy was seen near Mindoro.
Mark was waiting in his car early Wednesday on Hwy. DE when he spotted Lucy coming toward him. He set out some chicken nuggets and had her squeaky rubber chicken ready.
She ran right past and into a cornfield.
The next day, they had a call from someone who’d spotted Lucy near Burr Oak.
Mark brought along Mickey, the family’s collie, because TarQwin advised them a dog on the loose would be more likely to approach a familiar dog than people.
When he saw her, he sat on the ground and tossed chicken nuggets until she inched close enough to grab.
Lucy, who weighed less than 18 pounds to begin, lost about a third of her body weight, was covered in ticks and had burrs between her toes and in her eyes. You could say she was looking a little ruff — but otherwise was OK and sleeping at her La Crescent, Minn., home Friday night.
“She knows she’s home, but she’s definitely different yet,” Mark said. “I think she knows she’s safe.”