Grieving the loss of a pet can be more difficult for a family to experience than losing a relative. Despite how a dog passes, there are stages that one goes through like shock, denial, anger, loneliness, and sadness after the pet is gone. Anyone who has loved a dog knows how true it is that your pet is never “just a dog.”
One family living in South Carolina went a year believing that their beloved dog had been killed by an angry neighbor. But when they least expected it, a phone call came in letting them know that he was still alive.
When a white and brown pit bull named Ratchet disappeared from his family’s home in Greenville, South Carolina, his owners assumed the worst. They hadn’t lost the dog during a walk or hike. The way he just vanished led them to believe someone was behind it. Someone like their neighbor who was often frustrated that Ratchet wound up in his yard.
According to Ratchet’s owner, the neighbor told the family that he’d killed their beloved pup. Horrified by this news, the family thought he was dead and they contacted police to inform them of what happened. However, the owners remained suspicious when the neighbor couldn’t provide them with their dog’s remains. “They asked him for a body because they obviously wanted to bury him. But he couldn’t produce it, so then they suspected the dog wasn’t dead,” according to ABC 15 News.
After one year passed, Ratchet’s family gave up hope that they would ever see him again. They had to live with the harsh reality that a cruel and twisted human being would go as far as to kill their dog, or possibly sell him to someone far away. But over a year later, the family got a call from a woman nearly 70 miles away.
Esther Atkins, a world-class marathon runner from Greenville, South Carolina, took her dog Grace out for a walk. According to her Instagram, Atkins posted that a brown and white pit bull followed them home and even though Grace was not friendly to him, the pit bull kept being sweet and wagging its tail.
Such a Sweet Dog
Atkins wrote in an Instagram story: “Found this gentleman frolicking in a mud puddle this morning. He walked right up to me and Grace and despite Grace’s sass, he followed us home.” She wound up taking the dog inside and took photos of him to post online. The dog was so sweet, Atkins figured that there was no way he could be a stray.
She took him to the vet, where they checked to see if he had a microchip and low and behold, he did. Oddly enough, the dog was Ratchet, and he’d somehow wound up nearly 70 miles away from his family’s home. The Humane Society of Greenwood helped identify the owner.
Recounting Ratchet’s Journey on Instagram
Atkins posted the entire journey from Ratchet approaching her to the reunion with his family. She also shared pictures with Ratchet’s owner, who said her young daughter started to cry when she saw him. “Omg. That is him. That is so awesome. He’s always been the best walking buddy. My daughter started crying when she saw the pictures saying ‘that my rat rat.’ You really don’t know how much this means to my kids and me.”
Resting Before the Big Day Ahead
Ratchet’s family was due to get him the following day, so in the meantime, Atkins gave Ratchet a warm place to sleep in her home and some food to eat. She had a theory that the neighbor must have kidnapped the dog and then sold him to someone in Greenville. Atkins even admitted, “I can’t believe I would have judged this cuddlebutt by his cover … If it weren’t for how he handled Grace’s sass, I would have never let him follow us home.”
On their way to be reunited with Ratchet, Atkins began filming and as soon as Ratchet heard his owner’s voice, he got so happy and started wagging his tail like crazy. The happiest of them all was the family’s little girl. “He knew her voice immediately,” Atkins wrote. After reuniting Ratchet with his rightful owners, Atkins wrote what she learned about the experience on her social media.
Everything Happens for a Reason
“My takeaway? Great experiences come to those who roll with the things life throws their way. (Even muddy pit bulls who follow you home when you’re rushing off for a run!) So glad Ratchet picked me to follow and help him finally be reunited with his loving home. And thanks to everyone who shared in this adventure with me!”
Another family had a similar experience when their dog disappeared into the New Hampshire wilderness after being spooked one day. For months, there were no sightings of Beowolf and his family figured that their precious dog was gone forever. Granite State Dog Recovery detailed the harrowing story on their Facebook page: “Reports came in that [Beowolf] fell through the ice at Newfound Lake but was able to pull himself out. We were never able to confirm but that was our biggest fear, that this would happen and the outcome would not be good.”
Slowly Losing Hope
Beowolf’s family was losing hope and they figured he couldn’t survive with a wet coat in freezing temperatures, but the Granite State Dog Recovery staff was determined to find Beowolf. They decided to set up cameras around the wooded area, hoping to catch the dog on camera. They were able to match Beowolf up with their lost dog photos and they made a call to his owners to tell them the news.
Afraid for the Camera Equipment
Next, they put a plan in place to bring a trap to the location Beowolf was in. But there was one big problem: the freezing temperatures and wind were not ideal for setting up camera equipment and they feared it was too dangerous. “If our cameras malfunctioned within minutes this dog or any other animal could die to exposure … There were times we would be out setting up and the temperatures with the winds coming off Newfound Lake were -35 degrees.”
Left Outside in the Freezing Cold
“Our hearts broke every day for Beowolf but we knew he could stay warm whether under a cabin or under a porch he had shelter from the wind, snow, or freezing rain. Dogs are resourceful and a lot smarter than we give them credit for,” they wrote. For the next 86 days, Beowolf managed to escape capture, proving how smart he really was. But with each passing day, his family prayed to have their dog home with them.
“Days were spent in the car freezing, only to be outsmarted by a lost dog,” the dog rescue wrote. Beowolf managed to avoid every hidden camera they had set up no matter how cold it was outside or how covered in snow he was. “Beowolf’s one mission was to avoid capture and quickly disappear out of sight.” But soon, Granite State Dog Recovery received permission from a family to set up shop on their property but Beowolf was gone again.
Then one day the rescue was networking with some people and looked over and noticed prints coming and going from a summer camp. They set up their cameras and once again set the kennel and tied it open. “It took Beowolf over 10 days to attempt to walk over the threshold but with time he got up the courage and went for it.” The trap was set and rescuers planned to camp out in their car until capture.
“We camped in the car and froze but Beowolf was a total no show!” they wrote. Not to mention, he was a picky eater. Every day they set up food in order to lure him in and his food preferences became apparent. “Beowolf preferred meaty marrow bones. … We tried using bowls [of hotdog meat] and he would not attempt to even go near them. Everything was a set up in the mind of Beowolf.”
Outsmarted by a Dog
Heartbroken and defeated, the crew headed home at 5 a.m. Despite using food, toys and other tricks to trap the dog, Beowolf outsmarted the volunteers. But one Monday, roughly 11 months after he disappeared, they caught him. “Beowolf looked to have no injuries or signs of frostbite,” the dog recovery service added. “He is one true survivor.”
Sharing His Fears
The dog’s owner, Randy Sanborn, explained to WMUR what happened when Beowolf was reconnected with his family. “He came … as close as he could to us. I was afraid he was going to come back wild because he was gone so long. When I let him out, he doesn’t want to stay out; he wants to come right back in again. So I think he’s had enough cold weather for a while.”
Never Give Up
Beowolf’s will to survive proves that no family should ever give up on a lost pet. Granite State Dog Recovery says, “Remember if you have a missing dog you should never give up. They are out there somewhere waiting to come home. That one sighting call might be the key that provides the clues that lead your dog to safety.”