After a night out to dinner this past July, Carole and Vern King returned to their hotel room in Kalispell, Mont. expecting to settle in to bed with their beloved dog, Katie. What they found, however, was an empty hotel room. Carole suspects their 7-year-old Border Collie panicked during a thunderstorm and managed to turn the door's latch and escape. It took 57 days, a lost job, advanced equipment, over 500 fliers, and a supportive community, but Katie is finally in her family's arms.
Carole, Vern, and Katie were on vacation near the sprawling wilderness of Glacier National Park when Katie disappeared. The night it happened, Carole and Vern stayed out until 4 AM searching the area. They walked through neighborhoods, searched shopping centers, and hiked alfalfa farms hoping to make their nightmare end as quickly as possible. But despite their exhausting efforts, there was no sign of Katie.
The couple continued to search during the last few days of their vacation. But when their time ran out, they needed to make a decision. They could go home and move on, or they could fight for their dog and never give up. It was an easy decision.
While they are both retired law enforcement, Carole supplements their pensions with a job at the postal service in Spokane. She spoke to her boss about taking time off to find her dog, but that wasn't possible during the busy summer season. Despite losing a paycheck, she gave her notice. Carole told The New York Times,
"Katie was just more important to me."
With Carole in Kalispell searching for Katie and Vern back home caring for their other animals, the couple continued their search efforts. They posted to every lost dog forum and Facebook account. They distributed fliers to entire neighborhoods and contacted local animal services. Their efforts brought in a few potential sightings, but nothing panned out.
Never Giving Up
As weeks passed, the Kings enforced their efforts. They bought the types of cameras hunters and biologists use to spot animals in the wild along with humane traps. The cameras caught plenty of wildlife, but no Border Collie. And the traps caught a magpie, a cat, and four skunks, but no Katie.
Carole also started searching after dark with night vision goggles. She left her used t-shirts in strategic places in town hoping her dog would catch her scent. She did the same for Katie's favorite blanket and food bowls. Instead of driving around town, she started jogging and riding bike hoping she'd catch a glimpse of her dog or at least spread her scent so Katie knew she was nearby.
Carole and Vern did everything they could think of, but they knew Katie's time was running out. Every night in bed they would worry about their dog. Was she safe? Was she hungry? Did she miss them as much as they missed her?
A Community of Kindness
It was a long and stressful 2 months for the King family. They were terrified they'd never see their dog again, but they weren't alone in their search. Not only did their friends back home know what was happening, but they also amassed a large group of supporters and friends in Kalispell. Complete strangers wanted to help search, and Carole frequently received encouraging messages from people in different states. Carole said,
"We can't believe that community up there. I got out of it sheer kindness from people--from stranger to stranger."
There were hundreds of people committed to finding Katie, and it all paid off 57 days after she disappeared. On September 15, Carole received a tip from someone who was convinced Katie was in their backyard. The house was in a subdivision near where Katie first disappeared, and it seemed promising.
When she and a friend got there, however, whatever was in the person's backyard had already left. She was disappointed, but she decided to stay and look around. She searched nearby fields with binoculars, but they didn't see anything.
Katie Is Home!
Carole and her friend eventually came across a couple out on a walk. They stopped and asked if they had seen a black and white dog recently. Shockingly, the couple pointed toward a nearby tree and said,
"Is that your dog?"
Like a shock to the heart, Carole saw that it was a Border Collie. She didn't want to spook the animal, so she started calling Katie's name. At first, the dog was very cautious and kept its distance. But as the others went silent and Carole continued to call Katie's name, the dog started sprinting toward her. It was Katie!
Carole told Fox News,
"It was just--I should use another word--but amazing. I just don't know how to describe it."
With Katie finally in her arms, the pair went straight to an emergency vet. Katie seemed okay, but she had lost 12 pounds. She was put on a special diet to help retrain her stomach, and she and Carole returned home as soon as they could.
Katie yipped with excitement the whole way down the lane, and the family is overjoyed to be back together. Carole even got her job back at the post office. Their journey shows that when it comes to family, you never give up.
All images via Facebook/ Denis Rutherford via Katie IS Home