The Odessa Record -

By Kim Scharff
Guest submission 

Where's Walter?

The community effort to help the Scharff family locate their lost dog


Last updated 1/28/2021 at 1:59pm

Guest submission by Kim Scharff

Editor’s Note: This story highlights the community effort, including that of three boys in the Reardan-Edwall School District, to help the Scharff family locate their lost dog. Kim’s story has been slightly edited for grammar, AP Style and space.

Reardan – My husband and I were dropping some items off in an area just West of Deep Creek Wednesday, Jan. 13. The big wind storm had occurred the prior day and into that day. My recent rescue dog, Walter, had been anxious that whole day and upon arriving at our drop off location, Walter did a reverse pull out of his dog harness and ran. My heart sank. He was not familiar with this area.

The next eight days were hell days. Kind neighbors in the area allowed me to go daily onto their property to walk, call and search. I drove the roads like a mad lady. Posters were made and placed around the area. Flyers were taken to the vet clinics and post office. There was an interesting type of panic going on internally, leading a drive to keep moving forward.

You see, Walter had come from a shelter which had taken in dogs from the Paws Across the Pacific flight in October 2020. The flight flew an accumulation of nearly 600 pets gathered from six shelters on five Hawaiian islands to Seattle, where they were disbursed to many different shelters in the Pacific Northwest.

After losing our last family pet to cancer in June 2020, I didn’t think I could give my heart to another. Upon reading about the Paws across the Pacific story, however, I was, to say the least, a little bit interested. It is hard to even think that there could be 600 pets on one flight that had no home and no one to love them. It spoke to my heart.

In November we reached out to a shelter and found a dog that had been overlooked. He was beautiful. He was love at first sight. He wouldn’t come. He was frightful, timid, and scared of everything. I would find out later he was even afraid of his shadow. We brought him home and named him Walter. He would be a challenge, but I was up for it.

Walter was the pet that had just ran. An untrusting soul who acted as though he had been mistreated in his past and who quite possibly had never once felt loved. We had only had him for nine weeks. How was he going to stick close to his exit site and remain in the area long enough for us to find him? For all we knew, he had run for miles. How could this have happened? Walter was placed in my care and I had failed him.

Then, several days and many miles, prayers, sleepless nights and tears later, I received a call from a neighbor, Stu, in the area. Stu was yelling into the phone: “I see him! He is here!”

Stu grabbed his wife Vicky and they continued to spend the rest of their afternoon helping us track and follow our fur baby. (I hear another neighbor also joined in the search.) Who jumps in and gives of their own time so freely? At the end of the day we weren’t successful, but we knew that Walter was alive and nearby.

The next day another neighbor, Sharon called. She had spotted Walter, and did again the next day.

In the meantime my daughter had started a website called “Where’s Walter?” She had posted his information all over Facebook on many lost and found sites. She was like the command center working from her home, posting and answering questions. My son drove, added to other rescue sites, and scoured many “lost and found” pages online. Other family and friends joined in the ground search, spending hours of their valuable time. Neighbors Dan and Roy continued to let me walk their property with Roy’s adorable grandson spending hours outside calling, watching and looking through his kid binoculars for Walter.

During this time, my heart felt the love and support of the pet community. Who knew it was so large, with so many caring and compassionate hearts? Harley Dyad, who handles pet rescue sites further north, contacted me. She was encouraging and informational, and made a beautiful poster that was put up on many sites. Gina Habbestad from Lincoln County Pet Rescue gave me endless bouts of encouragement and advice on handling timid, scared dogs. Barb Baumann from Medical Lake picked up a humane live trap from Lincoln County Pet Rescue, drove it to me and showed me how to set it up while also helping me to make more signs. Jana Johansson shared “finding Walter” ideas. I had neighbors calling to ask if he was found yet. There were hundreds of people on Facebook watching for updates, sending words of encouragement, praying for, and even offering to help. Some drove and posted, spending money of their own. Someone offered a drone, another a search dog. As crazy as it sounds, it felt like we were being cheered on and supported. It gave us hope and the energy needed to keep forging ahead.

Then came the eighth night. Walter was seen by some young men that will always have a special place in my heart. Preston, Tyler and Wesley Winn were my answers to prayer. They spotted Walter while walking to their house from the school bus. As he disappeared down the hill, they proceeded to search for him on property that is steep and full of brush. At the bottom of this steep property is a creek with the ground full of sticker bushes, cockleburs, overgrown brush, reeds and low lying trees. It was here that we lost him again. The air turned quiet, except for the sound of the babbling creek, with no sign of Walter.

I walked for a while and circled back around to the house he was last seen at trying to hold back the tears, only to hear the sound of the three boy’s parents calling down and encouraging them to see if they could coax him out of the brush. The boys were already back down at the creek’s bottom searching and listening for clues to his whereabouts.

I joined them in the search again. This time, I let them take the lead. Walter seemed to be responding to young Wesley’s voice, and the three boys were able to figure out where he was by the sound of his movement in the brush.

Unfortunately, the afternoon was slipping away. Darkness was upon us. Before we knew it, it was pitch black. My heart sank. The few glimpses they had gotten of Walter that night showed us that he wasn’t well. I only had one visual of him and could see he was gimping along and so, so thin. That night was supposed to be one of the coldest in all the time he had been lost. I felt like he might not make it to another day.

I get emotional as I think of what happened next. These same three boys, Preston, Tyler and Wesley, ran to the top of the hill and got flashlights. I grabbed mine and we all head back down to the creek in the dark where we continued our search and rescue. Wesley, the youngest, stuck close by me and helped me when I was stuck in a steep spot and continued to ask me if I was okay when I fell. What a kind heart.

A while later we hear Justine’s voice from the top of the hill, telling us that Walter has climbed to the top of the hill and she has him. No way! I cannot believe it until I have eyes on. My prayers are answered!

Riding home that night, calling family, and holding Walter in my lap/arms felt surreal. It wasn’t until I got home that night and was reflecting on the events of the last eight days that I was able to really absorb the love and warm embrace that the community offered. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

It was really a great reminder of good hearted people and a community reaching out to help others. I think sometimes we can get so focused on all the “other stuff” that is happening in life that we don’t always think of and acknowledge the good. Sometimes we don’t even see it. Other times it is taken for granted. I experienced a week full of good people. Kudos to our pet rescue people and site administrators who worked behind the scene tirelessly without any expectation for pay. They truly give from their hearts. And thank you to all the people who stepped in to help, along with the followers, prayers, and encouragers. Let’s not forget to pay-it-forward people. How nice is it to make an impact on others and feed our own hearts at the same time?

P.S. Good job Justine and Bobby for your three boys with the really big hearts.


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