Editor’s note: Read Part I of this story at dgomag.com under First Person in the “Columns” section.Last week, Ryan Brungard told Part I of the story about his dog, Hope, getting lost in Canyonlands National Park – an honest-to-God, heart-wrenching “Homeward Bound” tale. He concludes the tale of his quest to find Hope (literally and figuratively) here, in his own words.
The days that followed Hope’s disappearance were not my most productive days at work. I would be on the phone to BLM, the Moab Animal Shelter, nearby Utah cities, Forest Service, trying to get the word out. Luckily, the guys at my firm were really on board. As the days wore on, I would get these urges to just drop everything and go and look for her. There were a couple of times that I did, that I dropped everything and went back to duct tape posters with good color photos and descriptions to the handful of BLM boards around. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Social media, phone calls, posters, emails – it was never enough. I should be camping out there until I find her. I should be mounting a huge search party. I should be – and remember that days are going by. Days. Then weeks. I was just pummeling myself.
It must’ve been late April, right around Easter time. My friends were beginning to wonder how to tell me to start letting go of Hope, and I think deep down, reality might have been starting to set in. I was sitting at my desk and my cellphone went off. It was a guy calling from deep in Canyonlands. He had some sort of cell phone booster. He says, “I think I found your dog.” This is 28 days later, so I’m freaking out. My heart is pounding out of my chest, and I’m shouting at this guy, “What do you mean you found her?! Are you sure it’s her?!” I’m just assaulting this guy with questions. I remember him saying, “I’m pretty sure it’s her. I saw your pictures, and I’m looking right at her. She’s super skinny, and she won’t come to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s her.” He gave me coordinates, and I immediately rushed out to Moab.
It was the middle of the day when I pulled my car in. I grabbed a leash and set out. I had only been walking around in the area for a few minutes when I see these two eyes staring out at me from the bushes. I yelled, “Hope!” and immediately, the eyes turn. It’s her. I know it. I took off running toward her, screaming her name, and she bolted – but at this point, nothing’s stopping me. I’ve got a line on her. I’m chasing after her and she goes across this little river that runs around this campground. She stops and I stop and we’re staring at each other. I sit down and casually say, “Hey Hope, c’mere, c’mere,” like I would at home or in the park. She came over to me with this slow, skittish catwalk. Her face is sunburned and her collar is drooping off of her – every one of her ribs is visible. She looked like a walking skeleton, and it was clear that she was completely running on fumes. I put the leash on her when she got close enough, and I couldn’t contain myself. I was loving her, totally frantic, but trying to keep it in check because I was sure she was still very freaked out and confused and discombobulated.
The first thing I want to do is throw a steak down for her, a full Thanksgiving dinner, huge water bowl, the whole thing. But I knew that giving a dog who hasn’t had food for that long can really mess with its system. So I put out a small amount of food, gave her some good, clean water, and got her into the car and we went immediately to the vet. Besides the weight loss, she was perfectly healthy.
It’s hard to say how this whole thing impacted me. Obviously, I love my girl. And the fact that she stayed alive and we were able to reconnect has to mean something, right? This story isn’t about me. It’s about Hope. I know people with food, water, shelter, and booze that can’t survive Canyonlands for a weekend. Hope is a warrior.
I don’t want the story to be about me because I still feel so guilty. Sitting here, talking to you, thinking about the things I did and didn’t do, if I could have done anything more, and the fact that she came back to me – I still look at her sometimes and think, “Why did you come back to me?” and I’m so glad that she came back! I mean, do I deserve her? Am I giving her a good life? Can we, and here, I’m talking about any of us, be good to each other – be good for each other? I know that I’m way too hard on myself. Doing this has made me realize again how awful and incredible and special it was. I trust her implicitly now, and I think it’s on both sides, too.
We tend to think about not taking things for granted in terms of life, relationships, jobs, health, etc. I never thought I would go for a weekend trip in the desert and come back without my dog. Telling this story in detail again after several years has made me realize how easy it is to take things for granted. We could all likely use some work in this area.
Cyle Talley is grateful to Ryan and Hope for allowing him to tell their story. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org