Ryan Brungard and his dog, Hope, lived a real life “Homeward Bound” when Hope got lost in Canyonlands National Park. Hope’s story is harrowing, dramatic, and heart-wrenching, so animal-lovers, be warned. I tell Part I of Ryan and Hope’s story here, in Ryan’s words. Stop by next week for Part II.
Before I got my bar results, I went to work for an event marketing company in St. Louis. One of their biggest customers is Nestle/Purina and so we’d do trade shows like Westminster and the National Dog Show. In the back, behind the scenes, brands showcase their lines, there are rescue dog missions, etc. I want to say that my dog, Hope, and I had this immediate connection when we saw each other during one of those events, but you never really know. I was not out to get a dog, but it just seemed right. Hope had been strayed in North Carolina, living on the streets, and she had a bunch of interesting physical conditions that were indicative of neglect, specifically the one that people know her for, a distinct scar that runs along her spine and has the texture of a tire. She certainly had a unique story, which made her special to me right away; her name was Hope already, and that seemed perfectly suitable. She’s super intelligent, and she just sort of seems to pick things up. I would put my hand out and say “Shake,” and she would shake. She’s just an angel dog – so sweet, so kind, but you can tell that there’s some trauma in her background. She’s settled down over the past few years, but at first, she spooked really easily. I think that’s probably what happened in Moab in 2013.
It was late March and my buddy Rob and I were going to meet a big group of our friends in Canyonlands. Hope is in the back, and we got a late start out of Durango behind the rest of our friends. Once you do the dip into Canyonlands, cell phone reception is nil, and there aren’t too many ways to communicate other than by leaving notes on BLM boards. The sun is starting to go down, we cruise into the Beef Basin area, and pull off to stretch. We let Hope out. Rob and I find the note our friends left to tell us where they are. I call Hope. Hope doesn’t come. I call again. Nothing. Now I’m frustrated. Why isn’t she paying attention to me? I call again. No panting, no jingle from her collar, nothing. Now I’m a little worried. I’m realizing that this could be a problem. I’m walking around, looking in all directions. Rob and I get our headlamps, and I’m full-on frantic now. It’s not like she ran off into the alley, or went into a different yard- she’s out in Canyonlands National Park. It was an absolutely helpless, awful feeling.
We looked for what seemed like hours. We don’t have cell reception, so we can’t communicate with our friends to tell them the situation. I left her dog bed there with a t-shirt of mine and we went to the campsite where our friends were. That weekend turned into a hunt for my dog. There was no going to sleep at night, there was no relaxation. It was just pure, unadulterated panic and guilt. My friends dropped everything to help me search. Binoculars, headlamps, night, day – she never showed up. I had my bike with me, and so I was also going around to nearby ranches and BLM posts telling them what to look for. It was a devastating, awful weekend and every hour that went by was worse. I knew that Sunday was going to roll around, and that I was going to have to decide what to do. Do I just set up camp and live in the desert now? I had just started working at a firm here in town and I had to go back to my job, which was one of the harder things I’ve ever done. So much guilt. Late Sunday, I left the dog bed where we last saw her, along with lots of food and water.
The desert is such an endless venue of danger and challenges. I was worried about her nutrition, about her being attacked, about the heat, the cold – and I felt like a terrible owner. The drive back was miserable.
Cyle Talley loves his dog more than he loves most people. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org