HEWITT, Texas (KWTX) 'Gus,' an elusive basset hound that's been missing for more than six weeks, was found in a field near Ritchie Road Tuesday on the border of Hewitt and Waco.
(Photo by Randy Davis)
The Hewitt Police Department's Animal Control Unit and Mutts & Mayhem Emergency Search and Rescue out of Dallas located the dog before noon and collared him when he became tangled in the rope attached to the door of one of the traps they set.
"She (a rescuer) told me that she had Gus, at first I was 'No, you don't,' I was shocked, I didn't believe her, then she held up the phone and I could hear him barking and howling in the background," said MarLee Riel, Gus' owner.
MarLee and her husband Bobby hired the professional rescuers, a pet detective, and engaged dozens of volunteers who logged hundreds of hours searching for the dog who was continuously spotted, but avoided capture, ever since he ran away from his home on Comanche Trail on July 24 when maintenance workers let him out by accident.
"Some people think we're crazy, ya know, what we're doing for our dog, but I mean, it's been hard, we've just stuck together and stayed strong and we couldn't have done it without Hewitt PD, Mutts & Mayhem and all the wonderful volunteers we've had," said Riel.
She says support, and lots of prayers, got them through it.
"At first it was torture, then it started becoming like a second job," she said.
The Riels don't have any children, and say Gus became their child from the time they rescued him shortly after the couple started dating.
"He was sick then had pneumonia, was lifeless, and we basically brought him back to life," said Riel of their bond with the dog.
While he's safe and mostly unharmed following his most recent rescue, Gus was found to have a few minor health issues after being taken to a veterinarian to be checked out.
He was covered in fleas and ticks, had several cuts from running through barbed wire fences, and dropped 23 pounds, a third of his body weight.
Even so, veterinarians say, overall, Gus is in strong health considering what he's gone through.
"Gus is looking fantastic, after being missing for so long he looks great,” Dr. Kristin Dodson of Hewitt Veterinary Hospital said.
“He has a minor skin infection, but he's eating food and he's wagging his tail and loving on his owners and he's excited."
Gus was said to be 11-years-old, however, veterinarians now estimate he's younger than previously thought, somewhere between ages five and eight.
The hound was visibly exhausted when he finally made it home following the vet visit and found his favorite spot on the couch to curl up in.
"I mean, I think we missed him more than he missed us, he's already back to on his couch and no carin'," Riel smiled.
"He's totally fine, he's just been on vacation I guess," she joked.
However, the last seven weeks have been anything but a vacation for the heartbroken owners.
"It's been very tiring and draining and emotionally draining," said Riel.
Making the days he was gone even harder was the fact that Riel and her husband both spotted Gus on separate occasions, but he ran the other way.
"He's actually run from both of us," said Riel. "He (her husband) just said his name and it just scared him, then for me on a Friday, we actually came across the field and I said his name and he actually got close to me, but there was a lot of people behind me and I think it just...he wasn't sure."
"But that was hard, that was really hard, that's when you have to go and regroup yourself and give it a break for a little bit," she said.
Gus also ran from officers several times.
At one point, Hewitt PD set up surveillance cameras and placed some traps in the massive field in hopes of corralling the elusive pet, but without success.
"We spent many nights, many days, a lot of time finding this dog, ya know we've had a lot of help from the community, so I am very ecstatic," Hewitt Animal Control Officer Jeff Douglas said of finding Gus.
“It's a huge relief, I mean it's something my family asked 'have you seen Gus?’"
Helping police were three members of Mutts & Mayhem, who arrived from North Dallas around midnight to track Gus.
"We've been flying our drone, scoping out this area, we've actually been sorta camping out here in the brush watching our trap," said Selena Schmidt, President of Mutts & Mayhem.
The field was riddled with snakes, coyotes and more, she said.
"I'm elated he's safe," said Schmidt.
Schmidt said this was out of their normal search area, but they agreed to come down and help because the community support was so strong.
"The community leaders have been great in this, they've done a great job helping me out with their support," he said.
Gus' owners said they were not going to let Gus out of their sight, even debating whether or not open their doggie door.
A dog who's normally only fed deer meat, they said he's already returned to being spoiled.
"He knows how (spoiled) rotten he is here," said Riel. "He knows he's home now and he's watched us very close."
Gus is already microchipped and neutered.
They said they were going to get a GPS collar to track their tricky pet in the future.
The Riels had advice for other pet owners in this position.
"Never give up," said Riel.
"There for a while we thought 'maybe he is dead,' but we weren't gonna give up until we figured that out."
"Just don't give up," she said.