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April 5, 2014

DODD: Hunting down a big dog

“You’re my Lassie, come home.” — Quote from the 1943 film, Lassie Come Home

Sometimes life is just like the movies. Think of a movie where you combine the scripts of “Rocky” and “Lassie Comes Home.”

Many readers will remember an August afternoon when Tony Salamone parked his car in the square in Charlestown and left his best friend, a great Pyrenees named Rocky in the back seat. When he came back outside from a restaurant he found his Jeep and Rocky were missing. It was the start of a long winter for Tony.

That Jeep ended up in a high speed crash in Louisville where the driver was held for more than a week before showing up in the Clark County Jail. I did have the opportunity to speak with the driver of the stolen Jeep. I simply asked him one question after explaining that the Jeep owner was a friend of mine.

“What happened to the dog?”

He explained that he was not the one who stole the Jeep originally. As for the dog, he had only been told that when the Jeep had been stolen, “There was a polar bear in the backseat.”

“This really affected me.” Tony Salamone recently told me.

I talked with Tony’s son Drew at Bare Shoulder BBQ restaurant where the original theft took place this past Wednesday. It was at their website where a posting of a plea for help in looking for Rocky received more than 2,500 “likes.”

It was command central for more than 100 false leads and Rocky sightings. It was also where Sharon Coots of Charlestown contacted Drew about a sighting of a large white dog on their farm property outside of Charlestown late last fall.

It seems around that time another great Pyrenees had been sighted near the industrial park in Charlestown. Drew followed that lead several times before eventually learning a great Pyrenees had been frequenting that area for a couple of years and had been fed by a caring couple but had never been caught.

It was not Rocky.

About four weeks ago, Sharon Coots again contacted Drew about another sighting. It was on their property right outside of Charlestown and very close to the other great Pyrenees location. This time, the Salamone family first made a physical visit initially by searching the Summers’ property adjacent to the Coots’ property.

After another meeting with Dana Coots, Tony saw a large white dog through binoculars, but they were not close enough to definitely identify Rocky. It was confirmed that Rocky was eating some food left out by the adjoining neighbor near the fence line between the two farms under a cedar tree. I rode around with Dana Coots on his ATV this past Wednesday evening surveying the farm.

“There was a couple of months this winter when it wasn’t much more than daylight when that dog came running out of that hog house.” Dana pointed out for me.

We drove through an open pasture and Coots showed me the fence line and the cedar tree where the white dog ate the food left out for him. As we drove close to the fence, there was a hole near the bottom where white fur was still clinging to the wiring. It was the dog’s gateway between the two farms.

The Coots’ farm is more than 220 acres of pristine farmland which is currently leased out for crops. As Dana Coots and I drove around, there were several outbuildings located behind the farmhouse. The hog barn’s size was ample enough to provide adequate shelter for a dog. As Coots observed, “This was a pretty harsh winter.”

Dana told me about the night Drew came out trying to lure the dog close enough to catch him, using beef stew as bait. The animal would never get more than a couple of feet just out of reach.

What Drew did notice was a nylon packing strap that had been tied around the dog’s waist. It was obvious that some injury had been caused from the strap. At first, Drew thought the dog might have somehow climbed into it, but upon closer inspection he could tell it had been tied around the dog on purpose for some unexplainable reason.

Was Drew certain that Rocky had been located? After all, the dog he saw was quite a bit smaller than the Rocky that had been in the family home.

However, it was not evident as to the physical condition and the extent of the injuries that the dog was suffering with because of the strap. Drew finally decided that he needed to go back to the restaurant where he knew his father was for his regular meal.

Tony and Drew then returned to the Coots’ farm and began to drive up the truck path into the holler and across toward the dry creek bed that traverses the farm near the hog barn.

I will continue the story of the missing great Pyrenees in next week’s column.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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