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The Incredible Journey of Daisy - An Oconee Greyhound Lost and Found

"It's a story of resiliency and hope. I didn't think my dog would be this resilient, I really didn't, but she's a survivor," says owner Lauren Whalen.

(Originally published on July 25, 2012.)

Update: Sadly Daisy passed away of bone cancer in December 2012.

The odds weren't in Daisy's favor.

The 4-year-old greyhound who ran away from her Hickory Hills Drive home at the end of June was hit by a car, stuck outside in the 100-degree summertime heat wave, and somehow crossed the Oconee River during the three weeks she was lost.

She dropped more than 20 pounds of her 56-pound frame along the way.

But on July 19, Daisy was reunited with her family.

"It makes you feel great, doesn't it? That you have a community of people behind you."

It all happened when the fence in Daisy's back yard was mistakenly left open. It only took 10 minutes for her owners, Chris Whalen, a University of Georgia professor, and his wife Lauren, a dermatologist, to realize the mishap, but by then Daisy was already out of sight.  They immediately mobilized neighbors and friends to search for the pet, not knowing nearly a month would pass before she'd be found.

"All the way around it's amazing," Lauren Whalen said.  "It's a story of resiliency and hope.  I didn't think my dog would be this resilient, I really didn't, but she's a survivor."

Getting the word out

They say time is of the essence, and when conducting a search for a greyhound, each passing minute is critical. That's because, Lauren Whalen explained, greyhounds are "sighthounds" and can easily become disoriented and lost.

No organization knows this better than Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA), which swept in to help with its own team of volunteers from Atlanta. 

"They understand the mind of a greyhound," she said, and the group was familiar with Daisy. The Whalens adopted Daisy from the organization when she was two years old.

At first, the search was confined to the neighborhood and the surrounding woods. No one could have known Daisy was already miles away to the north near Friendship Presbyterian Church on Macon Highway, where she'd been hit by a car.  Lauren found that out later.

"The woman had stopped and had tried very hard to get the dog to come to her and apparently several other motorists had stopped and tried to contain the dog, but she was well enough to get up and keep running," she said.

It became clear that the search parameters needed to be widened. By the end of that first week, volunteers had hung flyers on signs all around Watkinsville only to learn ordinances required them to be removed, which took the rest of the weekend. So, they regrouped and instead posted the flyers to mailboxes.

Next the Whalens turned to findtoto.com -- a company that utilizes the last known location of a lost pet to make hundreds of robo-calls in order to alert residents within a certain radius about a missing pet.

Sightings

Daisy was next sighted near Grace Lane and Simonton Bridge Road. A greyhound rescue group from South Carolina stepped in and lent a live trap that the family monitored for six days, but it was a dead end.

She was spotted again on July 9 on another Simonton Bridge Road property and the family was hopeful. When Lauren arrived, she caught a glimpse of her beloved dog near a retention pond, but so did the property owner's chocolate labrador retriever, who chased Daisy away. She was gone again.

And there was another challenge. Daisy's uncanny resemblance to a deer, save her long tail, led to numerous reports of sightings that didn't pan out.

"We were still sort of encouraged, but getting a little discouraged," Lauren said. "Everyone was convinced that Daisy was back in our neighborhood, which would've been fantastic."

When all else fails, throw some bacon on a portable grill. At least that's what the Whalens did next -- in the middle of their cul-de-sac.  A hungry dog would almost certainly be attracted to the smell. Right?

"I'm sure the neighbors thought I was absolutely loony," Lauren joked. "But that's alright,  they were kind of used to us searching for her in many ways."  One of those neighbor's even set up her grill the following day.

The grill strategy worked -- at luring out other neighborhood dogs.  But, alas, Daisy remained on the lam.

Not giving up

Then came the week of no reports of new sightings, and with it, feelings of discouragement, Lauren recounted.

"But the rescue group never gave up hope," she said. "Somebody was out every single day to help pass out fliers, help us to look.  They never allowed us to give up, which was awesome because I was getting discouraged."

The continued efforts paid off. The family soon learned Daisy had been sighted twice at the beginning of the week of July 16 on Greyfriars Road. It meant she had crossed the Oconee River, an incredible feat for a dog who hadn't been introduced to water, and something no one had even considered.

Another blast of findtoto.com robo-calls went out using the newest sighting's location as the epicenter. That same day, a landowner with 30 acres on Bob Godfrey Road called to say he had taken pictures of Daisy from a deer stand and felt certain it was her because he had one of the flyers with her photograph. The property was seven miles from the Whalen home.

Chris Whalen spent the entire morning on July 19 walking the man's property, hoping to see Daisy. Then came the fitting climax to the story: just as he was about to leave, he saw her.

So she wouldn't become frightened, Chris slowly walked around her in a wide circle, avoiding eye contact, talking to her all the while.

Daisy raised her head up, then flopped back down under the bushes, too weak to stand, too weak to run.  Finally Chris could scoop her up and take her home. 

Recovery underway

But the first stop was the veterinarian's office.

Over the course of her 23-day journey, Daisy lost 22 pounds, nearly half her body weight.

"I'd never seen a thinner dog," Lauren Whalen said.

Daisy was riddled with ticks.  She was also limping, the result of a large gash on her left hip that she likely sustained from the collision with the car. But overall, Daisy's prognosis was good. She didn't need intravenous fluids because she could drink on her own, no bones were broken and she didn't have a fever.  She was put on a course of antibiotics and is now eating small meals every two hours in order for her to regain her strength.

Lauren reports Daisy is enjoying being home.  She remembers the family's other dog, a mixed-breed named Penny, and keeps busy playing with her toys, just as she always had.

"All the way around it's amazing," Lauren said.  "It's a story of resiliency and hope.  I didn't think my dog would be this resilient, I really didn't, but she's a survivor."

Lauren recognizes that finding Daisy took a community-wide effort.

"If it had been left up to me alone, I would've given up a long time ago," she said. "But it took many people who were out on bicycles looking, people from the vet school were looking.  It just took an entire community to look for this dog and in the end, she was found.

"It makes you feel great, doesn't it? That you have a community of people behind you."

About the Whalens:  Chris and Lauren Whalen moved from Ohio to Oconee County, Ga. four years ago.  They have one daughter, a rising freshman at , and two adult sons in college. Read more details of the extensive search on the blog Finding Miss Daisy.


Melissa Steele July 25, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I cried all the way through this story and the blog, too! Soooooo happy for ya'll. I know how it feels to loose a beloved pet and I couldn't be happier for you! Kiss Daisy on her sweet little head for me!
Patricia A. Shew July 25, 2012 at 07:04 PM
We also have greyhounds and I know how I would feel! We just put down our first grey that came from SEGA on May 10th. She was 15 years young. We lost 2 to cancer and still have our sweet Abby. I would be lost if if she ran away. Hug Miss Daisy for me and give her a kiss. I am very glad she has returned home!

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