Dog finds way back after fall, two nights in woods

Posted: Friday, July 08, 2005

KODIAK — For two days Kaitlin Lee felt like the world's worst housesitter.

That was after she watched a friend's dog leap off a cliff on Barometer Mountain and disappear. But after days of searching by neighbors, friends — and maybe even a little help from a family of deer — Nike, a scrappy orphan dog, found his way back to Lee.

Lee, a 19-year-old college nursing student home for the summer from studying in Colorado, thought she was doing a favor for the couple she was housesitting for by taking their two dogs for a stroll up Barometer Mountain June 29.

But as soon as she took Nike and Lulu off their leashes, the dogs caught sight of a bird and were gone — right off the ledge of the mountain.

''Nike just leaped completely off of the edge,'' Lee said. ''Full speed ahead.''

Lulu only fell a few feet and quickly found her way back to the trail.

But Nike was gone.

Nike, a Catahoula leopard dog, was a fixture in Karen Yashin's home for years, along with dozens of other animals, including 10 cats, lizards and even a tarantula.

''These animals are her family and her joy,'' Lee said. ''She was truly heartbroken.''

Lee called 911 and even Andrew Airways, where she works once a week as a dispatcher, and had a pilot circle the area looking for the dog.

Lee spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening, along with about 15 others, searching for the dog. They didn't find anything.

Once the party started to search the mountain, it seem a lot bigger, said Patt Gibbs, a Bell's Flats resident and friend of Yashin. ''It would have just been by fluke that we would have found Nike.''

But Nike, a ranch dog, had been in tough spots before, including a scrap with a bear.

For the next day and a half, the crew continued the search for Nike. Lee said she couldn't believe the amount of support. About 40 people joined the search and manned phone lines hoping to find the dog and round up more volunteers.

Gibbs said she wasn't surprised by the search team's enthusiasm to find the dog.

''Well, for me it was just pretty typical Kodiak,'' Gibbs said. ''It just reinforced how people just really pull together here.''

The team was even warned that a bear had been sighted in the area, making a physical search of the mountain even more dangerous.

''I don't think that girl (Lee) slept in two days and we were pretty unsettled here,'' Gibbs said.

Lee said she was so tired she even pleaded for help from a family of deer she encountered.

The morning after Nike disappeared, Lee and a friend returned to the scene bright and early, with telescopes to survey the countryside. The team returned after work to search the mountain. Ron Gibbs began to make posters with the dog's picture on it, and rescue dogs were brought out to find Nike.

After another exhaustive day of searching, Lee, Gibbs and others were ready to return to the mountain early the next morning.

But before they could wake up and hike back up the mountain, Lee's phone rang and a friend was on the line. She said a worker at Andrew Airways found a dog matching Nike's description.

''I ran out of the house with barely anything but my pajamas and beelined it down to Andrew Airways,'' Lee said. ''And when I got down there Nike was sitting there right on the porch. But the best part of the story is that the three deer were right there next to the dog.''

Lee said she had never even taken the dog to work before, but Nike might have recognized the scent.

Nike didn't have any broken bones, but is pretty scraped up. He is spending time at the veterinarian. He will remain there to heal away from other dogs until his owners get home.

Lee said she is extremely relieved to find Nike, but she is also glad to have the community on her side.

''Kodiak truly is home and there are friends here that are more like family,'' Lee said. ''Every single time it completely amazes me how well this community comes together and helps one another out.''

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