Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
Hominy & Hash

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Two stories occupied my mind during the 12 days of Christmas this year; one was heard around the world, the other just among family and friends. What is sort of the same is the sense of loss they both began with, and what is different is the way they ended.

When I first saw Associated Press news reports out of Hood River, Ore, describing the plight of the mountain climbers missing and that they "may have been swept to their deaths over a treacherous cliff by howling winds of more than 100 mph after they left their possibly injured companion behind in a snow cave to get help," I thought to myself that they had to be crazy to climb in Winter against all odds. That's a sport - more an undertaking - that belongs in June.

'The shockwaves emanating from their loss traveled from New York to Georgia, and we sent the word out: Dakota and Sunny are gone. Pray!'

I held these thoughts within, in deference to the weeping friends and family at the foot of the mountain, all hoping and praying for the best, but preparing for the worst.

These sorrowful people who believed as we all do that tragedies only happen to other people, not ourselves, looked no different from the mourners searching the rubble left by Hurricane Katrina which struck with little warning and took away their past lives. But, those mourners hadn't opened the floodgates of misery themselves. Nor did the people on the shores of Sumatra, or Penang Beach cause an earthquake in the Indian Ocean to bring the tsunami to their shores.

Tragedies do happen. Further in the AP story, I read that "[the climbers] tried to secure themselves to a steep slope. That was the last sign of the two."

Jim Whittaker was the first American to climb Mt. Everest in 1963. Commenting on this Oregon climb he spoke of its turning into an Everest "when you get those high winds and snow. You get knocked over by the wind, your goggles get fogged up. You can't even travel." But, he added: "They were just pushing themselves to their farthest frontiers. That's when people are at their best."

Sunny didn't recognize her owners wearing hats, and she ran away.

AR Photo:
Constance Daley

But at what cost? We often justify someone's death saying "He died doing what he loved best." That's no justification; nor is it enough to say, "the weather's fine, I'll be okay."

They climbed to the summit from the more treacherous north side and planned to go back down the less difficult south side. The report suggests "they apparently tried to pass through a rock-and-ice formation known as the Pearly Gates, but did not find it." To my way of thinking, that's exactly what they did find. We won't really know the end of the story until the spring thaw and that's the sad part of it.

The story with the happy ending this Christmas is aptly called "Lost and Found." We received an e-mail message with the subject line SAD NEWS. It was from our daughter, Wendy, and we didn't know what to expect. It seems she and Kelly had accidentally allowed their dogs to penetrate the electric fence when they neglected to change the batteries in their collars.

The call went out for searches in the local region and prayers from all over. Dakota is a Samoyed, large, white and furry; Sunny is a Border Collie looking every bit as regal as movieland's Lassie. The shockwaves emanating from such a loss traveled from New York to Georgia and we sent the word out: Dakota and Sunny are gone. Pray!

Dakota returned before nightfall and the hunt continued for Sunny. My daughter, her partner, Kelly, and friends Karen and Jo who drove in to join in the search are part of the bigger picture. Here, in Wendy's own report from Warwick, N.Y., is how Sunny was found.

Dakota came home at nightfall. Her scent may have slowed the other lost dog down.

AR Photo:
Constance Daley

You can read between these lines the horrific days when Sunny was missing, the sleeplessness and the remorse, the fear and the compromises with God, the eventual reunion and joy to the world on Christmas morning when Sunny was there to dig the bones out of her "stocking."

Dear Mom:

When we first saw her she ran! She did not recognize us with our hats and hoods on. It was cold and rainy. So, she took off. I could not believe how fast she ran - she was soooooo scared! I ran back to the car to get my keys and that was just enough time for her to get away. I took off in to the woods and picked up the Appalachian Trail.

I ran and ran until I came upon one of the homes on 17A, which was down the hill. I thought I'd get shot! I walked down and knocked on the door, completely out of breath. A woman (Debra by name) answered and she could not have been nicer. She was tending to her dog, a German Shepherd who was recovering from surgery. She said she'd keep an eye open for Sunny and left food out for her!

I then walked down to 17A and walked back up to my car - straight up hill for a mile. I kept looking up into the woods and calling for her. I got back up to where we started and went back in the woods for about 45 minutes. I was convinced she was headed down the hill, (not up) so I decided to drive down 17A and then walk back up. Jo told me when dogs get lost they tend to gravitate towards the road.

Karen and Jo were in the woods so we met up and drove together in Jo's car. Kelly had Dakota and they stayed in the woods. Dakota was very worker-like in her role! I am convinced that Sunny picked up Dakota's scent and slowed down.

After reaching the bottom of 17A, I started walking back up. My legs were shaking and I was a bit lightheaded from not having slept. After about a 1/2 mile, Jo and Karen picked me up. The road is brutal - blind curves and people going 55. It's posted as 55, but it should be 35.

As soon as we got into the car, Karen spotted Sunny again above 17A She was sitting up on a ledge above the road. This time I did not freak out or scare her as before. By then though, she was pretty submissive. I gently said her name and she wagged her tail. I climbed up to get her in the mud and we slid down the hill together. She was wet and a little muddy, but otherwise fine. I did pull a few ticks off her, but we put Advantix on and that took care of any ticks we couldn't see.

It's amazing we found her. She was so far from home - over eight miles. Our garbage company truck driver spotted her first - otherwise we would never have looked up 17A. I don't like to even think what would have happened if we did not get that lead. When the truck came today I stopped him and gave him $50 and the "found" ad. He still had the flyer!

A week later I am still so grateful.

Thanks again, Love, Wendy

Two stories; one has a sad ending, the other a happy one. Neither story had to be told - they are simply examples of lessons learned - the hard way.

Constance Daley's New Book
Sidewalks and Sand
Is Available Now At www.skylinetoshoreline.com

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