If this long day had a different ending, I'm not sure this page would ever have been posted...
Phineas spent his morning lounging on the sofa and in the kitchen looking for rubs. We were spending time in the kitchen when Ali looked out and saw a pileated close by. She mentioned the piliated, and I grabbed my camera and was out the door. As so often happens, the woodpecker was gone with no pictures. I opened the door to return to the house and Phineas bolted by me. He didn't even look. He was down the drive and on his way out the railroad grade as I frantically tried to keep him in sight. He got near the end of our property on the grade, turned ninety degrees and went straight up the hillside. He was clearly on-scent and baying madly. By this time, Ali and Gwen had joined me. While I headed up the hill, Ali took Gwen to try leaving Gwen's scent on the trails in the hope he would pick her up and return.
I followed him to the top of our land and beyond. I followed him until the world suddenly went quiet and his baying ceased. The quiet was my first point of panic on the day. The chance of a small beagle meeting coyotes is low in the day, but not so for bears not in den and the ever dangerous porcupines. I suspended my search and hiked back to the house to put other rescue efforts in gear.
After I finished the poster, Ali went to work with our friends to try getting the pages out. In the meantime, I jumped in the Subaru and headed off for a long ride to the other side of the hill to see if I could hear or spot the little dog. My second panic point came when I stopped by the state forest and got out to walk a bit and see if he could be heard. All was quiet and nothing was visible except a handful of vultures quietly circling a clearing near the back of some private property. I met with a few neighbors on the back of the hill and showed the Phineas' picture before returning home.
At this point, I was starting to expect the worst. Coyotes roam the top of the hill and the woods beyond and can be heard celebrating their kills. I knew at best I had the evening and some of the darkness before it would be too late. I armed myself with my cell phone, a camera, spare batteries, water, and a big flashlight. After that, it was into the woods for hours of walking while trying to cover 500+ acres. Eventually, I knew I needed to take a few minutes rest before one last night-time hunt. I began the long walk back to our property and home.
By now, I had all but given up hope of finding him when I looked up and spotted a little patch of white in the woods in the distance. It was him. He could no longer bay. He could no longer walk. He just stood propped against a tree and gave a slight tail wag while I made my joyful way to him. I was so happy to click the leash back on him and carry him back to a trail where we could slowly make our way back home to a happy celebration.
He was scratched, cut, and exhausted, but he was home.
It wasn't quite the day we had planned, but it was the best possible outcome out of few good ones. We packed up Gwen and Phineas and made our way home. Gwen celebrated her role in the rescue with a baby cone in Edinboro.