On November 24, on Curry Road between Dunmore and Green Bank, our dog, Winnie, ran away after being scared by a gunshot.
We did everything we could think of to find her. I was working with a pet tracking company from afar who came up with a specific strategic plan for tracking, etc. and a second pet tracking company came in person on two different days from out of state. We hired a thermal drone company, took out a newspaper ad, had the local radio station do announcements, contacted both animal shelters in Pocahontas County, took out flyers, went door to door showing her picture, did an alert through the microchip company going out to all area vets, shelters, etc. as well as a separate missing dog telephone alert (recommended by one of the pet tracking companies).
My husband got up every single day and was out by daylight putting his dirty clothes in areas he thought she may be (scent locations), cooking food on a little portable cook stove, leaving food at different “scent” stations, and hiking miles of wilderness to try to find her.
He worked with a sweet lady (who owns a local search and rescue place there) and her bloodhound on two occasions and was able to pick up a different scent trail than the professional pet tracking company found on the first day they came – which was Tuesday. On Friday, the second day the pet tracking company came out, they placed Winnie at least seven miles away from the cabin in Cass toward the Greenbrier River Trail, which means she would have crossed over at least two rivers, survived 10-degree temperature, snow, freezing rain and not to mention the coyotes, bobcats and bear and who knows what else.
Although we are both originally from West Virginia, we have lived in Florida for years now, and Winnie has never lived in West Virginia. Winnie is not familiar with the mountains, terrain or weather of West Virginia and has a very short fur/coat. And she is most definitely an “indoor” dog and has never had to hunt for food or anything like that.
There were times our family members wanted us to stop the search and, although few and far between, there were some discouraging social media comments and a cruel message sent to me saying our dog was found – long story short, it was a scam. To say we had discouragement at times, especially the night it got down to 10 degrees and knowing that hypothermia and frostbite were now major concerns, is an understatement.
My husband in Pocahontas County, and me down in Florida, we were a mess. We talked on the phone every chance we had, of course. Mark kept telling me that he felt the Lord telling him to “wait.”
I felt the Lord telling me that it is not just important to wait but it is “how” we wait. Do we wait with anxiousness, with dread, with no hope? Or do we do exactly what the Bible tells us to do – hope in the Lord. To wait upon Him to renew our strength. After all, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
So, that is exactly what we did, we prayed and we hoped and we lived out the very definition of faith. And we had so many people who spoke encouragement to us, who prayed fervently along with us, who shared stories of dogs lost and found in remarkable situations. It helped feed our faith so much! Then, on Friday, December 1, after the pet tracking company’s second visit when they still could not find her, but confirmed she had been alive within the last 48 hours, one of the neighbors to the family’s cabin called Mark while he was still out looking around the Greenbrier River Trail, and told him he thought Winnie was on the porch at the family cabin. Mark hightailed it back and sure enough she was there.
So, she found him!
After seven days, four hours and only God knows how many obstacles and trials, after absolutely no sightings of her whatsoever after the previous Friday, God brought Winnie back.
I cannot tell you how overjoyed, relieved and in absolute awe we are. Things seemed to get worse and worse and seemed like it was impossible she would ever be found alive – but God.
Mark and Katherine Payne
Punta Gorda, Florida