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Woman goes to great lengths in search for dog

November 14, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

DOWNSVILLE

erinc@herald-mail.com

Looking down at her 2-year-old husky, massaging tufts of his soft, black fur, Christie Soffel thought about the past four days.

On Wednesday, her dog, Angel, disappeared from a friend's home on River Rock Court in Downsville. Since then, Soffel has walked through woods, scanned the neighborhood at night with a small flashlight and posted fliers.

And twice, the Washington, D.C., resident rented a helicopter to help her scan about three miles of wooded area near the home from which the husky ran.

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"I couldn't just sit still," she said. "I had to do something."

On Sunday morning, a couple living nearly half of a mile from where the dog was last seen called to say Angel was on their porch.

"Relief," Soffel said, taking a long breath. "Relief."

Soffel often stays with her friend, Helen Ceffalia, when she comes in from the city to let her dogs run in Ceffalia's expansive backyard. Soffel has been helping start a granite business in Downsville, which has made her visits more frequent.

She always lets her two huskies play in the yard, but she keeps them on leashes.

On Wednesday morning, Soffel's younger husky, Isabell, 1, got away from her. While searching for Isabell, Soffel held onto Angel with a long, blue nylon leash.

She decided to put Angel in a paddock outside while she searched for Isabell, who later was found.

"I thought I closed the gate," Soffel said. "The door opened. He ran out. He just shot out."

She did not immediately panic, having seen Angel run into the woods before and return after a few minutes.

This time, he did not come back.

"It was a nightmare," Soffel said. "I don't have any kids or a family, so my dogs are like my family. I just couldn't believe it."

She called a Hagerstown psychic, hoping for information about where her dog was. The psychic told Soffel that Angel was safe and was staying with an older couple.

On Thursday, a helicopter landed in Ceffalia's backyard, about 100 feet from her house. Soffel got into the small two-seat helicopter, and for about one hour, she scanned the densely wooded spots near the home.

Ceffalia said her neighbors were impressed that a helicopter landed in her backyard - an uncommon sight on the quiet cul-de-sac. Soffel said one neighbor came over to complain about possible liability issues.

Soffel doubted she would spot Angel's dark fur from the air, but she had hoped to see his bright blue leash, which was still attached to the dog's neck.

She went up again Friday, and still had no luck.

Soffel began to call rescue teams, looked into purchasing an infrared camera to search the woods and even thought about hiring a pet detective.

Almost out of options, Soffel, who had been staying with Ceffalia since Angel disappeared, received a call Saturday just after midnight from a neighbor who said he saw Angel nearby. She and several neighbors went outside with flashlights, calling his name.

She went back to Ceffalia's home Sunday morning without her dog, but hours later received a call from a couple on Shaffer Road, who said Angel was on their porch.

"It was just a miracle," Soffel said. "He's that kind of dog who would come back, though."

Angel's leash had become tangled on the couple's porch. They fed the thin dog some cat food and remembered a notice for a lost husky they had seen in The Herald-Mail, and called Soffel.

Soffel said Angel looked skinnier when she saw him Sunday. He was unusually quiet, and his eyes looked funny.

"He won't leave my side," she said.

Some briars were attached to his fur, and he appeared exhausted. But Soffel said he was not injured, and she was thrilled to have him back.

"I couldn't imagine going back into the city without him," she said.

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