After four frightful days, Avery is back home, thanks to an alert Bartlett family and their neighbors.
A six-year-old long-haired dachshund, Avery took off running last Monday morning when an AT&T service man came to the door of Martha Williams, the grandmother of owner Ashley Tilton.
Tilton and her husband, James, are residents of Bixby, Okla., and they were in town for his grandfather’s funeral. They left their dog with Williams while they attended the service, and that’s when Avery escaped.
Avery’s family spent four full days looking for her, enlisting upwards of 250 friends in the search. They passed out flyers and posted signs throughout the Bartlett Woods neighborhood, spending every waking hour combing the streets.
Their posts on Facebook were shared more than 7,000 times and generated two phone calls with possible sightings. But after Tuesday, the calls dried up. On Wednesday, they put out larger signs, this time promising a $500 reward.
On Thursday evening last week, Lakeland resident Jaime Spicer was at work in his parent’s garage on Lake Oaks Drive in Bartlett, where he and his brother do woodworking. Around 7 p.m., something caught his eye and he glanced up from his machine to see a little orange dog walking through the yard. It looked just like the one in the flyer a search party had handed him days before.
Spicer called the dog, but it took off running. He chased after it, and with the help of a neighbor, Kye Meadows, finally cornered her in a nearby cove.
Tilton’s father Ronnie Williams got the call.
“He said, ‘I’ve got your dog, had to chase her down, got her fenced in the back yard,’” Williams said.
William’s next call was to Tilton, saying, “I’ve got her; she’s in my lap.” Tilton and the other members of the search party raced to the scene and showered the dog with affection and treats.
Avery had traveled over a mile and survived four days and three nights out on her own. Her family never gave up hope. They had continued searching the same area where she was eventually found and had even enlisted the help of the Fayette County Pet Rescue search team and the group’s bloodhound.
“I’ve never seen so many people looking for a dog,” Spicer said. “There were 10 cars parked in the culvert yesterday, all of them out searching.”
Williams said, “We probably walked this street 11,000 times. We’re very thankful. A lot of people are going to be happy.”
In the end, it took an alert and interested neighbor to bring the family back together. But Spicer refused to accept the reward, Williams said, rendering him speechless.
“I just wish we still lived like it was 50 years ago,” Spicer said. “People wouldn’t even think of accepting an offer like that. I just said, ‘No, sir, that’s completely unnecessary.’ The best part is seeing the family bawling but so happy.”
Spicer’s younger brother, Patrick, agreed. “That’s just begging for bad karma points,” he said.
The brothers had taken note of the flyer because the search party’s concern stood out.
“You could tell these people were in pain,” Spicer said. “The ladies were crying. I just asked what I could do to help.”
After the call from Spicer, Avery’s family gathered outside the family’s home, many of them still weeping with joy. Neighbors passed by smiling, enjoying watching the reunion.
Spicer said, “There are so many bad things going on. If I can give these people peace … it just feels good doing the right thing.”
He added, “Dogs are like family.”
MICK WRIGHT is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.