WILKES-BARRE — A wag of a tail and a doggie slurp was all Ken Jones needed to know Dasher was happy to be home.
Dasher, a 9-year-old white American Boxer mix, escaped from a kennel in Sweet Valley on Aug. 28 and was lost for over three months in the area between State Game Lands 57 and Rickets Glen State Park in Benton.
He was reunited with his owner, Jones, on Dec. 6, exactly nine years to the day after Jones first brought him home as a puppy.
Observant residents and hunters in the Back Mountain helped Bonnie Snyder of Bellabon’s Pet Recovery of Muncy zero in on the very scared and timid canine.
“I am so happy these people called Bonnie with sightings,” Jones of Wilkes-Barre said. “I got my boy back.”
The bond between Jones and Dasher is strong.
Jones recently won a battle with colon cancer. Dasher would lay with Jones at home following chemotherapy treatments, Jones said.
When the family planned a celebratory vacation for Jones’ cancer-free diagnosis, Dasher was placed in the care of a kennel.
“I will not name the kennel,” Jones said. “It was not their fault.”
Hours before the family was scheduled to pick up Dasher, the dog, apparently distraught at being separated from the family, jumped through a screened window that was four feet above the ground.
Jones was heartbroken.
“I spent the first two nights (he was lost) sleeping in the truck in the Sweet Valley area,” Jones said. “I was hoping he would catch my scent and come to me.”
He quickly enlisted the help of Snyder’s business.
Snyder traveled nearly 40 miles daily to the Sweet Valley region, posting signs about Dasher to pinpoint where the dog would settle down.
She knew he was timid and would be confused and hungry. He would need to be trapped.
“Everyone was very supportive,” Snyder said. “Many people were aware of Dasher because of the story that ran in the Times Leader.”
Weeks of sporadic sightings went by followed by weeks of no news, she said.
Jones was becoming depressed.
Snyder was determined.
“I would not let him (Jones) give up,” she said.
Then it happened. Dasher was spotted.
On Nov. 28, a caller reported Dasher crossing Route 118, “holding his back leg close to his body,” Snyder said.
Several reports followed, placing Dasher in the region of Bethel Hill Road in Sweet Valley.
On Friday, Dec. 4, Snyder received a call that the dog was in a field up Bethel Hill Road.
On Dec. 5, the same man who reported seeing the dog in the field saw Dasher again in a nearby wooded area, Snyder said.
“This was our big break,” she said.
Dasher had settled down to one region.
Snyder reached out to Sam Connolly and Brie, a scent dog, from Virginia.
On Sunday, Dec. 6, Brie sniffed out Dasher. He barked and ran.
Snyder set up the trap, baited it with food and Jones’ shirt. Then went to check on other food stations.
Her satellite camera went off.
Dasher was in the trap.
When Snyder and Jones approached him, they could see he was chewing on the bars of the cage trying to get out.
“When he saw us, he started barking,” she said.
Jones slowly walked up to the caged dog. He put his hand near the cage. Dasher sniffed and then wagged his tail, he said.
Snyder used a leash called a control pole on Dasher before opening the cage door.
Dasher came out. Jones put his leash on Dasher and led him out of the woods and to his truck.
“He jumped right in,” Jones said. “On the way home, he laid his head on my arm and fell asleep.”
Dasher had lost nearly 20 pounds, broke three of the four bones in one of his feet, was covered in ticks and contracted two tick-borne illnesses, Jones said.
The kennel has taken responsibility for Dasher’s healthcare costs for the rest of his life, Jones said.
At home, Dasher was reunited with his family, Jones wife, Nadine; sons, Biagio and Antonio; and a second dog, Andre.
“He (Dasher) sleeps a lot and wants to play,” Jones said. “He (Dasher) is very clingy.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.