A Mighty Force

By Gretchen Lieff   |   July 30, 2020


The anguish never goes away. Missing something or someone, it’s one of the great common denominators. No matter who you are or what you have, such deep loss is irretrievable.

Despite a $3,000 reward, Daisy and Diesel were never found

Nineteen months ago my beloved border collie dogs, eight-year-old Daisy and her one-year-old puppy companion Diesel, disappeared from my ranch in rural San Luis Obispo County, during a torrential storm. Daisy had always been terrified of thunder. It was likely that Diesel followed her into the hills and the hundreds of thousands of wilderness acres beyond.

Endless searches, including hours in the sky in fixed wing planes, turned up nothing. Canvassing vast rural neighborhoods, distributing and stapling flyers to endless phone poles – and nothing. Drones patrolling riverbanks and canyons. Nothing. We visited every vet and feed store and pet shop and lonely trailhead. Nothing. A $3,000 reward couldn’t match the loss that was in my heart.

The reward produced endless sightings and disappointment. I’ve tried to forget how many times we went tearing off in response to a kind-hearted call that a black-and-white dog had turned up in a field, behind a building, at a highway rest stop. I think of Daisy and Diesel every day. I long to hold them and reassure them that their mommy is waiting for them to return.

So when news of Mighty’s disappearance came, it hit me in the gut. I’d learned a good deal about missing pets by then, about tracking techniques and the quirky behaviors of animals that just want to get home.

Earlier this month, the actor Orlando Bloom’s teacup poodle, Mighty, went missing. It was the second day of the dog’s disappearance and we searched everywhere in vain. I know the neighborhood we share well and I’ve come to know all the special places pups are most likely to go. Mid-morning found me down at the park calling for Mighty as my (new) pup went deep into the creek bed where we thought Mighty might have lost himself. And then I heard a whistling, the saddest sound.

The search for Mighty ended in vain after seven days

It was the sound of someone looking for something lost. The whistling continued on and on through the tall eucalyptus. I whistled back and then I called out and I heard a return call and a bicycle came toward me and the man said hello and I said, “Hello Orlando, I’m so sorry.” He thanked me for helping and I suggested he go up a particular lane and he did and I could hear his whistle as his bicycle disappeared up and over the ridge and my heart ached for him.

The heart of Montecito was with Mighty’s family as we watched the posters go up, everywhere. Word spread through Montecito neighborhoods. Social media was alive with the anguish of Mighty’s disappearance.

With the flashing intensity of an AMBER alert, caring people joined the search. Posters went up in English and Spanish, some offering a reward and others with urgent pleas that Mighty needed medication.

Two days later, Mighty was still missing and I decided to update my knowledge of lost and missing pets and was reminded that Santa Barbara County Animal Services is the only local entity that takes in our lost or stray animals. It is an important go-to resource: last year alone they responded to the needs of 6,400 pets.

“Every lost animal ends up with us and goes immediately onto our database and website which is refreshed every 20 minutes,” said Michelle Maltun, the community outreach coordinator. “There are lots of steps you can take to help find your lost pet – we recommend you take all of them.”

1. Most animals are found very near their homes. So the first thing you should do is talk to your neighbors to see whether they’ve seen your pet or have taken him in.

2. Go to the website countyofsb.org/phd/animal or just google Santa Barbara County Animal Services and fill out a lost pet report. That report goes to the staff countywide. It also allows them to generate an immediate email to you.

3. Put up flyers everywhere.

4. Social Media; Craigslist, Facebook, NextDoor, Instagram.

But the best solution is to microchip your pet. Next week a campaign involving Care4Paws kicks off to get as many local pets as possible microchipped.

“Microchipping is the number one thing you can do,” Michelle said. “The microchip can’t fall off like a tag or a collar. Microchips are registered on a national database. Wherever your animal is found, it’s brought to a vet or shelter and scanned.”

She added: “If you lose your pet, don’t give up. Keep searching. Keep talking to people, keep getting the word out. Keep checking in with us.”

John Sorosky, Camp Canine owner, helped with the search for Mighty. “When you see a wild animal in your neighborhood such as a coyote or bobcat or mountain lion, let your neighbors know, speak up,” he said. “Occasionally there might be a wild animal who is particularly aggressive. That animal can be relocated to a more rural area. Wildlife and domestic pets can live together, with our help.”

Somewhere in the middle of it all we hear the news and see joyful pics of the dramatic Santa Barbara Fireman’s rescue of Sophie, a little pup in Isla Vista. Pictures show the adorable off-white two-year-old safe after being stuck in a storm drain underneath Mesa Road, between Los Carneros and Stadium Way. Crews were able to use a firehose line to coax the terrified pup to the arms of the firefighters who carried her up a ladder to the street.

Little Sophie, weighing a little more than 10 pounds, had been missing 30 days, two of them in a dark storm drain. Miracles do happen.

After seven days, the frantic search was over and Mighty was dead.

“I’d just like to sincerely thank the community for all its efforts to aid me in the search for Mighty,” Orlando said in a statement. “From simply allowing me to look through their backyards to coming out with flashlights. It’s reassuring to know and witness the generosity of people even in these unique and uncertain times. Thank you.”

Thank you, Orlando… for sharing your humanity.

We are all together.

And it strikes me – the immense divide – between lost and found.

You find yourself on one side or the other.

A joyful reunion.

Or a lifelong ache.

Such is the nature of life.


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