Dogs often get carried away in Rappahannock County — what with its abundance of rolling fields and wooded trails and all those rabbits, squirrels and stronger stuff out there leaking scent and sound around the clock.
So it was upsetting but not surprising that Paul and Amanda Buckley’s two dogs took off after something unseen two Monday evenings ago (Jan. 24) — both racing out across a field near their farmhouse on the vast Eldon Farm property, not far from the Madison County line, and then disappearing into the darkness. One of the dogs even had on its leash, for Amanda had been about to take them on a walk.
What was unusual was that, a week later — thanks to one of the dogs apparently supplying food and body heat to the other, who’d become trapped by his still-attached leash — Paul Buckley was able to carry the second dog back home, weakened and dehydrated — but alive.
“I told my wife last night,” said Buckley on Tuesday, with both Deuce, a four-year-old male Staffordshire terrier, and Akita, a five-year-old female German shepherd-American Akita mix, safely back home. “I said, ‘Akita is the hero of this story.’ Because she kept Deuce alive.”
From the evidence he’d found where Deuce was stuck, his retractable leash hopelessly entangled in the remains of a timber cutting operation nearby, Akita had probably stayed with Deuce to keep him warm through a series of nights with highs in the mid- to upper-20-degree range — and moreover had hunted and delivered a squirrel, a rabbit and a skunk to her companion.
Buckley says Akita showed up, barking and smelling strongly of skunk, in a nearby field this past Monday afternoon (Jan. 31), and Amanda got her back into the house.
When Buckley, 25, a former Marine who works most days in Manassas, got home at 7, he went out to look for Deuce.
Before the weekend, neighbors had told him about Rappnet, the county’s email list-serve, and suggested he post a notice of the two lost dogs there. He also posted a notice on RappNews.com, the Rappahannock News’ Web site. Within a couple of days he said he’d received more than 20 offers of help to search for his dogs.
“The way the community reacted to this is just remarkable,” says Buckley, who was born in Culpeper and has lived in Culpeper, Madison and Rappahannock most of his life. “You just don’t find that kind of stuff anywhere.”
Buckley says he and his wife and their two young children have always tried to adopt dogs that “no one else wanted,” including Deuce, whose breed includes him in the often-maligned pit bull category, and Akita. “These dogs are very attached to our kids. They’re pets, but they have become like a family member. When they come up missing, it just bothers you.”
Akita, he says, is the family’s “guardian. She is extremely protective. And Deuce, his other name is Nanny. My [3-year-old] son hurts himself, and Deuce is just right there with him.
“They’re a team,” Buckley says. “And when Deuce was stuck out there, she obviously had to have stayed with him — there’s no way he would’ve stayed alive if she hadn’t. It was a very cold week.”
And one which warmed up significantly, Buckley says, when sometime after 9 p.m. Monday, about an hour after his cell phone had died and all he could hear was a “huffing” somewhere in the woods nearby, he came across Deuce.
Deuce had clearly lost more than a few of his usual 90-plus pounds, Buckley says. Maybe that’s what made it so easy to carry him home.