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A happy tail: 9-day search for missing blue heeler ends with joyous reunion

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By Sandy Barnes

When a dog goes missing in unfamiliar territory during an arctic cold wave, the odds of his survival can dim the hopes of an anguished owner.

However, after nine days of searching — and lots of help from mountain area residents and community organizations — Steve Gilligan of Chicago found Kid, his beloved blue heeler, on Dec. 30.

 “It’s such a relief,” Gilligan said. “For nine days, I didn’t think about anything else. … It was the worst Christmas ever.”

Gilligan was visiting his family in Evergreen Meadows when Kid went missing Dec. 20. The dog escaped from the yard after Gilligan and his cousin left to go snowboarding, he said.

And the search began.

Last week a neighbor who had been on the lookout for Kid spotted him on Red Cloud Drive and called Gilligan.

“I got over there 30 minutes after that, and the search began,” he said. “I knew I was close.”

After going back and forth on the switchback road for a while, Gilligan said, he saw a frightened Kid running around.

“He was freaked out and not coming to me. But I finally told him to sit, and he sat down,” Gilligan said. “Then I went to him, and once he saw it was me, he ran to me. … It was amazing.”

When he got Kid into his truck, Gilligan said, the dog drank two bottles of water and gobbled up some jerky.

However, the 4-year-old canine didn’t seem to have lost weight, he said. Gilligan wondered if Kid had been able to find shelter during the time he was lost, and perhaps food as well.

But Gilligan might never know for sure how Kid survived the cold weather, especially nights when the temperature dropped well below zero.

Since coming home, Kid has been resting and sleeping on the couch with his canine buddy Zeke, who also traveled to Evergreen with Gilligan.

“He had some nightmares last night,” said Gilligan.

When he returned to his family’s home and saw that Kid was missing Dec. 20, Gilligan said, he called the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office and began distributing more than 1,000 fliers in the community. He also posted messages about Kid on the Internet, using Pinecam, the Colorado Neighbors and Friends Facebook page, My Mountain Town and the 285 Corridor Angels.

And Gilligan reported his lost dog to the Evergreen Animal Protective League, which assists in locating missing pets.

During the search, Gilligan said, he received several messages about sightings of Kid from people who were helping. The Evergreen community was incredibly supportive, he said.

“So many people helped me find him. I’m so thankful,” Gilligan said. “They were all a huge help.”

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.