County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Animal Shelter Rescues Another Evasive On-the-Lam Canine

Dedicated, Coordinated Effort Shows Community Kindness, Compassion



Cleaver Senior Staff Writer

HARRISON – It was a typical day for Dave and Estela Gilbert as, on May 5, they were southbound on U.S. 127 south of Mannsiding Road. But as all too often happens, life changed in a heartbeat when their vehicle ended up hitting a tree.

The third passenger in the car that day was their black and white dog. It had been explained to Animal Control Director Bob Dodson that Gilbert had shot pool for 30 years, and when he first saw his black and white pup he knew the dog had to be named 8 Ball, after the luckiest ball in the game. Dodson said Gilbert also calls the dog Boo Boo – no explanation on that one.

Emergency responders were quick to the accident scene, but when they opened the car to take care of the Gilberts, the dog leapt out and ran onto the golf course on the west side of the highway – quickly getting as far away from the traumatic event as he could. Unfortunately, when Gilbert was able to return to the area to retrieve his dog, 8 Ball was nowhere to be seen – or found.

Dodson said that Estela Gilbert suffered severe damage to the right side of her body, leaving her with broken toe bones, a rods in her leg, and a cracked neck vertebra. In the days and weeks afterward, Dave Gilbert would go to rehab for his wife and then look for the dog, but had no luck.

Some small traps were set up on other private property and moved around, but always were avoided by the dog.

Dodson said there were occasional spottings on the golf course, and along Harrison Avenue. 8 Ball also was spotted one stormy day on Hatton Road headed north. People continued to keep watch for the dog, including Sandy Musgrove, a cook at Snow Snake Ski & Golf, who would watch out the window for the dog and reported seeing it up on the ski hill.

“And I would call Dave,” Dodson said. “Every time we called Dave, he was down there within a half hour. Then one day we said, ‘Let’s set up the Acme Trap’.”

That trap is a 10- by 10-foot kennel that has a door with a bungee strap and a latch, and a cable that runs to the front corner, so that if the food bag is pulled, it trips the latch and the door swings shut. That same trap was used in 2022 to rescue the Great Dane Zaria from the floating marsh island on Cranberry Lake.

And the weeks continued rolling by.

“That was out there for probably two weeks, and nothing,” Dodson said. “We had a raccoon in there, the neighbor’s dogs in there, and I had my camera on so I could see them.”

Dodson said he and Animal Control Officer Tara Westphal would go on all the miles of surrounding roads with squeaky toys [said by Gilbert to be a favorite] but the dog never came. Dodson said it seemed as if 10-15 minutes after Gilbert would leave, the dog would show up. So, while Gilbert drove down to Bass Lake Road, Westphal and Dodson waited. While they waited, Animal Control Officer Paul Bradley called and told them the dog was on the 17th hole at the golf course. Snow Snake happily hooked them up with a couple golf carts, but when they arrived on No. 17 the dog was gone.

Dodson said it was day 38 or 39 when he received a call from Ron Price saying the dog was seen at the bottom of the tube hill and took off west headed toward Mannsiding Road. That was when Dodson suggested moving the Acme Trap.

“So, down at the bottom of the tube hill, there’s a shed,” he said. “They gave us a key to open it up and we put it [the trap] together inside the building – and we knew it was where he was going because there was a load of paw prints in there.”

Thus, the Acme Trap and a monitoring camera were set up inside the shed, and at about 12:15 a.m. the dog started showing up on camera.

“He started popping up on camera – but he wouldn’t go in,” Dodson said. “He was making me mad. He was around there at 11:55 p.m. on June 13 – and he would go in and he would come out. I called Tara and said this is going to happen – and it was her birthday, too.”

Dodson nodded out, and a while after 2 a.m. on June 14 Westphal called and asked if he had seen the camera. When he said, no, Westphal told him the gate was shut. Great birthday present, right?

“So, I look at my phone, and at 2:14 a.m. the gate’s shut,” Dodson said. “And you could see his eyes, and he was in there.”

At last the Keystone Cops back-and-forth chase scenes had come to an end.

He met Westphal at the sheriff’s department five-bay, and on the way called Gilbert to tell him, “Hey, we might have your dog.” Gilbert was excited, but Dodson suggested he wait until they were certain it was his dog, at which time they would call him.

When the officers approached the trap, Dodson said the dog was a bit stand-offish at first and wouldn’t eat offered snacks.

“So, I went in the kennel,” Dodson said. “I gave him some water, and he kind of looked at it. Tara came in and sat down in the other corner.” Then when Dodson stepped out of the kennel so he could go meet Gilbert at the hill, the dog walked over and sat down next to Westphal.

“When Dave showed up and started talking to him, the dog walked over to him inside the cage and then started wagging his tail,” Dodson said.

Listing the timeline of the ordeal, Dodson said Westphal worked on it for two weeks, then when he got back [from vacation], from May 18 or 19 on they both devoted a good deal of time to retrieving that one elusive dog.

On June 15, the Gilberts took the dog to get checked out at South Shore Vets and was found to have no ticks, no fleas, and was treated for any infections he might have contracted. He did, however, drop from 120 pound to 89 pounds.

“And that dog will not leave Dave’s side,” Dodson said. “He said, ‘I go sit on my chair, the dog walks over there with me.’ He also said the only thing the dog is scared of right now is when it’s windy and the leaves are blowing around.”

Dodson noted what he called the “hellacious storms” that came through during the time the dog was alone in the woods.

“Imagine being scared for 30 days,” he said. “And then he found that stupid brown shed at the bottom of the hill. Thank God, they were always looking and that Ron saw him that day.”

It’s a lengthy saga of a lives-changing accident, a fearful family pet running for its survival, committed friends and community coupled with persistent Animal Control efforts – all seeking to find and rescue the lone canine castaway. Fortunately, their diligence led this saga to a happy ending.

So, how to describe this drama’s finale in a nutshell? Well, here goes. After weeks of searching, the odds finally shifted when Animal Control finessed the game with a tasty billiards bait-cage combination play. The elusive [Snow Snake] table runner’s streak came to an end when Animal Control chalked up, confidently called the last shot – and dropped 8 Ball into the side pocket [shed].

And nobody said “Rack ’em again!”

© Clare County Cleaver


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