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Dog tale with a happy ending

1/3/2007

MEMPHIS 3 For 20 days the light brown dog with a black nose and
sweet eyes hid in the mud, weeds and under runways at Memphis
International Airport, running from the deafening sounds of jet
engines.
She was found on New Year's Day by Pam Bell, a woman who scoured
muddy fields two or three times a day for three weeks searching for
the dog named Bailey.
The elusive, starving dog was caught in a steel cage trap baited
with fried chicken.
Bailey came to Memphis on Dec. 12 on a flight from Seattle. Her
owners Chris and Laura Pierce shipped the 75-pound Great Dane mix to
stay a few months with Chris' stepfather and mother Richard and Lelia
Ripley. Lelia said a Northwest employee wanted to see Bailey and
opened the door to her crate. The dog bolted across the runway and
disappeared. Northwest apologized and offered a $250 reward.
Bell heard about Bailey and decided to help.
``That dog was in my dreams,'' said Bell. ``I just couldn't get her
out of my mind.''
Bell worked with airport security to take her around to remote
areas to search for the dog. She nailed fliers to light posts in the
neighborhood around the airport.
Chris flew in Saturday night and spent New Year's Eve calling for
his dog. Bell borrowed a trap from Bartlett Animal Shelter and baited
it with the chicken.
``I got back home and told Laura that Bailey was gone,'' Chris
said. ``This was it. We had to give her up. I just thought I'd never
see her again.''
Bell woke up on New Year's Day morning, like every other day,
before the sun came up. She waited until first light and drove the 15
miles along quiet streets to the airport.
There was Bailey in the cage, skinny, scared and muddy.
Bell took Bailey to her home and fed the dog more chicken and some
dog food. Bailey gobbled every bite. Bell took pictures and e-mailed
them to the Pierces, who were skeptical that this was their dog.
``I just don't want to get my hopes up,'' Chris said while he
waited for the e-mail to arrive.
He said Bailey knows how to sit and do a high-five.
Bell squatted down and asked Bailey to sit.
``Give me a high-five.''
The dog's paw went into the air and touched Bell's hand.
The e-mail arrived.
``That's her. That's her. That's her,'' Chris said. ``Look how
skinny she is. Oh man. That's Bailey. No question about it. My wife is
crying. We're all crying. This is a great way to start the New Year.''
Bell will foster Bailey for a few days until Richard Ripley
recovers from knee surgery that is scheduled this week.