Mikki’s Journey – Community Comes Together to Find Lost Dog
By Kassie Krell Bellin
Mikki, a German Shepherd, is proof that dogs are a woman’s best friend. After being spooked by a gunshot, Mikki ran for 25 days and more than 100 miles to find her way home – going above and beyond to get back to her owner, Jodi Jolicoeur, of St. Germain.
Jodi adopted Mikki at 10 weeks old from Keystone Golden Shepherds, located near where her grandparents in Cornell used to live, and shared, “I thought it was destiny.” Jodi was looking for a smart dog to train to assist her as she was recovering from a hip replacement. Her dog at the time, a German Shepherd named Mya, was a great teacher and Mikki learned fast. She regularly picked up items for Jodi, she was always looking for a challenge, and she could open all doors and get through any puzzle.
Four years later, the two were inseparable. Mikki was known to be a well-mannered dog and Jodi never worried about a leash. She had not run off in all their time together, and Jodi couldn’t imagine Mikki ever doing so.
On November 13th, to celebrate Jodi’s and her brother, Tom Jolicoeur’s, upcoming birthdays, the two got together near Bloomer where Tom lives. Jodi brought Mikki along. As hunting season was fast approaching, Jodi and Tom went out to sight in their rifles. When Tom fired his, Mikki ran off. This run would last nearly a month. Mikki was in an unfamiliar area, and all she wanted was to go home.
Tom and Jodi chased after her with no success. Jodi then reached out on Facebook, and people began to share sightings of a German Shepherd with a pink collar. She also contacted the Chippewa Falls Police Department, the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department and the Chippewa County Humane Society, attempting to reach as many people as possible. She went to Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and created a missing dog report right away. Her point of contact was Sue Hakes in Chippewa County.
Sue stated, “She (Mikki) was being seen by the golf course in Bloomer. She hung around for a few days … (we) considered setting up a live trap then she disappeared.” A few days later Mikki was seen south of Eau Claire, around 30 miles from where she started. “We used a lot of social media, as far as the sightings, and it helped us track where she was going.”
There were hundreds of sightings, mostly from hunters’ trail cams. With opening day of hunting just around the corner, Jodi was desperate to get Mikki back. But Mikki would not come to anyone. By November 16th, she had made it to Jim Falls. Jodi was desperately trying to keep up, leaving her scent on trees, leaving treats and squeaking Mikki’s favorite toys wherever there were sightings. But Mikki was in a fight-or-flight state of mind and would not come when called.
Mikki was running on ATV trails, snowmobile trails, side roads and train tracks. She was on a mission, and she was too frightened to stop. With opening day of hunting season only a day away, Jodi had little hope she would slow down any time soon.
Mikki was spotted the week of November 22nd in Fall Creek and then Augusta. Then there was no news for a week. This was a very difficult time for Jodi, and she was beginning to think the worst. Sue and others encouraged her during this time, telling her that other dogs had been reunited with their families months after running off, but Jodi was losing faith.
In early December, there was a sighting in Downtown Medford. Jodi headed that way as more sightings were reported in the area. Sue reached out to Kelly Gunderson, a local volunteer she partners with from Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. “Kelly was very instrumental in catching her…she knew exactly what to do from her experience,” Sue shared.
Kelly reached out to Scott Schultz with the Taylor County Humane Society. They worked together, relying on the social media reports of Mikki’s whereabouts to track her down. As more sightings occurred in Taylor County, it was clear Mikki was finding her bearings and trying to get home.
She was seen throughout the Westboro area, and Scott chased her with no success. “We kept getting reports she was in a certain area. What I did was I stayed there for a good three to four hours … I’d get a report and track her. I tracked her to a certain house and then lost her. That’s when I decided she’s in this area.”
On December 7th, after they determined she was nearby, they worked work with S. P., a resident in the Westboro area, to place a live trap on his property, as well as food and her bed in his garage. They placed liquid smoke and food in the trap to coax her in, but Jodi had little confidence that her bright dog would fall for it.
Jodi stayed in Rib Lake with her boyfriend as they followed up on sightings. They searched with Scott, and the following day met up with Kelly and searched for hours. Everyone was determined to catch Mikki. “I wasn’t going to give up,” Scott shared. He recognized the special bond they had and Jodi’s need for her friend and service dog.
On December 8th, Kelly said, “It seemed like her sightings were every other day.” That evening, Jodi went home as they had had no luck, but she left a shirt with her scent for Kelly in case of any sightings. “Scent items work amazing,” Kelly said.
Just when Kelly got settled at her home, Scott called to let her know there was a lady with a German Shepherd in her shed. Mikki had found her way into a shed in Westboro, very close to where the live trap was set.
The shed had holes in the walls and the windows were broken. They reached out to the owner of the shed, to S. P. to see if he could assist, and to anyone else in the area that might be available. They were able to get a group of locals to stand around the shed and block the exits. Scott was very thankful to everyone who came out. “The people of Westboro, Wisconsin helped out. The community really came together.”
With Jodi on speakerphone, Kelly went into the shed. Kelly placed the phone on a shelf and made sure to rub Jodi’s shirt all over her arms to cover herself in Jodi’s scent. She found her way around the furniture to get to Mikki, who was lying under a patio table. Once Kelly was close enough to Mikki, she threw Jodi’s shirt to her. “When she smelled the shirt, her face changed,” Kelly said. She began to cry and rub her face all over Jodi’s shirt. “That’s right, Momma’s coming to get you,” Kelly said encouragingly to Mikki.
Kelly was able to place a slip lead on Mikki and walk her to the car, holding the shirt in front of her. Mikki hopped into the car, and Kelly gave her Jodi’s shirt to lie on. That’s where she stayed until she was reunited with Jodi a few hours later. Mikki was ecstatic, jumping all over Jodi, and Jodi cried tears of joy. Jodi and Mikki’s reuniting was posted on Facebook, and everyone involved was thrilled.
Sue shared her motivation and dedication, saying, “It’s our way of helping our communities.” Kelly added, “The satisfaction of actually catching the dog…that’s payment for us.”
When Mikki arrived home, she delighted in many cuddles from Jodi and then ran straight to bed. She had slimmed down due to the limited diet while on the road. Jodi could tell that her knee was bothering her and saw a sore spot on her paw. Mikki was exhausted and wanted love. Kelly said with bigger dogs like this, “A lot of people don’t realize how hearty dogs are when they are in survival mode.”
Jodi fed Mikki every two hours when she returned home to get her calories back, and she was careful not to leave food out so Mikki wouldn’t get sick from overeating. She was able to bring Mikki to the vet the next day, who was very impressed with how well she was doing after having been gone for so long. Mikki was given anti-inflammatory medicine and prescribed a three-day quarantine until the dewormer kicked in to protect other dogs from any possible illnesses she had been exposed to while on the run. She was put on a special homemade diet with high protein and a mix of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and eggs. She will need to be checked again in June for Lyme Disease and heartworms, even though she had been taking Heartgard and flea and tick prevention prior to going missing.
Her recovery is extraordinary. Jodi has noticed several changes in her demeanor – Mikki must always have Momma in sight, but she’s less skittish than she used to be, more of a cuddler and more playful with other dogs than before. Even though Mikki was already licensed and chipped, Jodi has now invested in a scanner on Mikki’s collar, so that if she ever runs off again, one can easily scan the collar to collect all of Mikki’s information.
Luckily this story has a happy ending. Sue and Kelly offer helpful tips for runaway dogs.
If you see a dog running around or hear of a local dog gone missing, Sue suggests, “The best thing you can do is put food and water out and contact the owner… Or get the dog contained…(you) don’t want to push the dog, though, and risk them running into traffic.”
As the owner, you may want to chase after a running dog, but Kelly shares, “It takes time, as not all dogs recognize their owners when they’re in survival mode.”
The best advice is to reach out to the experts. “At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, we’re all volunteers…we’re here to help you by utilizing our experiences…it’s a free service,” Sue shared.
Jodi wants to thank the many people who helped her and Mikki. “I thank Kelly for everything she did, for getting her (Mikki) and feeding her, and giving me clues and encouraging me that she can come back. That’s what Sue said too.”
Jodi also thanks the Facebook communities, the county and the humane societies who helped, and the hunters and everyone who posted on social media. “We wouldn’t have gotten her back without the communications on social media.”
Welcome home Mikki!