The week before Christmas 2022 was one of the toughest weeks of Becka and Ken Hoefs-Poore’s lives.
Friday afternoon, December 16th, Becka was doing a training run with their dog Baker from Tollgate Farm to the fields behind Three Forks Dog Park in Snoqualmie.
Baker, a Cattle dog, does a lot of backpacking with the pair unleashed and is usually very focused and right on their heels. Hoefs-Poore’s approach to leashing is to assess oncoming situations on a case-by-case basis. Leashing in the presence of a new dog or having him go off trail until the other dog passed. Baker had never shown any tendency to flee out of fear.
That all changed when another runner approached. He seemed to have just one dog with him. Becka thought one runner with one dog would be fine, but things happened quickly. Becka thought they had passed by this person and dog with no issue. But when a second dog came out of nowhere, the two big dogs went past Becka and scared Baker, who took off. She tried to call Baker, but he continued to bolt. Soon he was across a circular field, at least 200ft away.
Becka ran across the field in pursuit of Baker but could not go fast on the uneven field, and he was promptly out of sight. Ten to fifteen minutes later, she came upon someone who had seen him from the footbridge across the river on Reinig Road. The scared dog must have crossed by swimming or wading, unusual for Baker, driven by fear.
By this time, Ken had arrived to help search. Panicked and upset, the pair knew every passing minute meant Baker could be farther away. If they committed to one direction but chose the wrong way, they’d lose hope of tracking him.
After driving the area for a while, Becka posted on the Lost Dogs of King County (LDKC)Facebook page, thinking the quicker word got out, the faster there would be more local eyes looking for him.
Around 6:50 pm, the pair got a call that Baker had been spotted in Snoqualmie off Beta Street two hours prior. They decided to drive around the area, hoping they’d spot him, but knew the two-hour delay meant he could be far away.
Baker was their first lost dog, so the couple was completely unaware of how to behave. Baker was running away from everyone trying to interact with him. The instinct was to walk around, calling his name in hopes he’d hear and come running. They soon learned that when a dog is fleeing out of fear, calling out its name is the exact opposite of what you should do.
The immediate guidance of Lily Burns on the LDKC Facebook site was invaluable. She shared helpful tracking links and clarified that anyone searching for Baker should know those techniques.
Burns also shared the link to James Branson’s Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue. Through the LDKC website, James Branson shared several helpful links on how to act to calm when encountering a frightened dog and work toward building trust to enable the dog to come to you.
Since Becka was on the front lines posting to all the local groups she could find, word was getting out. Around 11 pm, the pair got a lead that a dog matching Baker was near the Snoqualmie Casino about 40 minutes earlier.
This was the first sighting they’d had in five hours, and it made sense as it was in the general direction he had fled. The two made a beeline to the area, searching in different spots along the way.
Soon they received word of another sighting on North Bend Way but sadly only saw him briefly. They converged downtown around midnight to get two more tantalizing sightings but no Baker. After more searching, they dropped a blanket with their scent alongside the river, taking a picture of it to compare if it was touched or moved by him. By now, it was well after midnight.
Becka called Animal Control and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to tell them about Baker in case he was spotted along the highway or ramps, then returned to Three Forks to see if he had returned.
The exhausted couple returned home around 4 am, leaving the fence gate and front door open in case he returned home.
Social media and group chats took off on Saturday. Several people reached out with inspirational and comforting conversations and posts about friends with dogs who had survived being lost for days. The pair were thankful they had a lot of positive energy coming.
Friends focused on canvassing and putting up fliers around town and in businesses and retraced the area along the SVT where Baker had been seen the night before. Becka called their vet, who posted about the missing pet on their website.
Friends from near and far converged on North Bend; the couple now had more people to help. Just after noon, there was news that he was spotted on I-90 by the casino exit. This sighting panicked everyone, knowing he was in danger of being hit on the highway. Unfortunately, even though everyone seemed to be doing a good job looping between exits, they didn’t get their eyes on him.
The searchers received advice that dogs are attracted to the freeway because of the cover of the noise, so he could be nearby. They decided to work outward from the highway, careful not to drive him back onto the roadway. At least they had a sighting, and it was in the same area he was seen fourteen hours earlier.
Since it seemed Baker was on the south side of I-90, they decided to head over to the streets near Echo Lake, visible from the interchange. After a couple of turns, Ken was stunned to see Baker running westbound on the far shoulder of the street by the I-90 wilderness fence.
He got out of the car and immediately got down low to the ground, kneeling, trying not to excite him, but couldn’t help calling out to him! Even though he didn’t yell, the instant Baker heard his voice, he took off eastbound.
Ken hopped back in his car and took off after him, completely stunned and dumbfounded. Becka and friends arrived within a few minutes, ready to help. Becka got a brief glimpse of Baker, but darkness fell, and the searchers needed to return to family, work, and other obligations.
They geared up for their evening plan to lure Baker with food. The couple had heard an effective technique can be grilling or frying some food that the lost dog is familiar with in hopes that he’ll smell it, approach and realize that he’s among family.
Saturday evening, the pair had the entire area between exits 27 and 25 smelling like bacon. They bookended the space in their cars, frying bacon on a camp stove in the rain. The wind was swirling, so they felt they had a decent chance of Baker getting a whiff.
Using their other dog Boomer as bait, along with the bacon, they walked the streets acting as though they were taking him for a walk, a passive way to possibly draw Baker in and hopefully NOT every bear in the area.
Four bacon frying hours later and a neighbor’s call to the Sheriff (poor Becka!), they called it a day and headed home.
On December 18th, they deployed a friend’s trail camera at a nearby wildlife underpass with a smelly sweatshirt to attract Baker. More friends arrived, and after checking a few spots, Ken returned to Tollgate, where the walk on Friday started, frustrated not knowing what the best next steps would be. By four, they called it a day; snow and darkness hampering their efforts. The entire area was now under a Winter Storm Watch.
On the advice of a friend who had a dog go missing, Becka set up a Facebook group for Baker- Bring Baker Back that quickly gained many followers. She made the group public and shared links on all the local social media platforms. The next day they woke to another round of snow; the roads were in bad shape. There was no way of going out, and with the cold weather, they surmised Baker was hunkered down somewhere and hoped for the best but found it hard to be upbeat.
The following day there were five inches of new snow. Becka called into work feeling an urgent need to find Baker due to the terrible weather. Ken tried to work, but by mid-morning, decided he needed to be in pursuit of their errant pup too. Fresh snow meant it was easier to track, so they were keen to find dog-looking tracks that weren’t accompanied by a matching set of human prints.
With the active post on the LDKC site, more dog search folks engaged; people who volunteered their time offered tips, equipment such as traps and trail cameras, and general support.
Baker’s pup parents were in a waiting game; driving around was time-consuming and almost fruitless except when they spotted him on Saturday. Monday was winding down, over two days since they had last seen him.
Jim Branson of Three Retrievers consulted with the couple, telling them how important it is that when they see him, they don’t engage, make minimal eye contact, and act as if he’s not even there. If they had their other dog with them when they saw him, take him out of the car and start walking, trying to be upwind so Baker could catch his familiar scent.
Five days after Baker was lost, his family finally caught a break.
Next in Part Two- What break did Baker’s family finally get in their search? Did Baker get home in time for Christmas? Tune in Sunday to find out!
[Editor’s Note: This story was told to Living Snoqualmie by the Hoefs-Poores through their extensive notes. It has been edited for space and time]