On Wednesday the 21st, temperatures were in the low 20s; the Hoefs-Poores got a phone call that Baker had been seen along I-90 and rushed to get out the door. A WSP dispatcher called, asked if the dog was still missing and said he was spotted on I-90.
They received several more messages over the next two hours and heard a Trooper was stopping traffic while Baker ran along the highway.
A fellow dog lover living at Echo Lake who had been following Baker’s story called to say she could see him. The friend had lost sight of him, but with the fresh snow, they could spot his new tracks in the median and see where the tracks started again on the other side of Eastbound I-90.
Unfortunately, after following the tracks for some time, Becka lost the prints after a half mile and was briefly deflated. Retracing her steps, she found more tracks and was sure it was the right path. She was both encouraged by his fresh tracks, knowing it was him, but also discouraged she was moving so slowly, knowing he was so far ahead, thinking she’d never catch up.
Suddenly Becka saw him about 80 ft away and coming out of a shed on an old Christmas tree farm. Baker must have been sleeping and took off again when he heard her.
After a while, James Branson pulled up with Ken and took over tracking from sweaty and tired Becka. Ken put older blind Boomer in his backpack, and James had his trusty tracker dog, Tino, with him. They set off, following Baker’s tracks back up the hill. The pair eventually lost Baker’s tracks, but even though this was disappointing, they had an exciting day seeing him.
More friends came to help, and they had to be careful not to create a commotion in the area. A local offered the use of a drone, game cams and gear. The offer was comforting because they could cover the site and not waste time elsewhere. A Useless Bay volunteer set up a trap where Baker’s tracks ended.
Becka pitched a tent near the shed with temperatures dropping into the twenties. She first ran it by Branson, who said, ‘I can’t tell you what to do, but it’s going to be really cold up there.’ Becka decided to do it, lugging up her gear and frying some hamburger that Ken left on the trail and in the set trap.
Ken called an hour later, saying the game cam wasn’t working, and at best, they were getting pictures 3 hours delayed, perhaps due to the cold. They decided that since Baker could potentially be trapped for upwards of 4 hours in a super-exposed cold area, they would close the trap, and Becka went home.
On Thursday, December 22nd, a local helped set up extra game cams. They got a second trap set up, provided by a Three Retrievers volunteer, close by where Ken had seen him on Saturday. Despite many people offering the use of drones, they decided it would not be best as Baker was afraid of them, and the area was too woodsy for good visibility.
The next day brought a thick layer of freezing rain over the existing snow and no power and water at the couple’s home. They couldn’t do anything about Baker and hoped he was still hunkering down.
Fortunately, the weather warmed later in the day, and the pair got out to hike more miles, check the trap and replace the food, adding some of Baker’s favorite Costco jerky treats. Still, they had to close the trap by Echo Lake as they couldn’t risk him going in there and not seeing a picture until hours later, with temps still extremely low.
Saturday, December 24th, was the lowest of low days for Becka. It had been over a week; the weather was deplorable, and there had been no sightings since Wednesday. The couple woke to sub-freezing temps again, instead of the forecasted 50 degrees, which delayed getting out of their icy driveway until midday.
After chasing down some false leads, they decided to cook Johnsonville brats since Baker has had scraps, and in Becka’s words, “they are super stinky!” Heading out in the late afternoon/evening, they smeared brat juice and pieces along the trail in both directions from the trap and placed chunks around and in the trap. Their other dogs’ fleece was placed outside the trap to lure in Baker with a familiar smell, hopefully. Becka hiked around, crying and praying, only to return home to wait and hope.
Becka wrote on the Baker Facebook page, “Our family Christmas, which is usually on Christmas Eve, has been postponed due to Baker being missing, illness, and weather, and it feels nothing like Christmas. Please send all the energy, vibes, and prayers for a sighting. This mama is struggling. Thankful for this community.”
At 12:19 am on the 25th, Becka lit a candle for Baker and, 2 minutes later, was thrilled to see a game cam picture of Baker in front of the trap! The first time she had seen him in four days. She hoped that he would trust the trap and get in. She received more pictures with him in various places around the trap, obviously taking his time before falling asleep around 2 am. Then at 4:30 am, she heard a ping on her phone and looked; there was a picture of Baker IN the trap!
The Hoefs-Poores got to the area at 4:37 am, and Becka, who ran most of the way from the car, approached the trap quietly in the dark. As she got close, he growled, but when she started talking, he began to whine and get excited.
James from Three Retrievers said that even if Baker behaved normally, they should NOT let him out of the trap until they were home. So, Ken and Becka muscled the trap down the trail to their car, partially on a sled, almost a mile away, still in the trap.
Back home, when they let him out of the trap, he immediately started jumping on them and doing zoomies. They joyously shared the GREAT news on social media and texted many of the helpers, who were all very relieved and happy.
Says Becka, “It was said over and over that he was our Christmas miracle, and who are we to argue that? Once again, I am humbled by this community. My mind is reeling over all the comments, support, positive wishes, meditations, burned sage, lit candles and prayers on behalf of this sweet boy.”
Becka & Ken would like to thank:
- Friends: Anita, Andrew, Becky, Cheryl, Eve, Janell, John, Martina, Matt, Mike, Morgan C, Morgan G, Nancy, Sybil, Sharon, Tim, Tracy, Vickie, Alexandra, Alisha, Corbin, Tambra
- Useless Bay volunteers: Judy, LaVonne
- Locals: Adam, Andre, Anne, Brandon, Chris, Dan, Lily, Mike, Mindi, Nathan K, Home Brew Nathan S, Susan, Snoqualmie Casino Security, dog walkers, businesses in North Bend and Snoqualmie that put up our flyers, neighbors of Echo Lake and those with properties gaining the couple access to the woods.
- The Washington State Patrol, King County Animal Control, King County Sheriff’s Office, Lost Dogs of King County & Lily Burns, Three Retrievers & Jim Branson
- Johnsonville Brats
*Editor’s Note: this story is one of many I’ve personally seen online about Jim Branson and his wonderful organization. None of us know when we might need Jim and Tino’s services, and we need more people (dogs are people, too!) like them in the world. Please consider donating to or volunteering for Useless Bay PetSanctuary.