“Bruce is home,” Anthony Hardin posted on his Facebook page.
The English bulldog had been missing since Feb. 21 when he broke loose from his leashed collar after he and Hardin, from Murray, Ky., stopped for an overnight stay at an East Knoxville hotel near I-40 and Asheville Highway.
Since that time the not quite 1-year-old pup has been on the lam.
A group of Knoxvillians came together to help get Bruce back to safety while Hardin, who is a semi-truck driver, reluctantly returned to work.
The owner put out a public plea for help in finding Bruce and said phone calls were received saying that the dog had been seen in the Skyline Drive area of Holston Hills.
According to the Facebook post, a pet carrier was placed in a wooded area off Skyline Drive where the dog had been previously spotted. Some of Hardin’s clothing was stuffed inside to help lure Bruce to the spot. Once the bulldog discovered the safe haven he returned there routinely to find a meal left by one of the volunteers.
On Saturday morning their hard work came to fruition.
Hardin, his wife Julie and sons, Liam, 10 months and Grayson, 4, came back to Knoxville with a plan to retrieve Bruce. They were going to use tips from certified lost pet recovery specialist Lovy Myers, who worked with the group from her home in Atlanta, and Knoxville’s Anna Geddes, who has been active in pet rescue for years.
The plan included Hardin carefully approaching the area where Bruce was staying while wearing clothing heavy with the owner’s scent, and armed with a container of chicken in which to gain the dog’s trust.
“Once we got a sighting of Bruce in the area we created a safe spot in hopes he would find it. Once we realized he was there we consistently began feeding him there,” said Geddes.
This morning Hardin approached the area where Bruce was staying. He sat outside the pet carrier and offered the nervous dog bites of chicken.
“I was on the phone with Anthony as he approached Bruce and I coached him through the process,” Geddes said. “It’s like meeting a shy horse. Sometimes you have to turn away from it or it feels threatened. Bruce was very scared and shaking so Anthony very slowly tossed him food and put some in the bowl. He placed the slip lead around the bowl of chicken and when Bruce tried to approach the food Anthony was able to pull the lead over his head and tighten it. Anthony was so relieved that he just laid down and asked Bruce if he wanted to take a nap. That is when the dog came to him and sat on his stomach. It was amazing. It was a good day.”
Approximately 12 others helped with the rescue of Bruce, some by routinely searching the area, others by goingg door to door. That included Debra Linde, who lived in the area.
“None of us knew each other before this, but we all follow the same Lost and Found Pets Facebook page. That was the common thread. We would bump in to each other as we were out walking the neighborhood or going door to door. Some of the group lives nearby while others live as far away as Karns and Powell,” Linde said.
Hardin is just thankful for the group’s willingness to help and their perseverance to find Bruce over the past 10 days.
“They are all amazing people and I love them all,” Hardin said, adding that he had offered a $2,000 reward for the return of his dog but the helpers declined.