By Janet McAfee

On February 12, a distraught caller contacted Loving All Animals about her missing small dog Laci. Lots of pets go missing but most are quickly found or return on their own.  However, this call was different and particularly heartbreaking.

Between sobs Reina explained that she and her husband David drove to Arizona yesterday to adopt a cute little Spaniel mix from a military family being deployed to Africa.  David is a Desert Storm Army Veteran and Laci greatly resembled their beloved dog Coco who recently passed away.  Today enroute home to the Salton Sea the happy new pet parents stopped at the Petco on Jackson Street by the 10 freeway to purchase supplies and pet food.  They were checking out at the register when suddenly Laci startled, pulled out of her harness, and ran out of the opening glass entrance door.  They chased her but Laci quickly outran them and disappeared.  Laci had no collar, she was not microchipped, she was unvaccinated, not spayed, and not wearing the collar and ID tag they were purchasing.

I asked a lot of questions and gave them some additional things to do during the search.  I told them NOT to run and chase her if she was spotted as this makes dogs run away especially as she did not know them well.  They should advise the staff at Petco and other nearby businesses to be on the lookout.  Check the nearby Starbucks and nearby fast-food outlets as dogs linger where they smell food.  Purchase some strong-smelling treats to toss in her direction if you see her.  They texted me a photo which I posted on my Facebook page tagging North Indio residents and other pages including Lost & Found Pets in the Coachella Valley.


After my shift at LAA, I drove to the nearby location communicating with Reina by phone on where we were both searching.  It was if she had vanished into thin air.  There were some adjoining buildings, but a vast field stretched to the next main street Monroe.  There were some gated housing communities without guard stations nearby. I was off work the next day and spent a few hours searching.  Reina had not slept all night, but they planned to come out later in the day. Their friends joined the search.  A woman I spoke to at the Starbucks informed me there was a small stray dog by the side of the10 freeway by the Jackson Street offramp.  I headed there and a truck driver was there trying to make the dog didn’t run into the freeway.  Soon a Riverside County Animal Control Officer arrived and skillfully captured the small dog who turned out to be brown when it emerged from the bushes.  He told us it may have belonged to homeless people living nearby in a tunnel underneath the overpass because they had dogs.

Reina found another local rescue, Saving Our Valley’s Dogs, on the Loving All Animals website list of resources.  Christina Stadler who operates this organization became dedicated to the search party.  She lives in North Indio, knows the community, and kindly took Reina’s daily phone calls calming her fears.  Every time there was a lead, David and Reina drove out to investigate.  Christina also went out looking for Laci several times a week.

On day 36 which was March 18, a promising lead came in in a text to Reina.  Another woman sent her a photo of a small white dog resembling Lacy right by the Jackson Street offramp close to the Petco where she disappeared.  Reina forwarded it to Christina who contacted the woman for more details including time frames.  Christina rushed over to the location guided by a homeless man who lived under the bridge.  He told her they put out food for Laci, but they were never able to catch her.  Christina stated, “He led me to the area where she would hang out.  I found out this little dog slept in a small tunnel at night that protected her from the pack of coyotes that stay close to a nearby wood pile.”  Resourceful Laci figured out survival on the run and miraculously escaped dangers including the speeding freeway traffic about 30 feet away.

Christina reports, “She suddenly appeared and approached my crate but was able to set the spring without going inside.  I called local rescuer Cali Trevino to see if she could help and if she had a large crate.  On March 21, Cali contacted dog catcher Faith Easdale who resides in San Bernardino.  Faith came up with a game plan, set the larger trap with baked chicken and in 30 minutes Laci was inside!”  Laci had no idea what a great life awaited her after miraculously avoiding so many dangers.

Faith Easdale explains, “I go wherever we are needed including the high desert and Coachella Valley as the crisis of stray animals continues.  I had no choice but to get involved in rescue after seeing so many dogs in the streets where I live.  I use roasted chicken or bacon cheeseburgers to lure them into the trap.”  A trap is only effective if there is a sighting and it must be watched.

Christina took the pup home overnight to let her decompress and begin removing the dozens of goat head stickers embedded in her fur.  Reina Gonzales was over the moon with joy and it was the happiest of reunions the following day.  She tells us, “Our baby is doing great!  She gives us kisses all the time, she loves us and shows no sign of taking off, she knows every command.  I am so grateful to the network of animal lovers in the Coachella Valley, a fantastic group of people we never met who care so much about animals and people!  I never gave up searching for Laci and we put flyers everywhere.  Many times, I was sent photos of white stray dogs who resembled her, and I tearfully wondered when we would get our girl back.”

Laci is pictured in Reina’s arms with David and Christina on their reunion day.  Laci is heading to the vet soon to be microchipped, vaccinated, and spayed.  A fecal sample will test for parasites as she drank from stagnant water on the run.  A tracking device has been ordered because the couple plans to do a lot of traveling with their new dog onboard.

Thank you to the army of rescuers who made for a happy ending, including all of you who network the animals on social media.  If your pet goes missing, reach out for help.  Reina tells you, “NEVER GIVE UP!”