Bailey can be a handful.
A loveable, smiling and prancing handful of soft, golden fur.
On Wednesday afternoon, the 13-month-old purebred golden retriever — still very much a puppy at heart — tore around a Dickinson apartment. She played with her toys, teased a cat and nuzzled up to whoever would pet her.
Bailey was happy. She was home.
It was a welcome and relieving sight for her owners, Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and his girlfriend, Staci Moore, of Dickinson.
A little more than two months ago, Rodenbough thought he had lost Bailey forever.
The dog he had raised, trained and loved since he got her last May as an 8-week-old pup disappeared Jan. 27 after he had taken her to a job site near Parshall.
“We just couldn’t find her,” he said.
On Monday morning, Rodenbough and Moore doubted they’d ever see Bailey again. Today, they’re relishing in being together again.
Seemingly out of the blue, Rodenbough’s cellphone rang at about 1 p.m. Monday. Because it was an unlisted number, he let the call go to voicemail. The message, from a veterinarian he’d taken Bailey to in Minot, struck him as unusual.
When Rodenbough returned the vet’s call, he was told a dog believed to be Bailey had been located by a veterinary clinic in Missoula, Mont.
“I’m like, ‘How do you know it’s mine?’” Rodenbaugh recalled. “I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
The Minot vet asked Rodenbough if he could give them the code to Bailey’s microchip — fatefully implanted in her by the breeder in Missouri where she was born.
“They go, ‘Yep, it’s her.’ I was like, ‘Really?’” Rodenbough said, his tone changing from sullen to excited in an instant.
Within the hour, he and Moore had hurriedly packed and started the nearly 700-mile drive from Dickinson to Missoula.
A welder in the Oil Patch, Rodenbough had become accustomed to taking Bailey with him while on the road. Many workers in the oilfields keep dogs with them for company, and Rodenbough, who often worked in open spaces with few others around, said he felt it was better to let the playful and often hyperactive golden retriever run in the fresh air rather than to keep her locked up alone in his trailer.
On that fateful day, high winds had kept Rodenbough and his work partner from making headway with their welding job, so they decided to pack up early. Before leaving the site, he let Bailey out to run one last time.
Up until early this week, he believed that was the last time he would ever see her.
“I turned around and she was missing,” he said, recalling the day.
That night and all of the next day, Rodenbough searched for Bailey. He continued to look for her the next two weeks and spoke with neighboring work crews. No one had seen Bailey.
Rodenbough and Moore put up flyers offering a $1,500 reward and spread the word on social media. They also sought help from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation law enforcement and animal control, who Moore said kept in contact with the couple throughout the past two months.
“Nobody knew anything,” Rodenbough said.
Eventually, they came to the realization that Bailey might be gone forever.
“I tried to ignore the feelings when I lost her,” Rodenbough said. “I just didn’t want to think about it.”
There were nights, he said, when he barely slept. One night, less than a week before Rodenbaugh and Moore were reunited with Bailey — exactly two months after she’d gone missing — he said he didn’t sleep at all.
“I thought about it and couldn’t relax,” he said. “That was the worst night I had.”
So on Monday, when the couple realized they were about to be reunited with Bailey, Moore said they were somewhat in shock.
“The whole trip (to Missoula), it was like, ‘Is this really happening?’” she said. “I can’t believe we found her. Even on the trip back, she was sitting in the backseat and we’d kind of look back like it’s still not real. It’s almost hasn’t hit me yet.”
Before leaving for Missoula, Rodenbough and Moore learned the circumstances of how Bailey had been found.
A middle-aged man — whose name was not provided for this story — had brought the dog, which he called Bailey, to Grant Valley Veterinary Services in Missoula earlier that day. He told vet technician Chandra Hendricks he had found her in North Dakota and wanted her vaccinated.
Hendricks, going through her proper procedures, scanned Bailey for a microchip and noticed that she had a rabies vaccination tag. The microchip and rabies tag both pointed to Rodenbough as the dog’s true owner.
“I felt like I had a responsibility to try to find the owner if there was a microchip,” she said.
Rodenbough was given the Missoula man’s phone number and contacted him almost immediately. The man told Rodenbough he had found Bailey near New Town and claimed he had tried to call him. Rodenbough, however, said he never received any calls from the man and is looking into phone records to prove it.
Rodenbough said the man showed no empathy for the couple and stopped just short of asking for financial reimbursement.
“He goes, ‘I’ve got a lot of money into this dog. I can’t stop you from coming to get her, but she’s cost me a lot of money,’” Rodenbough said, recalling their only conversation. “I didn’t respond. I was in awe.”
Rodenbough said he is convinced the man picked up Bailey near the job site that day in January and claimed her as his own, despite the dog bearing tags with Rodenbough’s name and contact information.
While on the road to Missoula, Rodenbough called a friend there, Carin Miller, and told her what had happened. Missoula police and animal control got involved, too, and Miller agreed to meet the man. She took Bailey home with her and waited for Rodenbough and Moore to arrive.
“He wasn’t very happy,” Rodenbough said of the man who had Bailey. “He didn’t say anything when he dropped her off. He gave Bailey to (Miller) and a box of stuff he had with him and left.”
The couple arrived in Missoula shortly after midnight Tuesday and immediately wanted Miller to meet them at their hotel, which allowed pets.
As Bailey walked through the door, she saw Moore holding her favorite toy, a large orange doll named Scarface, and ran toward her. Bailey buried her head into the doll and then Moore.
Rodenbough, hiding around the corner, came out and embraced Bailey, petting her head and hugging her. Bailey, quickly wagging her tail and whimpering, darted back and forth between the two for minutes, soaking in the reunion.
“Lots of tail wagging, lots of crying, prancing around like she was proud,” Moore said, recalling Bailey’s reaction.
Hendricks said she rarely sees a lost pet’s microchip implant lead to a reunion with its rightful owner, especially one that has been gone as long as Bailey.
“It’s not very common that they have a chip,” she said. “But once in a while, they do.”
Home Again, a pet microchip company, states on its website that the technology has reunited nearly 1 million pets and owners.
“We’re so thankful we had the chip in her,” Moore said. “We would have never got her back. There’s just not enough proof without it.”
The couple credited Hendricks with helping them bring Bailey back into their lives.
“She trusted her instinct and did what she was supposed to do,” Moore said.
Rodenbough said Bailey shows no signs of abuse, but she has a rash on her lower belly, and had clearly not been combed or groomed in any way. She also “reeked” of cigarette smoke.
Before leaving Missoula, they took
Bailey to a groomer. Now, her coat is as shiny as ever.
Bailey’s temperament has improved in the short time she has been back in Dickinson, Moore said, adding Bailey immediately settled in when she walked into Moore’s apartment for the first time in more than two months.
“She knows she’s back to where she belongs,” Moore said.