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Missing Dog Back in Thetford After Three Months On The Run

  • Hickory, a rescue dog missing for three months, on Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Thetford, Vt. Hickory recently reunited with his owner, Ernie Luikart, after being found in Plymouth, N.H. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Emma Luikart, 14, walks her family's dog, Hickory, around their Thetford, Vt. cabin on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Hickory, a rescue dog missing for three months, recently reunited with the Luikarts after being found in Plymouth, N.H. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hickory, a rescue dog missing for three months, and his owner Ernie Luikart on Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Thetford, Vt. Hickory recently reunited with Luikart after being found in Plymouth, N.H. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2017

Thetford — It was just on Saturday when Ernie Luikart got rid of Hickory’s tags.

The 2-year-old Labrador-Rottweiler mix ran away from Luikart’s Houghton Hill Road home in early March, just a few days after the 49-year-old rescued him from a kill shelter.

Three months later, Luikart finally had come to terms with the fact that the dog was unlikely to return. He even went online to look at profiles of other dogs he could rescue.

So imagine his surprise on Wednesday when Luikart received a call from the New Hampshire Humane Society in Laconia, N.H. Hickory was alive, had gained 11 pounds and was ready to end his three-month, two-state escapade, an official from the humane society told him on Wednesday.

“I said, ‘There is just no way,’ ” Luikart said at his home on Thursday, Hickory by his side. “He had been gone for so long.”

New Hampshire Humane Society Executive Director Marylee Gorham said Hickory somehow made his way to Plymouth, N.H., and had been gorging on food from dumpsters behind restaurants. Police took him into custody as a stray on June 5, and brought him to the humane society.

The humane society checked him out, and he returned a clean bill of health. Workers then scanned him for a microchip, a pet tracking system that traces an animal back to its owner.

Fortunately, Hickory carried a microchip, but somewhere in the transfer from the Texas kill shelter to a Connecticut rescue group, his microchip hadn’t been updated with Luikart’s information, Gorham said.

Humane society staff performed some of their own detective work and were able to track down Luikart, who was reunited with Hickory nine days after his capture.

Hickory, who staff called Duncan, had been running loose near Plymouth State University for about two weeks before a police officer was able to catch him, Gorham said.

“He had been taking real good care of himself,” Luikart said with a laugh as he looked over at Hickory. “I’m now trying to convince him we would make a great team.”

Hickory’s disappearance became a hot topic in Thetford. His name appeared often on the Listserv and several residents tracked his sightings, left out food and created temporary shelters, hoping to reunite him with Luikart.

Few people actually spotted him, though. Two people who did, Annie McLaughlin, the bookkeeper at Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, and Susan Arnold of Folk Floors said they never stopped wondering about the dog’s whereabouts.

They both said they had suspicions that Hickory was alive — somewhere. Just Thursday morning, McLaughlin said she passed Houghton Hill Road and Hickory popped into her head.

“I thought, ‘It’s been so long, but I’m sure he is OK,’ ” McLaughlin recalled. Then she heard the news.

“I am elated,” she said. “I think it just shows you how tough these animals can be. He had to be very smart.”

“It’s times like these that you wish your dog had a camera or a GPS to see where they had been and what they had eaten,” Arnold said.

Hickory left in the dead of winter during a cold spell. Luikart had let Hickory out one morning and walked with him to the edge of the woods so the dog could urinate. But after a minute, Hickory disappeared. At the time, he showed signs of malnourishment.

Several people and agencies helped search for Hickory, including Granite State Dog Recovery, Thetford Police Chief Michael Evans and animal control officer Stuart Rogers.

Luikart said he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from the community. He created flyers shortly after Hickory went missing.

But when he went to hand them out, the majority of people said they had already heard, offered condolences and told him they would help search.

“I was amazed at the response,” Luikart said.

For now, the pooch will remain on a leash.

Asked how he managed the 40-mile journey to Plymouth, Hickory declined to comment.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.