Josh George adopted Besita, a young sheep dog rescue from Juárez, Mexico, early this year, taking her home to his place in the Denver suburbs. He was glad he finally lived in a city where he could have a pet; he called her Bezzy, which sounds like "Betsy."
The gray-and-white curly-haired Bezzy reminded George of the family sheep dog that his mother had while undergoing breast cancer; he remembered that dog changing his mother’s whole demeanor while she fought the disease.
And when George got Bezzy, his whole life changed. He likes to say there is the person before a dog, and then the person after a dog.
George is a digital marketing strategist who works from home, and Bezzy kept him company while he spent hours in the office on the computer. “She meant so much,” George says. Bezzy made it into a speech he wrote, explaining marketing from the viewpoint of a dog.
The happiness and sense of responsibility Bezzy gave him helped George prioritize his life, with less going out on Friday nights and more afternoons spent at the dog park. “She's like the stuffed animal that came to life,” George explains.
Life with Bezzy was so good that he even thought about getting her certified to go to the hospital as a therapy dog, but she was too skittish.
Exactly 100 days after Bezzy entered George’s life, her skittishness sent her running into the woods near Burns, in northern Eagle County. It was her first camping trip, and she'd been doing great. Earlier that day a train had sent her running, but she'd been caught. That night, though, a set of loud fireworks scared Bezzy so badly that she disappeared without a trace, despite the glow sticks and bear bell bouncing on her collar.
George and his friends spent the night looking for Bezzy with a single headlamp, taking breaks to drive to a place with cell-phone reception, hoping to get a message from someone who'd found her.
George felt incredible heartbreak and desperation the next morning when they went back to Denver without Bezzy. It was surreal, he remembers. He had never lost a dog before. He didn’t know what to do.
George spent the next week driving three hours back and forth from the city to the camping spot to search for Bezzy. He Googled tips to find lost dogs, and then tied dirty laundry in the back of his truck, hoping that Bezzy would catch the smell and find her own way out of the brush. He left a scent station for her at their campsite.
George used social media-marketing tools on Twitter and Facebook to spread Bezzy’s lost dog flier and bump it up to the top of social-media feeds. George joined every Facebook group for lost dogs he could find. But Bezzy still wasn’t turning up.
The second week without Bezzy, George focused on searching through the web. People suggested using other scent dogs and drones to track her down, but neither of those options were affordable. A huge online community offered support but also false alarms, which caused George’s heart to flip.
“I felt lonely without my dog, but I wasn’t alone in it,” he says.
Sightings of mountain lions and bears popped up on web forums. Volunteers searched the area where Bezzy had disappeared, with no luck. It was raining and snowing and Bezzy was still out there; George wondered how cold she was.
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He got lost in Internet holes for hours while he was supposed to be working. He built a spreadsheet of over sixty vets and law enforcement offices and sent them Bezzy’s lost dog flier. He refused to give up, but hope was dwindling.
Eighteen days after Bezzy went missing, on June 13, George received a phone call from a railroad worker: A Union Pacific employee had found her on the tracks not far from where she'd run away.
A few hours later, George reached the handoff location. Bezzy sat in the passenger seat of a truck, looking skinny (she'd lost five pounds, he later learned) but impossibly clean and calm, wagging her tail — the tail George had encased in bubble wrap when he first brought her home because she wagged it so hard that it split open.
George still feels like he failed Bezzy, but he’s grateful for the second chance he’s gotten with his dog. He no longer makes her wear the walking harness she hates when they go outside. He doesn’t take her for granted.