Community celebrates lost dog found in Dunsmuir

Richard DuPertuis
Reunited with her dog lost eleven days in the Dunsmuir wilds, an ecstatic Rochelle Zolna offers Tinker a protective arm at the Burger Barn last Wednesday. The young Australian cattle dog bolted from her collar when members of the Railroad Days parade color guard fired a volley in salute. The subsequent search mobilized the community.

Linda Price had driven up from her home in Redding for Railroad Days, and a little after noon on Saturday, June 11 she stood downtown watching the beginning of the parade. At her side and on a leash was her daughter’s dog Tinker.

Two members of the color guard raised rifles and, in unison, fired. Then fired again.

On the second shot, Price said Tinker “just bolted right out of her collar.”

Price and a friend chased the young Australian cattle dog to Florence Loop, where they lost sight of her. Frantic, because Tinker was loose in an area alien to her, Price began alerting everyone she met to the situation. One of those people was a 12 year old girl named Kayla Strong.

“I was on my way to the pool,” Kayla said later. “This lady approached me and told me about this lost dog. She told me to keep an eye out for her.”

Price called her daughter and gave her the bad news. “Rochelle came up and we all started searching the town,” she recalled.

Rochelle Zolna was distraught. “She was only 10 months old,” said Zolna. “And last summer I had to put down my dog after 14 years, so she was very important to me.” Zolna said they searched all over town from 3:30 to 10:30 p.m, when they had to give up the search.

“We returned the next morning,” said Zolna. “And every day after that for the next 10 days. I walked all over the streets with pictures. I probably know the map of the town probably more than most people who live here.”

Strong took it upon herself to organize her friends to put out the word about the lost dog. After reports of sightings began coming around the Children’s Park area, she put out dog food and watched.

“I saw her once in the park,” she reported. “I called her name but she just ran away.”

“Kayla was awesome,” sighed Price. “She was my biggest promoter for finding Tinker.”

Day after day Tinker played hide and seek with her mistress and a growing number of concerned Dunsmuir citizens. Flyers, composed at the Chamber of Commerce, went up all over town, and Zolna’s cell phone began ringing with ever-increasing frequency.

“I had many people calling and texting,” she said. “It was amazing.”

She said that at one point someone was calling, “Tinker’s going into the bar!”

Most of the calls led to the wrong dog. But every now and then she would sight Tinker, who after days in the wild was still not yet calm enough to return to her owner. Obeying instinct, she ran.

While recouping at her mother’s in Redding each night, Zolna searched online for assistance. Following a series of leads, she finally made contact with Hillbilly Hound Hunter in Lake County. Tuesday evening, June 21 pet detectives Teresa Bressoud and Lisa Mora met with Zolna, who secured lodging for them at Railroad Park resort a mile south of Dunsmuir.

Early the next morning, town interest in the search reached a new high when two women appeared leashed to three large Catahoula leopard hounds. The Hillbilly hounds picked up the scent downtown and began pulling their owners through the streets.

Hours later, her hounds suffering from what Bressoud called nose exhaustion, the team settled in for a rest in the shade near Branstetter and Elinore, and Zolna’s phone rang one more time. It was Cindy Murphy, owner of Railroad Park Resort.

Murphy reported she had Tinker in sight, right now, at Railroad Park. Zolna hopped into her car and rushed out there.

“Cindy pointed to some rocks where she said Tinker was hiding,” said Zolna. “I called her name.” Her dog appeared. By now Zolna knew not to approach, so she sat down. “Tinker came right to me and sat on my lap and started licking all over me,” she said.

The search over and Tinker safely leashed, the party headed to Burger Barn for a victory lunch. They stayed there for hours, receiving high-fives from jubilant townsfolk passing by all afternoon.

It was there that Strong was first able to pet the dog she had strived so hard to retrieve.

On the posters which had begun to come down around town was notice of a reward for whoever found the lost dog. Zolna offered $100 cash and a Wii to Cindy Murphy, who refused to take a reward of any kind. So once again, the dog owner requested assistance from the resourceful young lady.

“I asked Kayla what I could do with the reward,” she said. “At her request, the Wii is going to the community center, and the $100 is going to the Baptist Church to fund free lunches for all the kids.”

Two days later, after the level of excitement in Dunsmuir had returned to normal, Kayla sat down outside the community pool and explained her motivation for putting so much effort in retrieving a stranger’s beloved pet.

“I was happy when she was found, because I lost a dog,” she shared. “Her name was April. She was a dalmatian. We never found her. I was hoping Tinker would be found, because I know how I felt when I lost my dog.”

Not quite finder of the missing dog, 12-year-old Kayla Strong poses outside the Dunsmuir community pool area Friday. After hearing of sightings concentrated in the Children's Park area, this resourceful young lady left food in the park and watched. She saw Tinker and called her name, but the dog ran away. Asked by the owner to award the finders fee, Strong named the Family Resource Center to receive a Wii, and the Baptist Church to get $100 cash.