Our family pet was recently returned to our front door thistle-covered, scared and tired. This 4-pound, 9-ounce ball of pillow fluff and mischief had made a poorly reasoned escape from her fenced yard just 24 hours before.

Our family pet was recently returned to our front door thistle-covered, scared and tired. This 4-pound, 9-ounce ball of pillow fluff and mischief had made a poorly reasoned escape from her fenced yard just 24 hours before.

Sophie, a peroxide-blond mop of terrier, had fled without her rhinestone-studded collar or any other identification.

Our chances of getting her back were not good.

She had never in her five years appeared to be a fan of nature. She walked on a manicured lawn like it was a bed of nails. We rationalized that she was afraid a local barn owl might mistake her for a garden rodent and carry her away. We never thought she would venture out beyond the backyard into the world on her own.

We were wrong.

Sophie's centipede-length legs led a 24-hour chase that included several rescues and escapes. She started downtown, pranced to east Medford's Hoover Elementary School and eventually ended up in Talent before being carefully deposited back where she belongs.

For this happy ending I need to thank many people, some of whom I have never met.

This includes:

The Medford dispatch and police officers I asked to keep an eye out for our hairy Houdini. They thankfully kept a straight face when I described an animal only man's interference with natural selection could produce.

The unknown neighbor who attempted to rescue our miniature terror only to have her get away again and continue her rampage into east Medford.

The final rescuer who was obviously experienced with a small animal whose only natural enemies were inanimate objects, including the vacuum cleaner and garden hose.

Donna Patnesky, the amazingly busy lady at the Jackson County Animal Shelter who kept us informed as the cross-county chase continued.

Kathy Moore, animal shelter volunteer and friend, who never gave up the search.

The 50 or so bike riders, gardeners and joggers I stopped on the street to ask whether they'd seen the fleeing lap rat. They were all truly concerned and sincere in their efforts to help.

The residents of the Minnesota-Geneva neighborhood who put up with our ridiculous duct-taped, lost-pet fliers on doorsteps, posts and trees. The flier featured a photo of our daughter-in-law holding what looks like a wad of dryer lint with eyes and a nose. She lives in another country, so hopefully she will never know the humiliation we put her through of being the cover girl for our wanted poster.

Recent surveys point to the climate when residents are asked why they live in the Rogue Valley. I have discovered that the valley is full of people who will take a little time to search for a lost pet that has all the survival instincts of a house slipper. That says something about a community.

Scared and enlightened by Sophie's great escape, we are now reformed, responsible pet owners. To prevent any future similar spontaneous exercise of free will, the dog has been equipped with a scanable microchip and a new ID collar.

We can only speculate why she left the backyard. It may have been a problem of dog self-identity. The neighborhood cats rarely run when she tries to chase them out of the yard but you can't really blame them.

Maybe it had something to do with living around people who would put a rhinestone collar on an animal who aspires to some day be a real dog.

Reach Photo Editor Bob Pennell at 776-4489, or e-mail bpennell@mailtribune.com.