Search for lost dog continues
Hank has been missing for two months but, Medford resident Hannah Kridel hasn't given up hope.
"Someone may have felt bad for him and picked him up — he's so trusting of people," she said, later adding,
"A lot of people were up at Applegate Lake on the Fourth of July. He is a really nice dog."
But Hank, a two-year-old, 85-pound chocolate Labrador retriever, is more than a pet who went missing on a holiday camping trip.
He is a therapy dog for Kridel, 26, who has periodically suffered grand mal epileptic seizures since she was 18 years old.
"It didn't matter that Hank is blind," she said. "He has always been there for me . . . I cried when he disappeared."
Kridel and her partner, Blake Daniels, bought Hank for $550 from a local breeder when the pup was seven weeks old. He quickly became a favorite pet for them as well as for Kridel's daughter, Shyleah, who will soon turn 6.
Indeed, he is family, Daniels observed.
"When I would go and do something outside, Hank would come up and sit down so his back would be touching my leg," he said. "He wanted to make sure he had body contact with me. He's just a great dog."
Given Hank's blindness, apparently the result of a disease, it would seem that he wouldn't have worked out as a therapy dog, Kridel acknowledged.
"But when I had seizure, even when he was a puppy, he would be directly overhead and not do the normal biting and licking you would associate with a puppy," said Kridel, a supervisor with Pathway Enterprises Inc. which provides community-based services and support for individuals with developmental and other related disabilities in southern Oregon and northern California.
"He would be very calm, providing slow, steady breathing for me until I came back," she said. "He always went right to my head. He was very calming."
The couple had purchased two lab pups within two weeks of each other to be there for Kridel in the event of a seizure. The first was another chocolate lab in Leah, a female who is more petite than Hank.
"Lots of dogs can be trained to be therapy dogs for epilepsy but labs already have that electricity worked into their brain so it is easier for them — more natural," Kridel said. "After they are trained, they will stare at you for a time before you even know you are going to have a seizure.
"Afterwards, they are trained to revive you, whether it is breathing in your face or dropping all their dead weight on you to help you avoid too much convulsion," she added.
Although Hank's eyesight is severely limited to the point where he can only distinguish a bright object, he is more successful than Leah in helping her overcome a seizure, Kridel said.
Independence Day weekend found the family camping in French Gulch just east of Applegate Dam in the upper Applegate River drainage.
"When we got there, we started setting up our tent," recalled Daniels who works as a forklift operator. "The dogs were sniffing around like they always do."
It took just a few minutes to erect the tent, but Hank and Leah were no longer within sight when they finished. The couple called the dogs. Only Leah came trotting up.
"Hank was no where to be found," Daniels said.
He went down the nearby gravel road while Kridel went up the road. They searched for hours, calling all the while, but couldn't find Hank.
Daniels climbed to the top of the local ridges and called and called for him.
"I was hoping he would catch my scent and followed it back," he said.
A friend joined them in the search the next day. He and Daniels used off-road vehicles to canvass the area for several miles, frequently stopping to call Hank's name.
They and others continued the search for days, followed by weeks to no avail. They spread the word through local friends and on the internet. They have also put up posters for the missing pooch.
"I left my sweatshirt and his dog bed at our camp site," Daniels said in hopes that Hank would stay there if he returned.
Not to be left out, Shyleah came up with a unique idea to find her furry buddy.
"I dropped (potato) chips for him," she said.
Like the story of Hansel and Gretel, the little girl left chips along the trail in hopes it would help him find his way back, Daniels explained.
"She was dropping chips everywhere we were looking," her mother said.
It wasn't only the humans in the household who missed Hank. Leah, who was raised alongside him, became depressed and wouldn't eat, Kridel said.
"It was real sad," Daniels said. "It was bothering her to the point we had to go get the pup."
That would be Rex, a happy golden lab who, at five months, has yet to grow into his huge feet. He is in his first level of therapy training.
But the family believes there is still a chance that Hank survived the outdoors and was picked up by a well-meaning person camping in the area that weekend.
"That's what we really hope happened," Kridel said. "We just want Hank back. We miss him."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.