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Money is no object

After a month of searching for his beloved Australian shepherd, which went missing July 13 from Southern Oregon Veterinarian Specialty Clinic on Biddle Road in Medford, Hugo resident Frank Smith has learned a thing or two about humanity.

"There are a lot of really crazy, messed-up people out there," he observes. "Some really good ones, too, but, for sure, some really crazy ones."

Smith, who is offering a $5,000 reward and has tacked posters on power poles across two counties, has dealt with scam artists, been lured down dirt roads by pet psychics and received late-night calls about his dog wandering small towns between Medford and Grants Pass.

If his dog were at large or had met an untimely demise, he would have found her by now, he believes.

Closure, he says, would be preferable to not knowing.

Far from giving up, he's hoping his posters and social-media efforts will ultimately bring her home.

Smith's trials began when he found his 2-year-old dog, a female named "Spot," lying on his five-acre property with a 106-degree fever and erratic, shallow breathing.

"I drove an hour to Medford with her head on my lap. I looked her in the eyes and said, 'Hey, you better make it. I'm not ready to lose you.' I had just lost a 14-year-old Australian shepherd a week before that. I just told her I really needed her to live," Smith recalls.

"When I got to the clinic, I ran inside and told them money was no object, that I wanted them to save her life."

Emergency vets determined the dog had suffered an allergic reaction of some sort, prompting her body to start shutting down. After getting her temperature under control and a plasma transfusion, the dog showed improvement.

"Monday they said she would probably be able to go home soon. On Tuesday, I was leaving to see her, and I get a call from the clinic. I saw the number, I thought, 'Oh, no, she took a turn for the worse.' They told me, 'Don't worry, she's OK, but we need you to come get her as soon as possible,' " Smith said.

Spot had been frightened by another dog during a walk outside and escaped her handler's grasp.

"They told me they had six people that had corralled her and had eyes on her, but I needed to get there fast because she would only come to me."

When he arrived at the clinic, Smith was taken to a field near the clinic where, moments before, she'd jumped a fence and "disappeared into thin air."

Kay Boydston, human resource manager for the clinic, says they hadn't lost a dog in 12 years of operation.

"I was outside and saw it happen. The person who was with her immediately followed her, and I went to get help. We had her contained within five minutes, and then she managed to jump over something and then duck out of sight," Boydston says.

"Everybody's been sick to their stomach. I happen to own a black 'tri' Aussie myself, so it really hits hard. We've helped 45,000 dogs in 12 years, and something like this has never happened before."

The clinic printed 2,000 fliers and provided a hotel room for Smith, where he lived for two weeks, spending his days following leads while his life at home and work were put on hold.

"The day she went missing, I didn't even go home. I bought a change of clothes and some extra shoes. I searched until 2 in the morning and was back out at 5:30 a.m," he says.

Two bloodhound teams — one called down from Washington — tried to track Spot, and one team might have found her scent near MJ Market on Blackwell Road.

Smith acknowledges the size of the reward offered for Spot's return could prompt some con artists.

"I'm not a wealthy person, I know the value of a dollar, but I've worked hard all my life, and she's part of my family so she doesn't have a price tag," he says.

Still, he's been put through the ringer with entrepreneurs wanting to cash in on the reward. Some callers, he notes, have said they'd refuse the reward if they could find his dog. Others simply call or write to commiserate — extensively — about their own missing pets.

"I've been sent to check dogs on the side of the road — one time it was three dead chickens. I tried a pet psychic who ended up being the biggest liar of them all. She told me she was talking to Spot and that Spot was really excited I was trying to find her," Smith says.

"I finally told her, 'I've met a lot of good liars in my life, and you by far are the master bull (expletive) slinger.'

"One guy was deaf and in a wheelchair, so he could only text to say he had my dog, his girlfriend was out of state and he wanted to help me even if it made her mad, but he needed me to send him $500."

All told, Smith has probably spent around $7,000 on classified ads and hiring tracking hounds. He'd do it all again, he says, if it would bring her home.

Spot is described as a shy, tri-color Aussie with a black dot on her head surrounded by white, brown spots around her eyes, and a large white area on her chest. She has shorter hair on her stomach and legs from being shaved during treatment. Smith shrugs off the amount of the reward, noting, "I would pay four times that if somebody really had her."

"Whenever I get a call, I usually stop what I'm doing and I take off looking for her again," he says.

"It's just been really devastating to have her gone. It would have been easier to know I took her to the vet and she died. I have to believe that she's out there and that I'll be able to bring her home."

To provide information about Spot, call Smith at 541-295-4865, or the clinic at 541-282-7711.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Frank Smith shares a moment Saturday with his dog Forest at MJ Market in Central Point. Smith is offering a $5,000 reward for Forest's sister, Spot, who went missing July 12. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Frank Smith is offering a $5,000 reward for Spot, his Australian shepherd. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch