Editor's Note: Before you dive into Fred's story, you should know a few things: My boyfriend and I were two of the "four friends" mentioned below. Our Rottweiler, Allie, was the dog Fred was supposed to romp and play with on the night he vanished. Bailey Reichard and I have been best friends since the fifth grade at Wind Gap Middle School. And, finally, Fred is not owned by Reichard, but by her friend, Steve, who lives in New Jersey. You may proceed ...
The drive from Sportsman Club Road in Plainfield Township to Meadow Drive in Lower Nazareth Township is about eight miles, or about 15 minutes -- if you drive through town, hit no traffic and make it through every green light.
But, just for fun, let’s say you decided to head down that same route on foot.
According to my smartphone, you would arrive in Lower Nazareth in two hours and 34 minutes -- three to four hours if you're not a superhuman.
Hmmm… one problem:
Despite my smartphone’s ability to give me directions in addition to bus stop locations -- and fees -- it seems to lack the ability to show me the route a dog would take.
That’s right, a dog. More specifically, a dog named Fred.
I guess we’ll never know how Fred -- a big scaredy-cat -- managed to make his way through four municipalities and survive 29 days in unknown territory.
We already determined that my smartphone is no help, and despite creative interrogation techniques, Fred refuses to discuss the details of his almost monthlong adventure.
But let’s rewind to the night his adventure started:
It was Friday, May 13, which is a superstitious day for some, but a day Bailey Reichard, a Plainfield Township resident, normally celebrates for a variety of reasons.
That night, four friends planned to gather around a fire pit behind a home on Sportsman Club Road in Belfast/Plainfield Township to make some s’mores, chat about life, have a few laughs and watch two dogs romp and play.
Welp, the night didn't go exactly as planned.
Reichard was in charge of Fred for the weekend while her friend, Steve, attended a family function in Virginia. Steve and Fred, who is a year and a half, call Great Meadows, N.J., home.
But just as Reichard headed for the back yard with a collared, tagged and leashed Fred in tow, something spooked the pup. Fred put on the brakes and his John Deere collar slipped right over his head.
In an instant, the black lab mix with a white patch on his chest vanished into the darkness of night and into unfamiliar territory.
During the ensuing 29 days, Mother Nature refused to cooperate -- she offered a week of non-stop rain, a tornado warning, more rain and a heat wave.
Not only was Fred subjected to these elements, but so was the search party looking for him. Many farmers and residents allowed people they had never met before walk their fields and search behind their homes.
Reichard wore out shoes and a pair of boots due to the miles walked; many gas tanks had been emptied and refilled; voicemails regarding possible sightings were constantly being returned; my normally shy and quiet boyfriend suddenly had no problem walking up to strangers with missing Fred fliers, and my Rottweiler, Allie... well, she had never been on so many walks through before.
In addition to the everyday jobs and responsibilities all of the members of the search party had, we all made sure to keep Fred a part of the daily grind.
Never one to give up even when the odds are obviously stacked against her, Reichard built an army of family, friends and community members who helped in a variety of ways. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Nazareth Patch, word of Fred's disappearance spread like wildfire.
People who didn't even know Reichard reached out to her, asking if they could have fliers to hand out to neighbors and friends.
Plainfield, Bushkill and Upper Nazareth townships were soon blanketed with missing Fred fliers.
But Fred wasn't found in any of those municipalities. Go figure.
On Sunday, June 12, one day shy of a monthlong adventure, Reichard received a phone call from . An officer had a dog in his custody who matched the description of Fred. With the assistance of , the officer was able to contact Reichard.
However, Reichard had experienced the on-edge feeling of hope several times before, only to be let down. Despite the dashed hopes, she headed for the police department.
When Officer Andrew Laudenslager opened the gate to the area where a black lab mix with a white patch on his chest was being held, the dog looked at Reichard and ran straight for her.
It was Fred.
According to Reichard, Fred "melted" into her arms in utter relief. The officer had no doubt that Fred had been returned to the proper person.
I soon got the excited phone call and quickly prepared for the arrival of Fred, a dog I had been searching for but had actually never met!
We gave him a can of wet dog food, then readied him for the reunion with his owner, who didn't know we had his best friend back in custody.
Fugitive Fred got a bath and a good brushing.
Reichard snapped a picture of Fred looking his best and sent it to Steve. He was instantaneously en route to my house.
The reunion was calm, yet sweet.
Allie added some humor into the mix when she was finally allowed downstairs to see what was going on. She gets kudos for finally getting Fred's tail to wag.
That night, Steve -- literally -- picked up his pup, placed him in his truck and the two best friends were headed home -- together.
When the duo got home, Steve posted the following comment on Facebook: "Thank you so much everyone! It's so good to have him home, even if he is snoring so loud he could wake the dead!"
But that's not the end of the story.
Fugitive Fred had finally been captured, but how? And who was able to do so?
That honor goes to Sharon and Steve Fedor in addition to their neighbors who live on Meadow Drive in Lower Nazareth Township -- the only township yet to be blanketed with missing Fred fliers.
Since I am the editor of Nazareth Patch, I just had to write a story about Fred's homecoming, but I wanted to speak to the people who were involved in the capturing of Fred.
I requested the incident report from Colonial Regional Police, which allowed me to obtain Sharon Fedor's phone number.
I left her a voicemail, explained that Fred had been on a 29-day adventure and that he had been reunited with his owner Sunday night. I added that I'd really like to chat about how Fred finally ended up in the custody of police.
Fedor said my voicemail brought her to tears.
"To realize he was gone for 29 days... that is a long time," she said in amazement. "We thought he was just a stray because of how skinny he was. We were feeling for him and I didn't think we'd ever hear anything about him."
According to Fedor, she and four members of her family were having dinner outside on their deck when the family dog, a year-old Havanese named Kylie, started barking.
Fedor was unsure what Kylie was barking at, but soon found out.
A dog -- Fred -- walked up and sat on the edge of Fedor's deck.
"He came up on the deck and just sat there for a minute," she said. "But when my husband went to turn around to look, [the dog] bolted down the driveway and was gone."
Fedor said Fred approached a second time.
"He seemed to be really hungry, and it's odd for a dog to come right up on your deck like that," she said, noting that she could easily see Fred's backbone. "My husband said that he must be hungry, and he looked really, really hungry."
Fedor said her husband headed next door to tell his neighbors, who have two dogs of their own, about the Fred sighting. It turned out that the Fedors' neighbors had seen him before and had been trying to catch him for a few days.
Within 15 to 20 minutes, according to Fedor, her neighbors had managed to lure in Fred and keep him in one place before the officer from Colonial Regional arrived.
"It's great to hear that he has been reunited with his family," she said, adding that she will be sure to let her neighbors know. "I’m so happy that he found his home."
Fedor added that before Kylie, who was kept inside while the Fred-saga ended, the family had "an awesome" dog who lost his battle to leukemia in February 2010. He was 11.
I am a firm believer in fate, and although Bailey is a common pet name, I suddenly felt as though Fred was found by this family and their neighbors for a reason; however, what that reason is exactly, I don't yet know.
Calling it "fate" may be a far stretch, but in case you forgot, Fred's adventure began on Friday the 13th and he vanished while in Reichard's -- Bailey's -- custody.
And Fedor asked the same question I wondered about in the beginning of Fred's story:
"Don’t you wish he could talk and tell you what he has been up to?"
Yes, we most certainly do!
** Fred was taken to see his vet Monday afternoon and was given a clean bill of health. He lost about 5-10 pounds, but if he returns to his normal eating schedule, he will gain back his weight in no time!
Editor's Final Note: Below is a list of some amusing and some heartwarming things four friends learned / discovered / decided during the manhunt for Fred:
- Facebook, Twitter and Nazareth Patch helped spread the word that Fred was M.I.A. The social media websites and news site helped so much that an entire search party was quickly assembled. The only thing missing was a search-and-rescue helicopter -- no exaggeration.
- Reichard's phone number is now plastered all over the Internet.
- Beef 'n Cheddar sandwiches from Arby's will not coax a Fred out of hiding.
- The dog with a John Deere collar who roams around Juniperdale Farms is not Fred. Her name is Hershey and she is a member of the Fulmer family.
- No, a black cat with a white patch will not pass as a Fred.
- So, let me get this straight. You're telling us that not every dog found in the Nazareth area is a Fred? Huh. Who knew?
- We're pretty sure the dispatchers at Northampton County's 911 Center threw a party when Fred was found.
- Phil Bell, an animal control officer referred to us by The Center for Animal Health & Welfare, is the man to call if a beloved pet goes missing.
- We'd like to give a shout out and say, "Sorry," to the really unhappy cat who spent a night in Bell's live trap.
- People you don't even know will call to say they have joined the search for Fred and will help spread the word. How awesome is our community!?