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Lost Ohio livestock dog adopts farm family near Apollo

| Monday, Feb. 21, 2011

A lost livestock-guard dog from Ohio has found a home in Armstrong County.

"She adopted us," said Randy Williams, 48, of Apollo, gesturing to the 4-year-old Anatolian shepherd-Great Pyrenees mix as she sauntered up a hill to stand guard over his livestock. "I ran her off when she first came. I chased her off two or three times. But she was trying to find a home someplace, and she kept coming back."

The big white-haired dog's interstate journey began in August, when her owner, Jackie Deems, was forced to find the dog she called Patti another home because she kept getting past a fence and onto neighbors' property. Deems, 56, lives on a farm near Perrysville, Ohio, about an hour west of Canton.

Afraid someone would shoot the dog, Deems found a family in Westmoreland County with a flock of sheep for Patti to protect.

Deems sedated Patti, set off to meet the family halfway and then said goodbye. But 10 minutes after Patti got to her new home, she jumped the fence and ran into the woods.

A search began.

Deems knew someone had abused the dog as a puppy; Patti had trusted only Deems. Alone in the woods, she must have felt betrayed, Deems worried.

During regular trips to Westmoreland County, Deems handed out fliers, knocked on doors, scoured the forests and ran newspaper ads. To lure the dog from the woods, she brought Patti's treats from home, old blankets and audio recordings of other dogs on her Ohio farm.

Nothing worked.

That's because Patti was more than 10 miles away in Apollo.

"She had to have passed a bunch of other farms coming here," Williams said. "Why she picked us, I don't know."

The Tribune-Review ran a story on Patti's disappearance in October, and shortly before Christmas, Williams' mother saw a newspaper advertisement Deems had placed. She called her son, and he called Deems.

Deems had followed many leads, and was skeptical someone really had found Patti. But after Williams described the dog, she took a closer look.

She confirmed Patti's identity during a visit last month; the dog wore the same collar, still ran off when humans approached and was guarding livestock. Williams had named her Lilly.

For several days, Deems tried to trap the dog. The canine avoided hot dogs placed inside electrical fences Deems had erected, but snatched all those laid out in a trail leading to the enclosure.

Williams said no one in his family has touched the dog, though she follows the family members around while they do chores outside. She appears content to watch over the horses, donkeys, chickens and rabbits, chasing away stray dogs or other animals that don't live on the farm.

"Patti's first allegiance, instinctually, is to 'her' animals, which is why she is content," Deems said. "People are secondary in her world, somewhat of a bothersome necessity. She was abused by them in her early life, so (she) is naturally mistrustful of them."

Deems left Apollo without her dog.

"They are caring well for her, and that's more than I could ask for," Deems said. "She's safe and happy and healthy."

Although Williams has five other dogs -- "I need another like I need a hole in my head," he joked -- he and his family have taken to Lilly.

"She's got these dark eyes, these coal eyes," Williams said. "I'll pet my dogs, and she'll stand there and look. But she won't come."

They set up a bed for her in the barn, and they leave food for her. When Williams drives to work in his Jeep, Lilly escorts him to the property line; she's there when he returns.

"She's a fixture now," he said. "She really is a good dog. I don't know -- one of these days I might get her close enough to pet her. We'll see."

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