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Ohioan hunts for dog near Avonmore

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Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010

An Ohio woman is searching the woods around Avonmore in Westmoreland County this weekend for a specially trained dog missing since August.

"Some people think I'm nuts, but I have to do this," said Jackie Deems, 56, who lives on a farm in Perrysville, Ohio, about an hour west of Canton. "Anyone who loves their animals, they know and understand."

Deems is looking for Patti, a 90-pound, 4-year-old Anatolian shepherd and Great Pyrenees mix.

"She looks like a big, white Labrador retriever," Deems said.

Patti is trained to guard livestock from predators. Until August, she lived with Deems on her farm with 140 animals. Patti guarded a flock of sheep day and night. But the dog often patrolled the property on the outside of the farm's fence, trespassing on a neighbor's property. The neighbors were not happy.

So in August, Deems found a family in Avonmore who raise sheep and have an electric fence surrounding the property. She sedated Patti for the drive, and met the Westmoreland County couple halfway, and said goodbye to the groggy dog.

About 10 minutes after Patti got to her new home, she jumped the fence and ran into the woods.

"My thinking was I don't want to let her go because I love her and am attached to her, but this is the best thing for her," Deems said. "If I'd have thought there was a chance of her escaping, I'd have never let her go."

Deems planned to spend the weekend searching for Patti, passing out fliers, talking to people -- and hoping for a miracle. If she finds the dog, Deems will take her back to Ohio.

"It's been a nightmare because she trusted me to take care of her, and I feel like I let her down," Deems said. "I betrayed her, and now she's out there, and she's got to be afraid and not knowing why I did this to her."

Deems rescued the dog, which was abused as a puppy. The animal shies from human contact. In an attempt to lure Patti out of the woods, Deems brought treats from home, old blankets and audio recordings of other dogs on the farm barking.

It's a solid plan, said Becky DiLucia, a behavior team volunteer at Animal Friends shelter in Ohio Township. A shy dog would avoid roadways and streets in an unfamiliar place, but if she picks up Deems' scent, Patti might reveal herself, she said.

"She's probably confused," DiLucia said. "I'd say she's in survival mode; she's out in woods and has to learn how to stay alive."

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