Community helps find New Haven couple's dog


NEW HAVEN RESIDENT Ursula Olender welcomes home her dog Tela, who was on the loose for six days last month. Finding the dog was a community-wide effort, including friends, neighbors, fellow dog park users, and work colleagues of Olender and her husband, Jon. The couple also had some help from unusual sources — a dowser who does animal communication work and an unnamed Vermonter who had “insights” about Tela’s location. Paul Dahm, right, and his wife, Carolyn, finally discovered the dog near a swamp on Field Days Road. Photo by Jon Olender

NEW HAVEN — In late August, after their four-year-old English setter, Tela, bolted from a nearby hay field and sallied forth on six days of unknown adventures to undisclosed locations, Ursula and Jon Olender learned what they say was a valuable lesson: 

Ask for help and you will receive it.

“One of the best pieces of advice we received was to let people help,” Ursula told the Independent. “Don’t do this on your own. Let as many people know as you can, keep updating Facebook, put your posters everywhere, knock on doors.”

And it worked.

More than 140 people joined a Facebook group called “Find Tela,” where members shared information and GPS tracking maps. 

Ursula’s colleagues at Middlebury College joined in the search, including Paul Dahm and his wife, Carolyn, and Cathy Vincent, who went out every day.

Don Morgan of Charlotte brought his tracking dog, Arrow.

Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton and his staff helped search the area and explained the pros and cons of offering a reward.

The Olenders’ friend Chris Ingram, who works for the Fish & Wildlife Department, came out with his drone and searched nearby streambeds.

Derrick Dykstra let them borrow his four-wheeler.

Their landlords, Kevin and David Kayhart, joined in the search.

Jim Walsh not only helped them look for Tela but he connected them with local landowners in the area.

Neighbors with game cameras checked them daily.

Though she had never met the Olenders before, Ferrisburgh resident Asha Miller came out and helped hang posters and knock on doors.

And there were so many others.

“Jon and I have only lived here for four and a half years,” Ursula said. “We’re renters so we’re not as involved in town life. But that didn’t seem to matter. Everybody was just unbelievably supportive and open. We got permission from landowners to look on their land, and many landowners helped us look.”

Then, in the hours before Tela was found, on Aug. 26, a couple of unusual telephone calls proved to be incredibly useful.

DAY ONE

Whereas the Oldenders’ other dog, Elsa, is “pretty chill,” Tela is more ... free-spirited.

“I got this dog home (in the fall of 2016) and she wanted to run,” Jon said. “She was all over Snake Mountain, all in the Field Days, we were constantly trying to catch her and then we realized we can’t just let her run free.”

On the day in question, Friday, Aug. 21, Jon had taken a few minutes before work to run Tela through some bird-dog-specific training. Tela was attached to a “check cord,” a 50-foot heavy rope that’s meant to slow her down and keep her mind focused — and keep her in the possession of her owners.

But that morning she darted down into a streambed — likely after seeing a bird or rabbit or deer. By the time Jon thought he’d caught up with her, she was gone.

After they’d looked for Tela for six or seven hours, Ursula decided to post something on Facebook.

“Then everybody just kicked into gear,” she said. “(Work colleagues) Cathy (Vincent) and Paul (Dahm) showed up instantly to help.”

THE WEEKEND

“On Saturday we started getting reports of a barking dog, so that kind of refocused our search,” Ursula said. “By this time this was the longest we’d ever been without Tela, so someone suggested I try to find a leashed tracking dog — the types of dogs that track injured game.”

Through Fish & Wildlife, the Olenders found Don Morgan of Charlotte.

On Sunday Morgan came out with his dog Arrow, but the search party was unable to find any trace of Tela in the areas where dog barking had been heard Friday night.

Over the next few days Morgan would help in other ways.

“He basically became our coach and guide to what to do next,” Ursula said.

TWO PHONE CALLS

On Tuesday night, Ursula slept outside, she said. Some nearby residents also slept outside “and we kind of triangulated.”

The following morning she was at her wits’ end and ready to try just about anything.

Almost immediately after Tela had gone missing, Ursula’s mother had recommended that she call a psychic.

“I’m not really oriented that way, so I just kind of poo-pooed it,” Ursula said.

But by Wednesday, feeling like they had run out of options, Ursula called Alice Harwood, a certified dowser who practices alternative arts using what she calls her “psychic abilities and gifts in energy healing.” Ursula had also heard that Harwood did animal communication work.

Harwood had Ursula look at a photograph of Tela during their conversation and told her in the end that she felt Tela was OK, that she was a strong dog — and that she would be home by dusk.

“While I was talking on the phone I really believed her,” Ursula said. “I just felt really drawn into it.”

After she hung up, Ursula wanted to get into the right mind-set, so she looked around online and found an exercise called the Golden Cord Meditation, “where you envision this golden cord that connects you to your dog, which seemed kind of fitting because Tela was on the end of a 50-foot yellow rope.”

Unbeknownst to the Olenders, Paul Dahm had also made a phone call that day. That someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been described as a “psychic,” but Dahm said they prefer to be referenced as someone who has “insights” to share and does not identify as a “psychic” in any way.

This person “was able to contact Paul by telephone, and give him very very specific instructions, like exact instructions as to where the dog was,” Ursula said.

Dahm was reluctant to discuss the phone call in question, but in an email to the Independent he shared the directions he’d been given:

Check the area that is in the northeast corner of the solar farm. It’s a swampy area with downed trees. She is likely in that area with lots of water/reeds, and tangled underbrush with downed trees. She’s a very strong dog.

The Dahms drove directly to that spot, called Tela’s name, and were able to find her by following the sound of her barking, he said.

“And Tela was exactly as described. Her 50-foot lead was indeed wrapped around a small tree and stuck under a tangled canopy of branches and shrubbery.”

They put her on a new, shorter lead, detached the golden cord and carried her back to their car.

By the time they pulled into the Olenders’ driveway, it was dusk.

HOME AT LAST

“When Paul brought her to us she had some little burrs in her ears and you could tell she had been through the woods but other than that she seemed fine,” Ursula said. “She was very thirsty, so she was a little dehydrated, but other than that she was perfect. I think she’s already forgotten about the whole thing. She would probably love to do it again.”

The “Find Tela” Facebook group exploded with well wishes, and folks (and dogs) at the dog park made a big stink, too.

“I took the dogs to the dog park this morning and it was like a grand reunion,” Ursula said. “Everybody was so happy to see Tela.”

Ursula was happy to see a fenced-in area, she said with a laugh.

Looking back, Ursula wonders if having gotten into the right frame of mind after speaking with Alice Harwood helped make possible whatever insights led to Tela’s discovery. Whereas she had been doubtful about that sort of thing before, she feels differently now.

“Yeah, I would say this experience has changed my mind.”

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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