Can You Help Renee Bring Home Her Missing Cash?Jan 23rd, 2013 | By Chris Bateman | Category: Bateman's Blog
Cash tends to bring out the worst in us – greed, deceit, dishonest and all manner of underhanded dealings.
But Cash has brought out the best in Renee Clopton, a 34-year-old Sonora-area woman who cuts hair at the Envy Salon in Columbia. Cash, her lost Australian shepherd, that is.
Renee’s unwavering, unyielding three-week search for the 55-pound companion not only betrays a love and loyalty that movies and novels can’t touch, but has engaged an entire community.
For her eight years in Tuolumne County, Renee has been like most of us – living a quiet life among a small circle of friends and customers. That all changed on Jan. 4, when Cash disappeared.
Renee’s nonstop efforts to recover her lost dog have since put her on the Mother Lode’s radar: Cash’s photo and Renee’s phone number are on 2,000 flyers tacked and taped up in three counties. She has knocked on doors and driven hundreds of miles from Sonora to the outskirts of Stockton. She has pursued dozens of leads, so far without avail. This weekend she’ll stand in front of Sonora’s Wal-Mart store with a huge Lost Dog banner bearing Cash’s far-larger-than-life photo.
“I desperately want him back,” said Renee. “Outside of work, looking for Cash is all we do. Every evening and weekend we’re on the phone or driving around. Even during a haircut, if I get a call from someone who says they saw a dog like Cash, I’ll drop everything and hit the road. My customers understand.”
It’s a team effort, involving her daughters Savanna, 10, and Shyanne, 11, as well as Renee’s boyfriend, Dave Scheller.
Most of us dog owners would like to think we’d do the same for our own pets, but precious few would have the dedication, energy and, yes, love to put the rest of our lives on hold for weeks on end. Renee’s efforts make Richard Kimball, the falsely accused TV fugitive who spent years searching for the man who really killed his wife, look like a slacker.
The circumstances of Cash’s disappearance add urgency to Renee’s quest.
Dave gave her the Australian shepherd nearly a year ago. “I had always wanted one, and I fell in love with Cash right away,” she remembers. That her new dog was born missing half his tail and that one of his eyes is half brown and half blue doesn’t matter. Renee wanted a friend, not an AKC winner, and Cash fills the bill.
“He sits, shakes hands, loves the kids, sleeps on our bed, comes when I call, practices herding the neighborhood cows, and never runs away,” said Renee.
At least he didn’t until late in the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 4, when some of Renee’s Fraguero Road neighbors later told her they heard gunfire in the area. “Cash hates that sound, so we think he and our Chihuahua, Doc, freaked out and crawled under the fence to get away from the noise.”
Renee and her daughters arrived home at 7 p.m. to find both dogs gone. After a few calls, they began a search that didn’t end until 2 a.m. Doc wandered home at 9 a.m. the next day, but Renee didn’t get a hint at what had happened to Cash until she knocked on a neighbor’s door the next morning.
It was a woman who around 6 p.m. the previous evening had seen a dog that looked like Cash on Highway F49 near Portagee Lane, about a mile from the Clopton home.
“She said a pickup truck pulled over and the driver, a woman, jumped out and grabbed the dog,” recounted Renee. “Then she handed it to a guy in the truck. He put the dog in the camper shell, then they drove north.”
Four more witnesses later told her the same story, describing a brown truck, a couple and a teenage boy in the cab, and a two-tone camper shell over the back.
“They all said these people looked like they were saving a dog who was running in and out of traffic,” Renee said. “I really appreciate what they did, but now I want my dog back.”
And it would be easy for anyone who finds Cash to do so: He’s wearing a green 4-H collar with tags that include Renee’s phone number. “My heart still jumps every time my phone rings,” she said, but so far the long-awaited call has not come.
Many others have: Renee and Dave have fielded more than 60 calls in the two weeks since their Lost Dog flyers went up. Most are Australian shepherd sightings, and none is dismissed.
“At each one, we jump in the car and head out,” said Renee, who has knocked on dozens of doors on along Rawhide Road, in the Chicken Ranch area, throughout Angels Camp and Mountain Ranch, along many miles of Highway 49, and even at the end of ranch roads outside the minuscule valley town of Farmington. She’s seen a lot of Australian shepherds, but not even Calaveras County’s Dogtown Road yielded Cash.
The good news? “We’ve met some of the nicest people in the world,” said Renee. “Even ranchers living at the end of roads marked by signs like ‘Protected by Smith & Wesson’ or ‘We Shoot First’ bend over backward to help us.”
In this, there’s cause for optimism: With each day, as flyers posted, drives down hidden roads, and knocks on doors multiply, more and more people learn about Cash and his devoted owner. In time, those who have seen Cash’s photo on flyers, banners and posters, in newspapers, and online may outnumber those who haven’t.
And if Renee’s beloved Australian shepherd is out there, one member of a multi-county search party that’s already grown into the thousands will see him and will make the call she has been waiting for. So if those folks in the pickup truck still have Cash, giving him back to Renee before someone else fingers you might be a darn good idea.
And if that call were to come today ~ Jan. 23 ~ which just happens to be Cash’s first birthday? Well, what a great ending to this story that would make.
THE MISSING CASH: Year-old, 55-pound Australian shepherd, blue and white. One eye is blue, the other half blue and half brown. Cash has a half tail, is neutered, and was wearing a green collar. Call (209) 247-0784 or (209) 728-5997 with any information.
Chris Bateman, 66, is a longtime journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun. Contact him at email@example.com. Better yet, comment below.
Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine