Missing Cash found, and it’s a tail-wagger of a happy endingFeb 18th, 2013 | By Chris Bateman | Category: Bateman's Blog
Coincidence? Fate? A miracle? Or some harmonic convergence of all three?
Whatever it was, Sunday’s reunion of owner Renee Clopton and Cash, the beloved Australian shepherd who ran away from her Columbia area home on Jan. 4, defies logic, probability and common sense. If Vegas bookmakers had laid odds on Renee recovering her dog, they’d be 100,000-to-1.
Yes, Renee and her boyfriend, Dave Scheller, had plastered a half-dozen counties with hundreds of flyers and huge, full-color banners. They spent every spare moment scouring hills and pastures for their lost dog. They ran down dozens of leads. As the weeks went by, however, the likelihood of the finding Cash seemed increasingly remote. (See Jan. 23 post, “Can You Help Renee Bring Home Her Missing Cash?”)
But Dave Bergersen, a 58-year-old Livermore retiree and dog lover, on Sunday, Feb. 17, made the call that Renee had been waiting weeks to get.
“I’m in Copperopolis and I think I have Cash,” he said.
A few minutes later he sent a photo of a merle Australian shepherd to Renee’s phone. “Is this your dog?” he texted.
But Renee, riding her horse at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, had left the cell phone Dave had called in her pickup truck and didn’t get his messages until 11:30 a.m.
“Oh my God,” she said. “It was definitely Cash. I was so happy, but my truck and trailer were boxed in and my horse was still there. I couldn’t go anywhere.”
So she called Scheller, who drove right to Copper.
The shepherd, which Bergersen had adopted from the Fremont Humane Society Shelter on Jan. 17 as Banjo, was in fact Cash – and he immediately recognized Scheller.
“He did the happy dance, he was really excited,” said Bergersen.
He had become very attached to the year-old Australian shepherd during their short time together.
“But I saw the lost-dog flyer Renee had put up at the Copperopolis Shell station and I knew right away Banjo was her dog,” he said. “I had an Aussie of my own run away eight months ago and I did the same thing, working for weeks to find Sadie, but she never materialized. So of course I had to do the right thing.”
Cash and Renee had their long-awaited reunion at home late Sunday afternoon. “He was so happy he just couldn’t contain himself,” said Renee. “And for me it was a dream come true. We never gave up and I don’t think we were ever going to give up.”
But what’s the rest of the story?
How did a dog last seen running in Highway 49 traffic in the dark of an early January night end up within a week at a shelter in Fremont, an East Bay city more than 100 miles from Renee’s home? And how did Dave, who adopted Cash from that same shelter later in January, end up in Copperopolis on Feb. 17?
The 45-day drama began Jan. 4, when Cash, apparently spooked by gunfire in the area, dug under a fence and escaped the Clopton yard with Doc, a Chihuahua. When Renee and her daughters arrived home at 7 p.m., both dogs were gone. Doc returned a few hours later, but Renee stayed out until 2 a.m. looking for Cash, to no avail.
Renee speculates that a couple in a brown pickup truck seen by several witnesses scooping up Cash around 6 p.m. – presumably to save him from being hit by cars on 49 – in fact wanted to keep him. But Renee’s quickly launched, well-publicized campaign to find Cash, she figures, made things a little too hot for the alleged dog-nappers.
“So I they might have tried to get themselves off the hook by driving Cash to Fremont and just letting him loose,” she guessed.
Animal Control officers, said Dave Bergersen, spotted the dog “roaming the streets of Fremont” on Jan. 10 and took him to the shelter. Volunteers there found the Australian shepherd had an implanted computer chip, but no information on file to go with the chip’s number.
Cash was then renamed Banjo and his picture went on Pet Harbor, an adoption website featuring dogs from more than 200 California shelters. Dave, a retired industrial mechanic, saw the photo and signed up to adopt Banjo. “I love the breed,” he said. “They’re energetic, smart and great companions.”
Which is important for a guy who bicycles up to 200 miles a month with his dogs, and feeds them a carefully prepared diet featuring ham, rice and fresh vegetables.
When no one came forward to claim Banjo within the shelter’s required week-long waiting period, Bergersen took him home and began riding with him. “Banjo picked up on it quickly,” he said. “And he got along great with my other two dogs, Hank and Molly.”
Fate intervened a few days later, when an online dating service paired Dave with Kathy, a presumably ideal female companion who just happened to live in Copperopolis. Their first date was Sunday and, because Dave knew she loved dogs, he loaded Hank, Molly and Banjo in his car for a trip to the foothills.
But before a day of driving and hiking in the Mother Lode, he stopped at the Copper Shell station for gas. Nearly a month earlier, while pursuing yet another blind lead, Renee had posted a flyer on the station’s bulletin board.
“I saw Cash’s photo, went back to the car and looked at Banjo, returned to the flyer and realized it,” said Dave. “They were the same dog.”
So he made the call that made Renee’s day.
Yes, Dave was sorry to lose his new dog. But on the other hand, he said, “I had to do the right thing, and that made points with Kathy. I think we’ll go out again.”
He also made points with Renee.
“Dave’s just a great guy,” she said. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am.”
Meanwhile, Renee, Dave Scheller, and her daughters are enjoying a protracted, wonderful reunion with young Cash. But to assure no more searches are in her future, she bought a heavy-duty, wire-bottomed kennel so Cash never goes roaming again. She’ll also get that computer chip, which the presumed dog-nappers may have had implanted, armed with her own information.
She’s not sure, however, what to do with the 1,000 lost-dog flyers and 10 new banners that just arrived. If nothing else, they’re proof of her persistence.
And that persistence, along with Dave Bergersen’s determination to do the right thing, may have trumped fate, chance, coincidence and blind luck.
Chris Bateman, 66, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun.
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