Having a pet run away is utterly distressing, but it’s even worse in the winter when the odds of them surviving even one night outside are slim. Blaine Clooten’s German Shorthaired Pointer, Mocha, took off from their North Dakota home and spent a week outside, miraculously surviving heavy snow and a -45 degree wind chill. The tale of his rescue is incredible, and because the entire community banded together, he is now back home, safe and cozy.
I had seen a Bismarck newspaper article about how Mocha was missing and that there were blizzard-like conditions at the time, so I followed the story, desperately hoping that Mocha would come home. After the hubbub died down, Blaine relayed the harrowing tale to me:
On January 1st 2017, my wife Coleen and I were in Minneapolis for a Minnesota Vikings game. My wife is a Vikings fan and never got to go to a game before, so I decided we would go this year. I had been lucky enough to get V.I.P. tickets and this was a perfect opportunity for us to go. We were both excited, and had not had the opportunity for a vacation for a few years, so this was a weekend for ourselves, and a great way to start the new year, or so we thought.
I do not like leaving my dogs in at a pet boarding place, so I always have a sitter watch my dogs at our house. I do not trust anyone around my pets, as they are like children to me and I am very protective of them. The game got out about 3:00pm Central time and our phone rang shortly after. My daughter Danielle called us and said she had bad news – that Mocha, one of our German Shorthaired Pointers, had gotten out of the house and they couldn’t find him. She said he had gotten out about 11:00 am, but they didn’t want to ruin our day and was hoping they would find him before they had to call us.
I immediately asked how that happened, as we have a fenced yard and it was almost impossible for any of our dogs to get out. She said her husband, Jordan, had been over at our house and that when he left, he didn’t secure the pet gate that was across our basement entry way and he left the garage door open. Mocha is very smart, and figured out how to unlatch the gate and walked out the garage door. Mocha’s brother, Cocoa, followed but got stuck in a snow bank and was grabbed by my daughter before he could get any farther, but Mocha got away. We have two other dogs (Shiba Inus), but they never tried to leave and didn’t even notice the open door.
By this time, my other daughter, Ashley, and her husband Erik, were called and came over to help look, and spotted Mocha about 15 blocks away in an open golf course area. They tried to follow Mocha and call him back, but he was having no part of this and thought it was all a game of “catch me if you can.” He spotted pheasants in a field and was trying to catch them, so couldn’t have cared less about my daughters and their husbands calling him. Before too long, Mocha had run out of sight and they couldn’t relocate him.
I was hearing all of this over the phone and totally panicking, as the temps are below 0 back in Bismarck, and there was a another winter storm coming with 8 to 10 inches of snow coming and even colder wind chills forecast the following day. All I could think of was that my poor dog, who is a spoiled lap dog and a big baby, was going to freeze to death if he was not found very soon. I was 365 miles away at this time and helpless to do anything. We got home at about 9:30 pm on January 1st and I immediately started driving and searching the area he was last seen. It was cold and dark, and I was tired from the long drive back from Minneapolis, and I saw no signs of him. I ended up returning home from searching at about midnight.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night, worrying about this storm and cold temps coming with wind chills forecast to 45 below 0, and wondering how he could possibly survive. My daughter Ashley posted on a Facebook page called Bismarck Animal Rescue Community that our dog was missing. At about 8:00 am the next morning, a guy called me saying he had spotted my dog in a cemetery just off of Century Avenue, which is close to where my daughters had last seen Mocha. He said he spotted Mocha while snowshoeing with his dog. He tried to call him over, but he would not come. By the time I arrived Mocha, was gone and out of sight. I spent two hours snowshoeing through the cemetery looking, but with no signs of Mocha.
My wife and daughter Danielle drove around looking, as well as Ashley and her husband. Amazingly, my wife spotted Mocha in a ravine in some trees by our interstate 94. He was just off the road. My wife called me and said she spotted him and was trying to get to him. I showed up to the location but the snow in the ravine was over five feet deep, and my wife and family were sinking up to their chests in snow and could hardly move. The effort was pointless, as by this time Mocha had disappeared again where we couldn’t see him. This ravine runs for miles and is impossible to get to by any vehicles.
Don’t forget, Bismarck and the rest of ND is having one of the worst winters on records with record snowfall and extreme cold. Our only option was to try to get snowmobiles in that area. We called some friends who had sleds and they showed up. This process took about another hour and by the time we got all the snowmobiles unloaded and got to the area he was nowhere to be found. This area was also so deep with snow that the sleds were having difficulty getting in and out of the area he was spotted in. It was snowing heavily, and visibility was less than a quarter mile, if that. We searched until late in the night, but with no luck.
Tuesday was a disappointing day, and we really got scared because we had no sighting of Mocha at all. We were out looking from sunrise until about 11:00 pm and were just hoping he was somewhere warm. Again, temps were well below zero with extreme wind chills.
On Wednesday, Ashley created a Facebook page called Bring Mocha Home Bismarck with my contact info, which included my cell number as well as both my daughters’ numbers, asking anyone who saw him to call us. Within in hours we had a huge following and we started receiving calls and texts with sightings of Mocha, and it became so overwhelming with our community response that we had difficulty responding to all the sightings. The response was so huge that not only did we receive calls, but we had literally hundreds of vehicles driving and searching for Mocha. I started doing Facebook live videos while we were searching because it became the most effective way to keep all our followers updated on the sighting locations, as well as some of my emotional thinking, which include several crying moments and me being able to thank the community live for all their help.
On Thursday I actually asked god to help me find Mocha. This is a huge deal, because I am not a religious person at all. But I swear within minutes of begging god just to show me Mocha so I knew he was still aIive, I spotted him running through a ditch coming right at me. I couldn’t get stopped soon enough because of ice, and he ran away on the railroad tracks. We found him again a short while later, miles north in a rural area, and put out a request for snowmobiles again. I kid you not, within 15 minutes of the post, I had several snowmobiles at my disposal and one man giving me his sled to find Mocha. This kind of support was daily and so overwhelming I can still not wrap my head around it.
Friday we put up huge signs with Mocha’s picture and our info on it on every busy intersection we could think of just to increase the awareness of him missing.
On Sunday January 8th, I decided I had to Bring Mocha home one way or another. I knew he couldn’t survive the cold much longer. At about 1:40 pm, I received multiple calls, and finally spotted him myself running through an open field. I could tell he was weak and very skinny and I knew this was my last chance to save him. As always, I had so many people helping look, and just through Facebook updates I had about 40 vehicles and many people following Mocha and giving me updates to his location so fast I couldn’t even take all the calls. He finally ran into a wooded area by four homes, which we surrounded. He tried to come out, saw a guy by his house, got scared, and ran down an open stairwell, where the guy trapped him with a wooden pallet until I got there to rescue him.
Our emotional reunion – when our eyes met in that stairwell – was beyond describing. He immediately started to whimper, and I started crying because I couldn’t believe we found him and had him. I still find myself looking for him, even though he is safe at home. I am so attached to my animals that the emotion for almost losing one and not knowing he was ok was excruciating. I never want to go through it again. I think it was the not knowing and if he was suffering was what was so hard.
I cannot say enough about our community response. According to our Facebook stats, we reached over 2,000,000 people, and our videos and posts had hundreds of thousands of hits as well. It is still hard to imagine. We had followers from just about every single state in the U.S., as well as Canada, Italy and Australia. I still can’t believe its success but without it I truly believe we would not have Mocha home safe today. I actually have had business owners in the community call me and ask me how we were so successful with Facebook, because they have paid professionals to set theirs up and they can’t get the hits and following we had and still do.
I think Mocha’s story is in the videos. It was accurate and in the moment and I think is what helped bring people in, which is why all the people involved in following his page were ultimately the true rescuers. This is why you will always see me refer to them as Rescue Angels.
Our new name, Mocha’s Mission, was created to reflect the new mission of the page, which is to bring other lost pets home to their families, too. We never want another family to go through with what we went through, If possible!
P.S. Yes, Mocha is changed. He won’t leave my side. When he goes outside to potty he watches the door to make sure I’m not leaving. He was always my lap dog, but he cuddles even more and pretty much all the time now. My whole family went through an emotional hell. But with it all said and done, I have learned our community is amazing, and Mocha’s followers are second to none. I owe them all more than I can ever repay.