This Dog's Tale Ends Happily in Waldorf

Catherine Waltersdorff sits with her beagle, Snowflake, who recently was found after wandering around Waldorf for the past 13 months.
Catherine Waltersdorff sits with her beagle, Snowflake, who recently was found after wandering around Waldorf for the past 13 months. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
By Michael Tunison
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 3, 2006

Catherine Waltersdorff cared about her dog before it was even hers. She remembers seeing it tied up two years ago in a yard along Route 5 outside of Waldorf.

The 2-year-old beagle was not being mistreated, she said, but the dog did not look to her as if it was getting all the attention it could have in a loving home.

One day, she stopped at the owner's house and asked if she could have the dog. The owner agreed, and Waltersdorff took the beagle, Snowflake, and one of her puppies home.

So Waltersdorff was understandably devastated when Snowflake went missing a year later. On June 26, 2005, Waltersdorff was returning home to Waldorf from her nephew's wedding in Florida. While en route, she called her son, who was caring for the dog, and told him to put Snowflake outside in the back yard for the night. When she arrived home several hours later, Snowflake was gone. Waltersdorff presumed the dog had jumped the fence.

Waltersdorff put fliers up in her own and adjoining neighborhoods. She visited the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville every week.

"I heard they put dogs down on Fridays, so I went every Thursday. I got to the point where I started thinking, 'Wherever she is, I hope she got a good home and people to take care of her,' " Waltersdorff said.

Rose Pace, a technician at the shelter, got to know Waltersdorff. "She'd come in every week, she'd just be in tears. She was heartbroken," Pace said. After seeing how distraught the woman was, Pace put a notice on Snowflake's file to make sure that it was not removed.

Waltersdorff said she never lost hope that she would find Snowflake, but after a year she was beginning to space her visits to the shelter. She hadn't been there in six weeks when she received a call from Pace on July 13 saying a dog had been picked up that closely resembled Snowflake.

The dog had been caught in a trap behind the Lowe's store in Waldorf, a few miles from the Waltersdorff home and on the other side of Route 301. Animal control officers had seen the dog a few times in the area but suspected that it was feral and were waiting until they could trap it.

Waltersdorff went anxiously to the shelter with her 14-year-old daughter, Christin. She asked her daughter to look at the dog first. Christin gave the thumbs-up, and Waltersdorff knew that her 13-month search was finally over.

"When I got there, [Snowflake] came right up to the screen. She looked relieved, like a switch was flipped," she recalled.

Since then, Waltersdorff said Snowflake has been her usual pleasant self -- only about 10 pounds thinner. Waltersdorff and animal control officials speculate that someone had been caring for the dog for it to survive that long and to have crossed Crain Highway. Possibly the dog got away from that person, too.

Snowflake has been on medication since returning because of possible exposure to Lyme disease from the ticks found on her.

Officials at the animal shelter stressed the importance of putting identifying microchips in pets in case they go missing. "Most of the animals in here don't have microchips," said Pace. "They never find their way home, and it's sad."

Waltersdorff is now persuaded to use such identification for her pets. "Snowflake's collar had fallen off, and it didn't have a contact for me," she said. "I'm definitely gonna do it."

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