When I adopted my dog, Nola, I was living on the outskirts of one of Maine's rougher urban areas. It was an ideal setting, a horse farm surrounded by 200 acres of unspoiled pasture and woods, with hardly a car passing by throughout the day. My free time was spent alternating between playing guitar and trying to teach Nola to jump over the horse jumps in one of the outdoor riding rings. It was, more or less, an unspoiled post-college existence - until one day when everything changed.

Since we were so far removed from civilization, or so it seemed, I would often just let Nola out unsupervised to go to the bathroom. She never strayed all that far, and there were fields stretching far off into the distance, so it would have been easy to spot her if she had decided to go adventuring. After 5 minutes or so had passed, I'd go to the door, call Nola, and she'd come a-running. It was easier that way, after all - especially as the days got colder and colder.

One day, however, I called her - and there was no response. Nothing. I immediately went outside, looking high and low, and couldn't find her. I covered nearly all of the 200 acres yelling Nola's name, not understanding why she had picked this moment to disappear - and definitely not comprehending why she wasn't responding to my calls - as she had always come...eventually.

But Nola was nowhere to be found, so I quickly shifted my focus to enlisting the aid of those around me. I pulled together my entire savings at the time - which was $150.00 - and posted signs all over town, in all of the neighborhoods bordering our land (and some even further) - looking for information about our missing dog and offering a reward for her return. I placed an ad in the local paper, called the police, called all the shelters - just hoping for some sign that she was ok, and had not ended up as a meal for the coyotes who inhabited the wooded areas of the farm.

After a day or two there were still no leads, and I had spent nearly the entire time trying to find her. My girlfriend at the time was a 3-day eventer (equestrian), and she had an important competition in Pennsylvania - so to make matters worse we had to leave town. It was agonizing for me - but at the same time I had nearly given up hope after nearly 4 days with no sign of Nola. We left for PA, and our roommates (from whom we had adopted Nola) assured us that they would keep us updated should anyone call with information.

As it turned out, someone DID call the day that we left. As I understand it, the call went something like this:

Neil's roommate - "Hello?"

Man's voice - "Hi. I know who has your dog. The pitbull, right?"

Neil's roommate - "Actually she's a lab-beagle mix, even though she looks like a pitbull. So...who has her?"

Man's voice - "I found your pitbull wandering around town, kept her for a few days, and then gave her to a friend of mine. Can I have the reward money?"

Neil's roommate - "Uh, sure - when we get her back! When will that be?"

Man's voice - "Well - I'm not so sure that they're going to want to give her up. I'll call you back."


It was official. Nola had been kidnapped.

It took another day and a half for the dude to call back. We weren't sure that he would, as it seemed pretty obvious, given the thoroughness of my search, that he had probably just stolen Nola off our front lawn, thinking that he had just scored a friendly pitbull puppy to add to his collection of urban status symbols.

However, when he did call back he informed my roommate that his friend didn't want to give "the pitbull" back. So he gave us the address, letting us know that it was in our hands to effect a rescue.

Now I was still in Pennsylvania - but fortunately my roommate was young, brash, and willing to go out on a limb. She ventured into the heart of the city with a police officer in tow, to find the kidnappers' house with loud music blaring and nobody home, except for Nola, who came to the window when she heard her name being called. Her kidnappers had fitted her with a lovely spiked collar, worthy of the baddest pitbull you could imagine.

Just as the police officer was telling my roommate that there was actually nothing he could do (it's apparently quite difficult to prove ownership of a dog without a tattoo or a microchip), one of the neighbors came out, wondering why the police were looking into the windows. That neighbor let it slip that at least one of the tenants in the house worked at a local sandwich shop - and my roommate headed over there immediately on a mission.

Apparently the sandwich shop worker didn't want to play nicely, telling my roommate that there was no way she was getting our dog back. In one of the rare moments where an ability to stretch the truth could pay off, my roommate told her that she could take it up with the Police (capital P), who had already been by her house and knew that they were holding our dog hostage. All of that was true, of course - she just conveniently left out the "and told us they couldn't do anything" part. At the mention of the police, the kidnapper's tone changed, saying something to the effect of "well - I'll have to ask my boyfriend tonight - but keep the cops out of it!"

Remember that these were the days before cell phones, so all of this communication had to happen bit by bit - the pace of things wasn't nearly as instantaneous as it can be now.

That night the kidnappers called.

"You can have your dog back. But we want the 150 bucks."

Ransom gladly paid.

Nola was back in my life, where she has consistently been for 11 years now - with the exception of a few times when she vanished into the woods (that was back before I knew how to be the moose in her life, when she'd actually go looking for real-life mooses in the wood). All of that is a distant memory now - and yet it's pretty incredible to think how different my life could have been had that not turned out quite so well. For one thing - this blog probably wouldn't exist!

But there have been, of course, all of the other special things that have happened over the years, things I've learned about dogs, about myself, about other people, about life - all because this crazy pitbull-lookalike-of-a-dog managed to find her way back to our rural abode. With some help from my impetuous (and loyal) roommate, and my life savings, of course. And, thankfully, the kidnappers' greed, which apparently outweighed their desire for a vicious pit-bull.

Whose mother really is a lab-beagle mix. Father: anybody's guess.