Walter, golden retriever

Walter, a golden retriever, Labrador and Bernese mountain dog mix, has been returned to his owner. 

Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for a New Hampshire woman, who lost her dog about a year earlier in Arnold.

Kate Olson’s nearly yearlong quest to find her dog ended Nov. 13 in a field near Grant’s Trail close to I-55 and Hoffmeister Avenue in Lemay.

Olson lost her dog Walter, a golden retriever, Labrador and Bernese mountain dog mix, on Nov. 26, 2019, while visiting her boyfriend’s family in Arnold.

Thirteen days shy of the one-year anniversary when Walter slipped out of his collar while on a walk, Olson and members of a group called Lost Paws Trapping of Belleville, Ill., captured the dog.

“I don’t think it still has clicked,” said Olson, 32, of Somersworth, N.H. “I wake up like it’s a dream, but he is actually here. It is a surreal feeling, and I’m happy beyond words.”

Olson said Walter, who is now 4, is thinner, and when he was trapped, he was covered in fleas, but that didn’t stop her from bonding with her dog at the first opportunity.

“He was so excited. He was crying, jumping on me, licking me,” she said. “I didn’t even care about the fleas at that point. He just wanted to be held and loved again.”

Olson said K-9 Grooming, 6060 Telegraph Road, in Oakville, provided three flea baths and shampooing for free on Nov. 15.

The next day Olson took Walter to an area veterinarian, and she said Walter does not appear to have any serious medical issues. “He got his shots and was put on medication to kill anything he might have gotten from eating and drinking in the woods,” she said.

Olson said she planned on Nov. 18 to drive with Walter to Cleveland, where she would meet her boyfriend, Curtis Chastain, and the three would complete the rest of the 1,274-mile journey to New Hampshire together. “Walter is a big fan of Curtis,” said Olson, who also owns a 6-year-old golden retriever named Fox. “He is the only man (Walter) has never been afraid of. He knows who daddy is. We are excited to see his reaction.”

Losing Walter

While visiting members of Chastain’s family in a subdivision off Tenbrook Road in Arnold, one of the men in the house took Walter for a walk. Unfortunately, Walter is afraid of most men, and he slipped out of his collar and ran away near Tenbrook Road and Arnold Tenbrook Road, Olson said.

“He is a really nervous dog,” she said. “I have never met such a skittish dog before. He would hear the wind, shake and run away. We have no idea why. He was the runt of his litter, and the breeder was a tall, big man. Maybe that had something to do with it, but he was never abused.”

Olson said she and Chastain stayed in Arnold an extra two weeks after Thanksgiving last year to search for Walter.

The dog was seen a few times near the Anheuser-Busch InBev Metal Container Corp. plant, 42 Tenbrook Industrial Park, Olson said. During the past year, Olson discovered Lost Paw Trapping, a nonprofit group that printed and posted flyers to help with the search for Walter.

“One of the ladies found a post (I made about losing Walter on Facebook) and contacted me,” Olson said. “She said, ‘I have a live-feed camera.’ The first time I met her was last year, and the first time I met her, she handed a complete stranger this $500 camera to put out in the woods to try to find my dog. It could have gotten stolen, or I could have been a creep, but they trusted me. I also trusted them. It was worth it because they helped. “

Olson said she returned to Arnold twice after December 2019 to look for Walter. But after her last trip to the area in March, she couldn’t travel as much because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plus, she said there were no more sightings of Walter in the area. “We didn’t have any leads for nine to 10 months,” Olson said. “We were starting to get scared.”

Olson said she is an esthetician, a person who specializes in skincare, at a spa in New Hampshire. She said her clients gave her larger tips than normal to help cover the cost of her travels to Missouri, and a GoFundMe account raised $2,000 to help with the travel costs.

“I have some amazing clients,” Olson said. “They knew the story, and when they knew I was going out, my tips would be 300 or 400 percent. I was like, ‘This is crazy, you guys.’ I was so grateful for everyone’s help.”

Finding Walter

On Nov. 10, Olson said someone took a photo in Lemay of a dog that looked like Walter. “It was really blurry because they couldn’t get close to the dog,” Olson said. “It got to me through the power of the internet, and I was like that really looks like it could be Walter.”

Members of Lost Paws Trapping contacted John Flagenbach, the owner of Perma Jack, a foundation repair business at 4173 Hoffmeister Ave. near where the photo was taken, and he allowed the group to set up a camera at his business, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Olson said the camera was set up on Nov. 11, and Walter was spotted on Nov. 12.

The following day she flew from New Hampshire to St. Louis, and about three hours after she landed, Walter was caught in the Missy Trap – a cage baited with food with a door that closes after a light beam is interrupted when an animal enters it.

“He was filthy,” Olson said. “He was disgusting. He smelt to high heaven.

“I walked up slowly and started talking to him. It took a couple of minutes and after that, I put my hand in and he gave me his paw. He is just the same dog.”

Olson said she had started to give up hope of reuniting with Walter.

“I started to convince myself he was with someone who was taking care of him,” Olson said. “I didn’t want to believe he was out on his own. I kept saying, ‘I wish he was on his own because I think he could survive.’ If any dog could survive, it is Walter. He has a really strong flight or fight mechanism. I think that kept him alive.

“Now we are reunited, and it feels so good, just like the song (goes).”