To Susan Peters, the sounds outside her door were pure music. Her service dog, Savannah, had come home.
“She burst into the room, wagging her tail and crying for joy,” Peters said.
Savannah had been missing since Friday afternoon and turned up at home at about 10:45 p.m. Sunday. The entire community had been alerted. Search groups were formed, the media and police were marshaled and fliers were printed. But in the end, Peters said, Savannah simply found her own way back, often dodging the very people trying to help her.
The red and brown Australian shepherd was checked Monday afternoon and Peters said Savannah will be fine.
“The vet said she’s going to be OK,” Peters said. “All four paws are bloody and she’s limping around, but she’s eating well and is acting like her normal self.”
The Okemos woman, who is paralyzed from the waist down, said she was on her way to Panera Bread at Central Park Drive and Grand River Avenue around 1:30 Friday afternoon. At that moment, her wheelchair hit a bump at a crosswalk and she fell out.
Help came quickly and Peters will be OK. She was having both of her knees looked at today.
However, Savannah, who had been guiding her, was startled and ran off “like a bolt” — leash and all.
Kristen Furseth, a friend, neighbor and animal lover, organized the search. She said Savannah wandered north and was spotted near the Kohl’s store later in the day. The dog was seen around 9 p.m. near the Meridian Historical Village, she said.
Twenty-four hours later, Savannah was seen at Nancy Moore Park, near Okemos Road. The rescue became more focused.
“Tons of people from the area helped,” Furseth said, adding that Peters herself took part in the search as best she could.
Savannah was still in the park, around the soccer field, at 8 p.m. Sunday. Police were tracking the dog when it started making its way home, Furseth said.
So what made the dog so elusive? Peters and Furseth speculate it was the search itself. Some people would stop their cars, only to back up the traffic behind them, upsetting the animal even more. Savannah simply kept retreating into the woods, Furseth said.
“After a while they go into survival mode,” she said. “They become afraid of people, and it’s a skittish dog.”
In Peters’ words, Savannah “laid low.”
Peters said she and Savannah spend a lot of time outside and credits the dog with knowing the way back to her home in the Forest Hills subdivision.
“She’s been my service dog for the last three years,” she said. “She knows her routes.”
Furseth was full of praise for the police and all others who took part in the search. So was Peters.
“There was a lot of joy last night in this home, thanks to the effort of a lot of people, Peters said. “It’s amazing when everyone works together.”