By Robb Murray
The Free Press
NORTH MANKATO —
Holding a handful of fliers in her hand, she wondered if Cocoa, her 2-year-old sheltie, would ever find her way home.
But she hung that flier, positioning it among those pleading for help finding missing beagles and calico cats. In fact, she and her husband made 200 fliers and hung every one of them up on telephone poles and tree trunks and walked the streets of lower North Mankato handing them out door to door.
Cocoa went missing April 25. She was last seen near the intersection of Belgrade Avenue and Range Street. She’s shy and timid. The flier cautioned people to not chase Cocoa or call out her name. As with other lost-pet fliers, this one gave a phone number to call in case anyone saw her.
This one may have had tears. But they were the other kind. Because this story has a happy ending. Cocoa made her way home, all right. And in the process, her owner discovered something about her community she might not have discovered were she not thrown into adversity.
Bernardy called Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, a group that finds homes for adoptable shelties. They gave her advice on how to go about finding Cocoa. They also gave her hope. A sheltie missing in the Twin Cities once was found after 96 days. They also sought help from Lost Dogs Minnesota, a group that aids in the search for lost pets. They helped the Bernardys create a flier and put them in touch with a liaison in Le Center who helped their search.
While Rick has several children from a previous marriage, Gwen does not. And she freely admits that her dogs fill that place in her life.
Even though Cocoa had only been with the family for a year, she’d made quite an impression.
From 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., they went door to door and rode their bikes around the neighborhood, calling her name, scouring every corner of every street in the neighborhood. In the process, the people of their community took notice, and took interest.
“I was very surprised,” Bernardy said. “Pretty much all of lower North was helping us.”
For people who love pets ð people who consider their dog or cat or gerbil part of the family and not just an amusement ð this can be a desperate time.
Then came Sunday.
She was spotted in one area, and the Bernardys got in their car and raced over there. But when they arrived, she’d moved on. Then they got another call, and again, they raced over. Again, Cocoa had moved on. This happened several times, and each time Cocoa eluded them. She’d been spotted in Spring Lake Park, up on Belvista Drive, and way up the hill on Lee Boulevard.
They set up the live trap at a spot where Cocoa had been spotted chasing deer. And when they got in the car after that, their phone rang. It was the North Mankato police: Cocoa had been found, and they’d be returning her shortly.
“We thought she’d be happy to see us. But she just kind of looked at us,” Bernardy said. “We were happy to see her, of course. I was very relieved and so exhausted. I wouldn’t let her out of my sight.”
“I’m not one to go out and introduce myself,” she said. “But this has kind of changed me. É We have a good community.”
Written across the flier were the words, “Found safe.”