A missing loved one made the holidays less festive this year for a family in rural Tiffin. In this case, the absent one was Clarice, a black-and-tan mixed breed dog. Her owner, Barb Siegle, has been searching for her pet since the dog disappeared in late November.
"She had her tags on her, but she lost her tags (license and ID tag) a couple days before she went missing. I assume they're in the yard somewhere, but I can't find them," Siegle said.
Clarice was wearing a blue reflective collar and a white flea collar. Siegle said she had used a marker to write "Clarice Siegle" and a cell phone number inside the collar until she could get another set of tags made.
Ironically, Clarice had come to Siegle as a stray more than a year ago. The dog had found its way into the enclosed porch at the home of Siegle's grandmother. Siegle said she went over and fed the dog. The next day, Siegle's sister went over to find the dog still there.
"She jumped right in her car. We tried for a month or so to find her owner. We filed a 'found dog' report with the dog warden and with the Humane Society. We also put lost-and-found ads in the newspaper, too. Nobody came forth to claim her," Siegle said.
By then, Siegle, her sister and her elderly mother had become attached to the dog and wanted to keep her. They bought a license with the name "Clarice" and adopted her into the family. Because Clarice was a coonhound mix, Siegle thought the dog might have been left behind when she didn't return to her owners at the end of a hunt.
Clarice did not like loud noises, so a gun firing may have frightened her.
"She's a hunting dog, but she's not a hunter," Siegle said.
Clarice suffers from allergies and she has experienced two seizures. Dr. Jamie Purcell at Edenwood Veterinary Clinic, prescribed special food and medication to prevent the seizures. Clarice already had been spayed.
Purcell noted her loving disposition and called her a "golden-hearted dog."
It was dark on Thanksgiving night when the women let Clarice out to go to the bathroom, as they always had done. Siegle said Clarice usually stayed out a few minutes and came back in to settle for the night.
"I checked on her about 15 minutes later, and she was just sniffing around. She didn't want in yet," she said.
Still later, Siegle checked again but didn't see Clarice. At some point, she heard the slam of a car door and Clarice barking. When she walked around the yard without finding the dog, Siegle became alarmed. She got in the car and drove around the area calling her pet's name.
That was the last night she saw Clarice.
When Clarice was lost once before, Siegle had found her in one of the barns on their property. Siegle wonders whether the curious canine pulled a similar stunt, with no one to rescue her, or if someone coaxed her into a car.
"There would be a thousand things I would do differently. Normally, at night, she would be fine just being out there in the yard herself for a few minutes, but I really should have taken her out on a leash or cabled her out," Siegle said.
She contacted the Humane Society and Seneca County Dog Warden's Office to report Clarice's disappearance. Taking advice from both agencies, Siegle took out a classified newspaper ad and prepared a flier with a description and photo of Clarice. Then she took off a week from work to distribute them.
"I've done a 5-mile radius around my house, passing out fliers to my neighbors and I've gone up almost up to Bettsville and down into Wyandot County. I think I passed out well over 1,800 fliers now," Siegle said.
She also distributed fliers at Tiffin's Christmas parade and placed them at stores throughout Tiffin and surrounding communities. Clarice has been posted on the local cable television channel, on Craig's List, Facebook and multiple online lost-and-found sites.
"I contacted all 88 (Ohio) dog wardens and all 88 Humane Societies and I'm working on the rescue shelters now," Siegle added.
Every free moment is used to make more calls or check websites. Siegle discovered online garage sale sites for many Ohio counties, so she posted notices about Clarice on those, as well.
Siegle is offering a reward for Clarice's return.
"She's a mutt. ... but she's valuable to me. she helped me through a lot of hard times. It's been a difficult year for me," Siegle said. "She found me, and I think God put her in my life, so I want to do everything I can possibly do to find her and bring her home."
Siegle set up a Facebook page, "Bring Clarice Home for Christmas" to express her hopes. The search for her dog introduced Siegle to new friends, including another Tiffin woman who is looking for her two Weimaraners. People have been sending messages to Siegle when they learn about any dog that resembles Clarice.
Siegle has tried to assist them, as well.
"I've met a lot of good-hearted people that are trying to help me, that are just every-day people that are on Facebook and they're keeping their eyes on the Humane Society and dog warden sites," she said.
Siegle said her sister helped to contact all the township houses, the county highway department and Ohio Department of Transportation to see if anyone had spotted a dog on the side of the road. There had been no such sightings. Because the gun season for hunters began the first week of December, Clarice could have been shot, but Siegle tries not to think about that possibility.
"I keep looking for her because she's a very friendly dog. She would jump into anybody's car or go up to anybody's house. I think she probably is in somebody's house and either they don't know I'm looking for her, or they just decided to keep her," Siegle said. "Clarice's name means to 'illuminate' and that she does. I have had (many) other dogs before, but none who loved so unconditionally as Clarice. She is a bundle of energy, joy and love."
Through the ordeal, Siegle said Dog Warden Kelly Marker and her assistant, Greg Stockmaster, have been helpful. Siegle is hoping her experiences can serve to educate the public about measures they can take when a dog is lost or found.
Filing a report is important, she said.
"I think a lot of people, when they find a dog, hesitate to take it to the dog warden or to the Humane Society because they're afraid it's going to be euthanized," Siegle said. "But owners like me might be looking for it and, unless it's filed as a 'found dog,' we're not going to be able to find it. Even if they keep the dog for awhile, they can still file a 'found dog' report."
Siegle also has painted a message on the back of her car to advertise her missing pet wherever she goes. There have been many stories about dogs who returned to their owners after weeks, months or even years. Siegle is hoping her story also will end on a happy note.
She had planned to get a microchip for Clarice at some point.
"When I find her, that's the first thing we're going to do get a microchip," Siegle said.