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Vergas family reunited with dog after four-month absence

Sophie, after her return to the Gjerde home and a haircut. SUBMITTED PHOTO1 / 2
Sophie giving some love to three-year-old Colter Gjerde, whom his mother Erin says missed the dog very much. Surprisingly, her fur wasn’t matted despite spending four months in the wild, but she was covered in wood ticks. SUBMITTED PHOTO2 / 2

A Vergas family is feeling complete again after being reunited with Sophie, their dog, who had been missing for several months.

The nine-year-old schnauzer-poodle cross escaped from the kennel where she was boarded on Feb. 26 and survived with some help from the owners of The Pickle Factory, until being caught in a live trap June 26.

Erin Gjerde and her husband, Joe, had taken their two children, Lauren, 5, and Colter, 3, to Arrowwood for a long weekend of fun, and boarded Sophie at a nearby kennel. While out for a walk, she managed to slip away and disappeared, Gjerde said.

“The kennel is just a mile from our house,” Gjerde said upon learning of the dog’s disappearance. “I figured she would make her way home.” She asked a friend to open the garage door so the pooch could get inside and expected to see Sophie when she returned home.

But the dog wasn’t there, so Gjerde posted Sophie’s picture on Facebook, hung flyers around, and searched for the dog every day after work. When a friend said she had seen the dog on Highway 41, Gjerde drove up and down the road calling for her, with no luck.

“I figured she was either gone-gone, or someone had caught her and just kept her,” Gjerde said.

While her daughter didn’t seem overly concerned about the missing dog, Gjerde’s son asked about Sophie every day, she said.

In fact, he was so upset the loss, that the family began looking at puppies to replace Sophie. But something told Gjerde to wait.

“I’m glad we didn’t buy one,” she said.

A couple weeks later, while in Fargo, she received a message that a dog matching Sophie’s description had been found.

Ashley Schmitz with The Marshmallow Foundation, a rescue and adoption shelter in Detroit Lakes, alerted Gjerde about the dog. She knew in her heart that Sophie had been found.

“I looked at my husband and said ‘they found Sophie,” she recalled. The family hurried home from Fargo and headed to The Pickle Factory in rural Vergas to retrieve their family pet.

Terry and Sharon Baumgart, owners of The Pickle Factory, about 12 miles away from the Gjerde’s home, had been feeding a little dog for about two months, hoping to gain its trust and find its owner, but the skittish pooch had evaded all their attempts and took up residence in the Baumgart’s garden.

“The dog just appeared here and hung around,” Terry Baumgart said. “We couldn’t get close to it.”

They decided to started to feed her, thinking she was the neighbor’s dog.

“What are you going to do,” Baumgart said.

Sharon eventually called the Marshmallow Foundation for help, who Facebooked Gjerde about the dog at The Pickle Factory.

When Gjerde showed up, the dog was nowhere to be found, so the Baumgarts suggested she return the next morning which is when Sophie usually appeared. A live trap was set and the dog was caught.

Gjerde didn’t hesitate to return for the trapped dog she was sure was Sophie.

“When I got out of the car, she was wagging her tail and doing her excited little yip,” Gjerde said.

Despite being on her own for several months, the little dog was none the worse for wear, she said.

“I was amazed she didn’t have any frostbite, or signs of large animal attacks on her,” Gjerde said. “She looked the same as when we dropped her off at the kennel. I have no idea what she did for those first two months. If dogs could only talk…”

Though she did need to be groomed, Gjerde hesitated to traumatize Sophie with a clipping so soon after her return home. However, the dog was covered in ticks so after calling her friend at Precious Cause Pet Grooming, Sophie got a haircut even though it was a Sunday.

Sophie has settled into being home with little evidence of her time in the wild, though Gjerde said she is more clingy.

“People keep asking me if I’m afraid she’ll run away again,” she said, “but Sophie didn’t run away from us. I tend to trip over her more, that’s how close she stays. She’s not going to let us out of her sight.”

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