Stella the missing dog reunited with her family
A 2-year-old Great Pyrenees named Stella guarded sheep that strolled among the rolling hills at a family-operated winery outside of Newberg until she disappeared in broad daylight from the place she knew as home into a life that was unknown to her.
It all happened on a rainy day last spring, a day where Stella would have stuck close to the house to stay dry. The Flora family – Scott, Denise and daughter Tasman – have been working hard to put the pieces together ever since.
"Great Pyrenees are designed to be livestock herders. We accommodate sheep in the vineyard and she guards the sheep for us," Scott Flora said. "The sheep know her and love her. When the lambs are born she helps the sheep.
He explained the events of that fateful day and those that followed.
"We've had her for two years and on May 11 she vanished," Scott Flora said. "Denise was home and had gone to a meeting and came back at noon and Stella didn't greet her. It is unusual and when she came back later in the day and we did not see hide or hair of her ..."
The family started to sleuth, "looking for possible puppy sales," Tasman said.
"I looked for puppies on Craigslist. She was due to go into heat about two weeks after she was stolen," she added.
Denise added: "It was just too coincidental, she went missing before noon in the middle of the day. We knew something was wrong."
They called all the shelters, spoke with their neighbors, posted the search on Facebook and looked at all the lost dog sites. Word quickly got around.
"The dispatcher for UPS, (who) covers the entire county, called and said 'I've got every driver looking for her," Denise Flora said. "Yes, a guy at UPS posted a picture for everyone to keep an eye out for her."
For six months the family did not give up searching. They called the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office, who were skeptical.
"We are going to treat it like a missing dog," Scott said sheriff's deputies told him. "It was not a missing dog, it was stolen."
The winery's property is surrounded with a seven-foot-tall deer fence and the roads feature many locked gates. Trying to find an answer as to how the thieves reached the dog was difficult.
"We knew that it wasn't cougars because it was daytime. (And) cougars are night hunters," Denise said.
"I knew that it was not any of our clientele because they would not be the sort that would steal a dog like that, I can guarantee you," Scott said. "What we suspect it is that sometimes we have contract crews come and do pruning. We think it was someone who knew how to access the property that took her."
Then one day, out of the blue, Scott received a phone call from someone at the Carlton Veterinary Clinic:
"I got the phone call at 12:30 in the afternoon on Friday. She said, "Hi, we have your dog Stella here."
He paused and then answered in shock, "Can you say that again?"
She replied, "Um, we have your Pyrenees here, Stella. Can you come and get her?"
"I said, do you understand how long she has been missing?" Scott said.
The vet assistant said, "No, I'm new here."
"I told her that she's been gone for six months," Scott said, which elicited the response "Are you kidding me? Would you like to talk to the man that found her?"
"I told her, yes!" Scott said. "The irony is that she was taken to the vet she had seen since she was a puppy."
Stella was found dodging traffic by Mike Long at the four corners area near Carlton.
"He's an animal lover. He stopped, called her over and she hopped right into his car," Scott said. "He took her home. He fed her, including some prime rib. He said that she went to sleep and in the morning when she woke up he took her down to Carlton vet to see if she had a chip. By the time that we got there, the vet was starting to check her out."
When Stella came home she was tired, tattered and ridden with fleas. Her normally thick coat of hair was thin from malnutrition from a bad diet while nursing puppies.
"When Stella returned she was tired and slept for days (with) only the energy to get up to grab of few bites of food, then return to her deep restoring sleep," Denise said. "She had all these big sores all over her. She had fleas and she had tape worms -- she was totally neglected. She was anemic."
The family is still trying to determine how the thieves snatched the canine.
"We want to track down how this happened," Denise said, adding that when the dog was found "she had a collar on but it was a different one."
The collar had a link from a metal chain attached to it that is suspected to have been used to keep her tied down.
"She was not recognizable, she lost 20 pounds. We gave her a pill that kills the fleas in four hours, then we gave her a bath," she said.
The Flora's are happy to have their companion back home as they nurse her back to health. They are working with the sheriff's office to investigate the crime and track down who stole Stella, who came home just in time for Christmas.
"We just knew that she was still out there," Scott said.