'I was crying, I was excited, I was just so grateful'
Last week was one of the most heart-wrenching and heartwarming weeks of Lisa Lieberman and Craig Ackerson's lives.
The Lake Oswego couple spent several days and nights searching for their dog Lucy, who escaped from the family vehicle Dec. 5 in the parking lot of Trader Joe's on Bangy Road.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 12, though — and with the help of worried community members, friends and an animal communicator from Montreal — Lieberman and Ackerson were reunited with their beloved dachshund-Yorkie mix.
"People were out there looking for Lucy five to six hours a day," Lieberman says, "and we had never met them."
For Lieberman, the crux of this remarkable tale isn't necessarily Lucy's return to her loving home, but the massive wave of support she, husband Craig and son Jordan received throughout their search for Lucy.
Hundreds of messages carrying words of encouragement, advice and updates on Lucy's whereabouts were posted to Nextdoor, a social networking website where neighbors share news and information. Lieberman and Ackerson are long-time Lake Oswego residents, but after their recent scare with Lucy, they say they saw a side of the community they believe truly represents the town's values.
"This situation brought out the best in people. I can't tell you how many powerful voicemails and text messages I've received," Lieberman says. "The gratitude I felt and the support everyone gave me raised me up to keep going."
Lieberman is a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people live with disability. Her career is a bit of an homage to her personal life, because her husband lives with an advanced form of multiple sclerosis. Lucy serves not only as another member of the family, but also as Ackerson's companion dog.
Lieberman says that at first, it was hard to let people help in their search for Lucy, but a conversation with a friend pointed out that she might need to take the advice she often gives to her own patients.
"(This friend) really nailed me, big time," she says. "I'm constantly telling (patients) to ask for help and allow themselves to receive it. To give people a gift by inviting them into your circle and opening up to them."
Lieberman and her family decided to allow themselves to be vulnerable and accept help, and from that point on, a huge groundswell of support rushed in to help locate Lucy.
Several posts on Nextdoor and text messages Lieberman received described sightings of the dog — whose distinct green bandana allowed the family to confirm without a doubt it was her — in the Lake Forest neighborhood. Trail cameras were set up in the area of her last sighting, humane traps were placed in several locations and search parties were formed.
Following the advice of several Nextdoor posts, Lieberman decided to ask K9 search and rescue specialist Harry Oakes of Longview, Wash., for help. But an initial search for Lucy by Oakes and a team of dogs was unsuccessful on the afternoon of Dec. 9.
According to Lieberman, Oakes' initial search lasted about 45 minutes, ending at Riccardo's Ristorante on Boone's Ferry Road, about a mile and a half from the spot where Lucy first went missing. According to Lieberman, Oakes claimed Lucy's scent trail went cold, and that the dog was most likely picked up by a stranger.
But just as Lieberman and Ackerson were beginning to lose hope — and just two hours after Oakes' search ended — another Nextdoor user posted that they had seen Lucy near the intersection of Seville Road and Mellon Avenue in the Lake Forest neighborhood.
Lieberman also received encouraging news from Janet Goldman-Merrill, an animal communicator whose name was passed to Lieberman from local animal communicator Bea Lydecker. She also worked with Montreal-based psychic Robert Lindblad, who claims to have solved more than 52,000 missing-child cases since he began pro-bono work in 1991.
"They told me that Lucy was still close by, that she was scared and confused because of all the people searching for her, but they couldn't see exactly where she was. They said it was too loud, which makes sense because she was right above the freeway," Lieberman says.
While many might discount the abilities of animal communicators and psychics, Lieberman's belief in their work was unwavering. In fact, she directly credits both Goldman-Merrill and Lindblad's efforts in helping locate Lucy.
After another day of fruitless searches, Lieberman called Lindblad again on Dec. 11 to see if he might have better luck pinpointing Lucy's location. The psychic told Lieberman that Lucy was still close by, and he directed her to the area near Washington Court and Roosevelt Avenue. But it was getting dark and cold, so Lieberman decided to return home and resume the search in the morning.
And then, at around 2 a.m. on Dec. 12, Lieberman received a phone call from a resident in the Lake Forest neighborhood who said they had once again spotted Lucy, green bandana and all. Lieberman and Ackerson hopped in their vehicle and headed out to see if they could locate their dog.
With Lindblad on the phone directing their every move and a close friend also searching, Lieberman was able to find Lucy sitting in the middle of the road on Washington Court. The dog ran away a couple of times before finally approaching Lieberman and Ackerson's van and jumping in.
"I was crying, I was excited, I was just so grateful," Lieberman says.
With Lucy safe at home and back to her normal self, Lieberman and her family are expressing their tremendous gratitude not just to those who physically helped search, but to everyone who voiced support in their time of crisis.
"With everything going on right now and how easy it is to be jaded, it's nice to know there are so many good people out there," she says.
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