Haegar home again after days in desert near Dolan
Doug Massena poses with his dogs, Haegar, left, and Whirl. Haegar survived nine days on the loose in the Dolan Springs area earlier this month.
Dog ran free after travelers stopped for repairs
2/17/2013 6:01:00 AM
Over the span of nine days, Doug Massena searched for his dog, Haegar, who had fled into the desert surrounding Dolan Springs.
And Haegar didn't stop running until he was good and ready.
On Jan. 30, the half-Irish wolfhound and half-giant schnauzer ran off in this tiny outpost between Las Vegas and Kingman after the Massena's motor home began running poorly.
The day before, Massena and his wife, Bianca, were traveling to a conference in Tucson when they decided to leave U.S. 93 and drive into Dolan Springs.
"We didn't want to be left on the highway with a broken down motor home," said Massena, from Las Vegas. "We thought we might find someone to help us."
They ran into Rex, a sometime mechanic and the associate pastor at Mt. Tipton Community Church.
Rex agreed to work on the motor home and the two men drove into Kingman to buy parts. The repairs were complex and time-consuming, said Massena.
The next day, Massena let out the couple's two dogs, Haegar and Whirl, a female shepherd mix.
"It was about 6 p.m., and it was getting dark," said Massena. "I was talking to Rex for a moment and when I looked back the dogs were gone into the wide open desert.
"I didn't even know which direction they were headed."
Whirl soon came back, but Haegar - about three feet tall and more than 100 pounds - had disappeared.
"It got dark, pitch black in Dolan Springs where there aren't any streetlights," said a guilt-ridden Massena. "My heart was just sinking."
Haegar had been favoring his left front paw and the Massenas had planned to take him to the veterinarian when they returned from their trip.
"I was afraid he couldn't hunt. That night I woke up every hour and looked outside."
The next day, with the motor home repaired, the couple canceled their trip in order to keep looking for Haegar.
Bianca returned to Las Vegas with a friend.
By Thursday, Haegar had been missing for two days. Massena and Rex walked and drove miles into the desert. They found prints they thought were Haegar's and they were relieved to see water standing in potholes.
"I knew he might survive," said Massena.
Still, he had his doubts.
"Your imagination can run wild when your dog is missing," he said. "Everything I could think of I did, and then some."
That day, Bianca and a family friend returned to Dolan Springs armed with flyers that featured a photo of Haegar and the promise of a big reward.
They talked to Lee McWilliams of the Dolan Springs Chamber of Commerce, who handed out flyers to bingo players.
The congregation of the Mt. Tipton Community Church prayed, and the people of Dolan Springs, strangers to Doug and Bianca Massena, scoured the area in search of Haegar.
"The people in Dolan Springs were so concerned," said Massena. "They were all so willing to go out of their way for us."
Several callers reported sightings. Early on, Massena said he was encouraged by the calls, but hope turned to dejection as the false leads piled up.
Over the next week, Massena abruptly left his job five times and drove the 90 minutes out to Dolan Springs following a purported sighting. By Saturday, Massena said he was a nervous wreck.
Sunday passed with another false sighting. Later, after hours spent searching, Massena got a call. The dog spotted earlier was not Haegar.
A break came on Monday when a caller saw Haegar out by the highway. Massena spotted his dog, but the elation he felt soon turned to despair.
"He would not come to me," said Massena. "By this time he was into protecting himself mode. The wind was blowing away from him and he couldn't smell me, and he couldn't hear me. He was scared. Every time I got within 200 feet he'd run away. It was so frustrating."
Massena said he called his wife and she told him to sing to the dog.
"I'm thinking, 'What am I going to sing,'" recounted Massena. "That's when I started singing, "Sing a Song."
Bellowing out the lyrics to the Carpenters' old hit didn't help.
"The thing is," said Massena. "Haegar doesn't like my singing. He ran even faster."
Massena tried throwing a Frisbee and still Haegar ran like the wind.
And then, after nine days on the loose, Haegar surrendered.
"He just turned himself in," said Massena. "This guy opened his front door and Haegar was sitting there.
"He thought he was the dog on the flyer, but he wasn't sure. Boy, was he glad to see us."
Haegar was none the worse for wear, said Massena, who guesses his dog might have lost 10 pounds in the ordeal.
"He looked good. He was pretty clean and he wasn't injured. He was still favoring that leg, though."
Massena said the people of Dolan Springs are among the finest he's ever met.
"So many people got involved," he said. "It was really neat. Lee McWilliams was wonderful and Carl Bingaman (the man to whom Haegar surrendered) is in my debt."
A week after being reunited with his family, Haegar is back to his old self, with one small difference in his behavior.
"He won't get out of the car now," said Massena. "When we stop for a break he gets out for a second and then jumps right back in."