Little dog lost and found: Daisy the Chihuahua wanders for two weeks

Gazette photo by Joe Winter
Shelly Johnstone of North Hudson, Wis., holds Daisy the Chihuahua, who is back home after being lost for two weeks before she was found near Houlton, Wis., hungry, dehydrated and covered in ticks.


HOULTON, Wis. — A tiny long-haired Chihuahua named Daisy, who is a quiet and shy inside dog, doesn’t seem a good candidate for going missing for two weeks without a ready source of food and water, then later being seen dodging highway traffic by its rescuers.

Daisy, the pet of Edwin and Shelly Johnstone had never bolted for the woods before, the couple said, but when a glitch in the latch of the front door left it was open briefly, Daisy, who wears an invisible fence collar, made a run for it.

The dog is smaller than a house cat and a lot of its bulk is in its big ears, was badly in need of food and dehydrated when located, Shelly Johnstone said. It still requires steroid treatment for dozens of tick bites, but should eventually be OK.

The prized pooch went missing from North Hudson, Wis. for 15 days before it was found in April two miles north of Houlton, across the St. Croix River from Stillwater, which meant it had trekked about nine miles.

It had last been seen a few blocks from home in the Freedom Value Center parking lot, an area that was combed by volunteers for days. They were enticed by the love of animals and the $100 reward that was offered by the family, but few thought to look as far north as Houlton.

The ones who did find Daisy, described by everyone as being adorable, were actually given a $200 reward because they got so scratched by brush rescuing her.

Joan Heezen of North Hudson said that a few days before, she saw a big sign asking for help in Glen Oaks Park, about two blocks from the dog’s home on Fourth Street, and decided to do whatever she could.

“The sign was hanging on a big tree, and about the time I saw it, the family pulled up (in a car) and started talking to me,” Heezen said.

“I put flyers up everywhere, at least 75 of them,” Shelly Johnstone said.

The sites included the North Hudson Police Department, and its officers were very helpful and even kept an eye out for Daisy as they patrolled. The family didn’t know it right away, but a friend even put an advertisement in local newspapers on their behalf.

The people who found Daisy saw her running in and out of the occasionally heavy traffic on Wisconsin Highway 35/64 — she was having difficulty choosing a lane — and quickly parked their vehicle to try to help, he said.

Two of them ended up chasing the scared dog for about 20 minutes through a mile of thick woods. One gave up halfway through the quest, and the other obtained small cuts across his stomach from the brush, Shelly Johnstone said. “They thought about keeping her, but they live in an apartment, so that wasn’t something they could do,” she added.

The Houlton family hadn’t seen the flyers and found the Johnstone’s address with the help of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department, which had become accustomed to the signs spread for blocks around Daisy’s neighborhood, Shelly Johnstone said.

“This is a miracle,” she added. “I can’t thank them enough. After two weeks, I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever seeing her again.”

But as of the next day, Daisy the dog was no longer on the lam.

Just north of the dog’s renewed home are woods, and after that it traipsed through large wooded lots and a few farm fields — some of them areas well populated with coyotes, occasionally bears and other potentially dangerous creatures. Considering the limited ability of a dog that small to hunt, volunteer searchers marveled at how it could go so long without much food — or more importantly water.

The dog did accumulate a large number of ticks — those who found her removed 30 right away — and there were many tick ites on her head and shoulders. Daisy is in the process of taking a month’s worth of antibiotics to ward off five possible diseases that ticks can transmit.

A North Hudson veteranarian, Dr. Eric Hawksford, did X-rays and blood work and found that Daisy did contract one of those, for which she is still being treated, as well as having anemia.

Daisy was taken to the Hudson Pet Hospital by her owners and on a first visit seemed to be quite well, but three days later was having trouble breathing and fatigue, Hawksford said. Since then she’s improved and is expected to make a full recovery.

“Daisy is doing pretty doggone good considering what happened to her,” Hawksford said.

“She’s gained a lot of weight and is doing well. She was so skinny,” Shelly Johnstone said, adding that Daisy is still on steroid medications and should be able to go off of them later in the month.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed,” she said.

Then in turn, Daisy will drop some of that added weight and get back to normal, Shelly Johnstone added.

Now back home, Daisy’s life is still prone to occasional drama. She and another female Chihuahua are living upstairs, to avoid encounters with a larger male dog being kept mostly tethered on the front porch, she said. The white dog with black spots belongs to some relatives who are temporarily staying with the Johnstones.

“They are big dogs trapped in little dogs’ bodies,” Edwin Johnstone said of Daisy and her more dominant twin, Dixie, who alternately bark up a storm, then scurry under the couch when company arrives.