A Christmas miracle … Betsy the bulldog returns home
Betsy’s return after too long away from home is considered a Christmas miracle by her owner, Leah Rainville.
By AMY LECLAIRE
On Saturday, November 19th, Leah Rainville, a resident of the town of Millbury, and a UMASS medical nurse, filled her dog’s water bowl as she usually does, and went to work.
Later that day she called a friend to check on Betsy, an English bulldog described as a sweet love. Her friend confessed that Betsy was “not acting herself” and Leah, thereafter, advised her to let the dog be.
Hours later, a neighbor, came over to let Betsy outside. This time, the stout, short-legged dog fled like a greyhound from her backyard deck. Off three-year-old Betsy went, down the road, and into the woods of South Oxford. Neighbors watched in disbelief. “I’ve never seen her run that fast,” one later admitted. The bulldog most likely to snuggle up on a human’s lap was on a mission, it seemed. No one would have guessed what was about to happen amid the holiday season of 2022. No one will ever know what passed through the sweet bulldog’s mind during that run-away, but one thing remained constant. Her Dog Mom never lost faith.
Leah reflected recently on the day, and weeks that followed.
“I left work and sobbed the whole way home. I couldn’t sleep and woke up searching for her at the first light of day. It was extremely hard for me to tell my son, Hunter, the news. Betsy was his birthday present back in 2020. He was hysterical. He went right out looking when he heard. We were both a mess. I cried through many shifts at work. This was the first time in fourteen years that I didn’t do Christmas cards. My heart just wasn’t in it.”
Still, the devoted Dog Mom never lost hope. “I kept telling my son she was going to come home. I just knew she would,” she said.
Leah set in motion a search effort that spiraled throughout her neighborhood and reached surrounding towns across the state. Missing Dogs of Massachusetts advised that she put a light on outside and leave Betsy’s things, along with her own clothes, at the front door. Over fifty people went out looking the moment they received word. Where was Betsy hiding?
Speculation arose while the bulldog became the talk of the town. Leah’s daily Facebook posts garnered widespread concern, support, commentary and prayer. “We are praying for Betsy. Stay positive! Let’s bring her home!” The lost bulldog with an endearing pushed-in face and white stripe on her head had won over hearts of a caring community.
Leah was deeply touched by the outreach of so many caring people, many of whom she had never met before. “People I didn’t know offered to help Betsy. The support of the community has been amazing.”
She hiked and hiked. Amongst the quiet of the woods, surrounded by deer and birds, she cried and cried. “Please come home, Betsy.” She prayed.
Long days turned into longer weeks. Search efforts continued to roll forward. Leah sustained her belief that Betsy would come home. She posted daily pleas to help bring her pet home. Her worst fear was becoming a nightmare. “I researched that 80 percent of dogs return after the first week gone.”
After a few weeks, Leah lost hope that Betsy was in the woods, and considered the possibility that, instead, she had been taken. “I started to think that she hopped into someone’s car.” She offered a generous reward for the safe (no questions asked) return of her beloved bulldog. She kept praying.
“I prayed and prayed. My godmother, Aunt Deborah, used to tell me to pray to Saint Anthony when something is lost. I found the prayer card, and couldn’t believe what I saw. There, on top of the card, was Betsy’s registration tag. “Please bring my girl home.” Leah squeezed the card with the dog tag attached and prayed every night.
She searched the Internet to see if, perhaps, someone had taken Betsy and was going to sell her online. Amid her searches and scrolls, her eyes rested on Bailey, a pudgier bulldog whose expression moved Leah. “Something about her just spoke to me. I felt in my heart that she was going to bring Betsy home.”
On December 13th, nearly four weeks following Betsy’s disappearance, Bailey entered Leah’s home. More incredibly, the stars, it seemed, had lined up. Had Betsy sensed her new sibling?
On Wednesday, December 21st, at 2:24 pm, four weeks following that stout bulldog’s peculiar run-away, Leah received a phone call from Alli Reynolds, a neighbor who revealed news that was about to become a Christmas Miracle.
“I have Betsy. She’s in my yard.”
Alli, reportedly, noticed Betsy after her own dog had been barking incessantly. She lured the emaciated dog onto her deck with treats. Although she did not know Leah personally, she had been reaching out to her throughout the search process with kind words and support. “The fact that someone who had been tracking her posts and reaching out to me ended up being the very person to find Betsy was amazing to me. I was at work when she was lost, and then again when she was found. The stars aligned.”
Leah’s dad was the closest in proximity to Betsy and, therefore, the first to reunite with the beloved family pet. She barked at first but, within moments, recognized her grandpa’s distinct scent. Then she accepted his Milkbones and lapped his face. “Time to go home, Girl.”
Neighbors and friends drove to Leah’s home to see Betsy. A friend reported looking down at her phone to see the emblem, Believe, posted on Leah’s Facebook wall, along with the sudden news about Betsy. At that very moment, Josh Groban’s song, Believe, had been blaring out of the radio speaker while she drove. Betsy’s return had become a true Christmas Miracle.
“I sobbed the whole way home from work and just kept calling people. I walked in the door and broke down hysterically. Then I saw how skinny she was. I couldn’t believe she survived,” Leah recalled.
Home veterinarian care began immediately, the findings of which confirmed what seemed the impossible. Amongst the coyote, bear, fisher cat, and cold temperatures, Betsy had survived the South Oxford woods for thirty-three days, evidenced by extreme weight loss, discoloration and particular spots on her paws (to indicate the impression of leaves) along with several cuts on her body. Due to plentiful streams, rivers and dams in the area, Betsy, reportedly, had plenty of water.
A prescription, high protein diet designed to support the gradual return of her original dog food, daily labs, B6 vitamins and weight checks are to name a few measures set in place by Dr. Jocelyn of Happy at Home Vet Care. “I completely trust my vet,” Leah admitted. “She’s the best.” Leah is currently working on adapting Betsy to her former routines in regard to going outside with her electric collar on. “She’s an animal. I still want her to have the freedom she needs.”
A bulldog that survived the woods for thirty-three days has been spending her days snuggling beside her new baby sister, Bailey. “They are two peas in a pod,” Leah said.
Dog Mom Leah Rainville no longer cries herself to sleep. Instead, she nods off each night with a bulldog named Betsy asleep at her chest.
And she continues to believe in miracles.
Write to Amy at [email protected]