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Wranglers help find lost dog

Cowboys on horseback search canyons for frightened pet

Posted: July 12, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Patches bounces a ball in his backyard after being lost in the hills of Canyon Country for three days. He was frightened by fireworks on Fourth of July weekend and escaping from his backyard.

 
Thanks to the kindness of some cowboys, a pooch who’s terrified of fireworks is back home in Fair Oaks Ranch today after a harrowing few days in the wild.

It seems Patches, a mixed-breed canine whose owner calls him her “miracle dog,” just might have nine lives.

Patches’ ordeal began last Monday night, when he ran away because neighbors were shooting off illegal fireworks, said Lori Madrigal, the dog’s owner.

“He’s really scared of the firecrackers,” said Madrigal, a makeup artist for the TV show “Heroes.”

She went hunting for him immediately. Losing Patches was just not an option.

“As a single person with no children, they become your family,” Madrigal said of her two dogs. “You come home every night and you see these two little faces are in the window watching you and they can’t wait till you come in the door.”

Madrigal calls Patches her “miracle dog.” About seven years ago, when he was just a puppy, he wandered into her makeup trailer with a tumor the size of a cantaloupe on his head.

Madrigal took him to the vet to have the tumor removed, and Patches became “my little buddy ever since,” she said.

Her search last Monday night turned up Patches, but the dog ran from her, still terrified.

So Madrigal called in the troops.

Firefighters from the local fire station, friend Linda Vallejo and various community members were anxious to help.

But Madrigal recognized what she needed was a horse so she could scour the hills behind Fair Oaks Ranch.

Or maybe a horseman.

Long-time movie industry friend Jack Lilley — a character actor and Canyon Country-based livestock wrangler for the movie and television industry — referred her to a couple of friends.

By Tuesday afternoon, Madrigal had three mounted wranglers in her neighborhood, packed up and ready to scour the mountains for her pup.

“I got three dogs of my own and nine horses. I know how it is to lose a dog, especially if it’s a good friend,” said Howard Long, who traveled from Moorpark to join the search.

Long and friend Heidi Gaines, along with Steve Cummings of Agua Dulce, spent about five hours in the canyons Tuesday amongst rattlesnakes and coyotes, hollering for Patches and prepared to lure him in with rope and water.

“On my way back down (the canyon), I spotted him underneath a tree,” Long said. “He was sitting there, and he looked right up at me, and I said ‘Here, Patches.’”

But the dog “took off,” Long said.

As the wranglers had to turn in for the night, Madrigal continued to worry.

“I was an emotional wreck,” she said. “You sit there and think, what is he thinking all curled up? How scared is he?”

Early Wednesday the group went at it again with an additional helper, Bill Kinkade.

As it turned out, Patches was snagged Wednesday morning by a jogger as the pooch ran down a canyon near Lowe’s.

“I was so happy to see the look on (Madrigal’s) face,” Long said. “(Patches) was not too beat up, but his paws were really beat up from running in those hills. He looked so happy to be in that car with (his owner).”

Long said he believes the search helped lure Patches out.

“If you’re missin’ and nobody’s hollering for you, you’re just gonna stay missin’,” he said.

For the “Heroes” makeup artist, the real heroes were the cowboys.

“When these boys came out it was like a godsend,” Madrigal said. “Their heart was so into it.’”

Cummings said the mission comes with the title.

“It’s what we do — we’re cowboys,” he said. “We love animals. We make a living off of them, so it’s only right we give back to them a little bit.”

As for Patches, he came home a bit dehydrated but quickly recovered.

And now Madrigal has another survival tale to add to her “miracle dog’s” life history.

mgasca@the-signal.com

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