Great Dane, lost since December, found alive

Search for missing dog galvanized Felida neighborhood

By Erik Robinson, Columbian staff writer

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A wayward Great Dane, missing for 16 days, was discovered Friday injured and emaciated in a ravine near Felida Park.

The big pooch was recovering in a downtown Portland animal emergency hospital on Saturday.

“His will to survive and the fact that he’s still alive, nobody can figure it out,” said Gary Walters, who was keeping the dog when he bolted. “He lost a third of his body weight, at least.”

The saga began the evening of Dec. 29.

Walters was dog-sitting Titan for his sister when he let the dog into the front yard for a potty break. Finished with his business, Titan was waiting to come back into the house when he spooked just as a car passed by. Walters said the car resembled the one his sister drives, and Titan was last seen galloping off in chase.

Walters and his wife, Amanda Giese, organized an intensive neighborhood-wide search.

The family spent the first 20 hours after he disappeared walking the area, contacting neighbors and calling for Titan. His sister and her husband drove overnight from their home in Medford, Ore., to join the search.

“Nobody slept, ate or anything,” he said. “We never stopped looking.”

They circulated hundreds of fliers offering a $1,000 reward, spent hour upon hour searching the area, and engendered the assistance of neighbors who wanted to help. “It’s been quite an experience to watch the neighborhood come together,” Walter said.

Yet the dog was nowhere to be seen.

Despite his hulking size — the 4-year-old dog had weighed upwards of 150 pounds and stood 3 feet tall at the shoulders — Walters described Titan as a gentle teddy bear of a pooch. Accustomed to staying inside, Titan endured more than two weeks outside in the rain and temperatures that dipped below freezing.

“We figured we’d find him curled up dead,” Walters said.

Then, late Friday afternoon, Rachael Gissell ventured outside out with her children Zachary, 5, and Brook, 2. Gissell said they were looking for frogs and bugs when she glanced down a steep ravine in a natural area south of 122nd Street.

There, hunched on a little shelf about 10 feet down, she saw something unusual.

“I just looked to see if I could happen to see any deer,” she said. “I looked over and saw this Great Dane that looked kind of stuck.”

She walked over to one of the ubiquitous lost-dog signs around the neighborhood and dialed the number. A minute later, Walters and Giese zoomed in their car from their house just on the other side of the park.

Scrambling down the steep slope, Giese quickly reached the dog. She discovered Titan was alive, but severely emaciated and suffering from a badly infected puncture wound on his right front leg. He wouldn’t be able to make it up the slope on his own. Yet, even in his emaciated condition, he weighed at least as much as Giese.

“Amanda picks this dog up and starts marching up the side of this mountain,” Walters said.

The dog scrambled up the last few feet himself, then collapsed. Giese scooped him up and lugged him the rest of the way for the trip to the DoveLewis animal emergency hospital in northwest Portland.

Veterinarian Mitchell Fults on Saturday said the dog is being fed slowly to begin recovering his body weight, and he’s had his wound treated. Although the wound may require further surgery, Fults said the dog’s prognosis is good.

“I don’t think he would have survived another week,” Fults said.

Walters said he’s relieved and grateful for the neighbors’ help. He noted that Gissell refused the accept the reward, instead telling Walters to spend it on veterinary care.

“We were close, a number of times, to giving up on the search. You lose hope,” he said. “We just want people to know to keep at it, and miracles do happen.”