CHAMPLAIN — In the stillness of the early, subzero morning, John Zurlo Sr. heard a strange sort of bark coming from outside his Point au Fer home.
“This ‘ruff, ruff, ruff,’” he said. “Very low.
“I didn’t think much of it.”
But when it continued, he tracked it down.
Tucked against where the house meets the deck was Emerald, a neighbor’s Pomeranian, which had been evading capture for more than two weeks despite arctic cold.
“When I picked it up, it never moved in my arms,” said Zurlo. “But I put her down, and she walked 12, 15 feet to (a portable) heater.”
Emerald curled up in front of its glowing warmth and went to sleep.
That morning, Zurlo said, was 19 below zero.
“I don’t think that dog would have made it (outside) to 10 o’clock that morning.”
HOT AND COLD
Talk about playing hard to get ...
Annie Rochester had let Emerald out the front door for a late-night pit stop that December night, followed by Gowain, a prospective contender for the female Pom’s hand, er, paw.
Emerald took off, with Gowain in pursuit.
“Typically, she comes right back in,” Annie’s husband, Dan, said. “But she was in heat.”
Before long, it was more like deep freeze, as the night was bitterly cold, and the young dog lacked the good sense of her suitor.
“A mama’s boy,” Annie said, Gowain barked at the door of Joe and Marty Heath’s home and invited himself in.
“At about 1 a.m., Joe called and said he was there,” Annie said.
Emerald, however, had embarked on a winter journey that took her everywhere on the small peninsula except her own home on Scales Road.
“I think she was totally disoriented,” Annie said. “She had never been out of our yard before.”
Besides, she said, laughing, “estrogen does wild things to women.”
The Point au Fer community is tight-knit — word spread quickly that the Rochesters were missing a mega-fluffy pup, and sightings were reported at various homes.
It seemed Emerald sought assistance from official sources, as Zurlo is Clinton County clerk, and the dog also showed up at the home of Champlain Town Councilor Richard Favreau and Code Enforcement Officer Michael “Mickey” Tetreault, who lives on Route 9B.
But she always slipped away before anyone could catch her.
At the Point au Fer Road residence of Joe and Karen Southwick, Annie could see Emerald at a distance and sat down on the ice trying to lure her with hot dogs and dog treats.
“I don’t know if she knew it was me,” she said.
The pup showed up several times at the Zurlos’.
“We would open the door, but it would not come in the house,” John said.
The temptation there might have been the bagel and bread crusts that John’s wife, Mary, feeds the birds.
“Thank God, they were doing that,” Annie said.
And then Emerald was seen trotting out onto frozen Lake Champlain, where, Annie believes, she was scavenging fish left on the ice by anglers.
Dan put out a live trap, baiting it with cooked chicken livers, and checked it frequently.
“I will never make it as a trapper,” he said.
Six frigid days went by with no sightings of Emerald.
“I knew she was suffering out there,” Dan said.
“There are so many things so much bigger than her,” said Annie, who had been praying hard to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost items.
“I kept walking around the Point (searching), thinking, ‘I haven’t seen her body.’”
IN A TUSSLE
There was a little love fest at Zurlos’ as the pup and Annie were reunited — a lot of little kisses from a moist doggy tongue.
Emerald was thinner, Annie said, and had some scabs on her head and neck that showed she’d been in a tussle with something.
“I fed her, gave her some water and put her in our bed, and she went right to sleep.”
And that’s where she sleeps now every night.
The Rochesters were left with a depth of gratitude to all the folks who helped keep track of the dog, to John for catching her — and to St. Anthony, Annie said.
“St. Anthony is our savior.”
Emerald’s tale could yet have a romantic ending.
She and Gowain, Annie said, “could have mated before she started on her incredible journey.”
Email Suzanne Moore:firstname.lastname@example.org.