By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - After someone shot and killed one of their dogs a few months ago for trespassing, the Stueven family of Howard Lake was able to bring joy to another family by finding a stray dog that had been missing from Glencoe for seven months.
A roller coaster of canine events began for the Stueven family when they found out a few months ago that their 5-year-old yellow lab, Copper, had been killed for trespassing and “acting aggressive.”
“He was the mellowest dog,” Kristal Stueven said. “He never even barked at the mailman.”
The Stuevens’ four young children were devastated when they heard the news about Copper.
Their dogs are kenneled when the family isn’t home, but let them run around the yard when they are home.
The family also own a 3-year-old beagle named Tucker. Tucker had never left the family’s yard until about a month ago, shortly after a stray dog started hanging around the Stueven’s yard. The stray English pointer would never allow anyone close enough to read its tags on its collar.
“It acted really skittish. We would call it, and it would never come,” Chad explained.
The family had reason to worry when Tucker took off for two days. After the two days, he returned with the stray dog, yet the stray still stayed its distance from people.
Chad decided to go pheasant hunting just behind the family’s yard, and when the stray dog saw or smelled Chad’s gun, he suddenly warmed up to him. Chad knelt on the ground and the stray came right up to him so he could finally read the tags on the dog’s collar.
After reading the phone number, Chad hunted with him on the way back to the house.
“You could tell it’s a very good hunting dog, and it was well trained,” Chad said.
Chad called the phone number, and the owner of the stray was gone pheasant hunting in North Dakota, but his daughters took the call and headed to the Stuevens to pick up the dog.
“You could tell when they arrived, that they were skeptical of whether this was really their dog, because it had been gone since March, and they had received a lot of calls since there was a $250 reward, that we didn’t even know about, offered for the dog,” Kristal explained.
The stray was confirmed to be Patch, a 6-year-old English pointer owned by Bruce and Deb Bergmann of Glencoe.
The daughters called Bruce as he was hunting during pheasant opener and gave him the good news.
“The irony of it is that as we were hunting in North Dakota,” Bruce explained, “I told my son Allen that in my heart, I believe this dog is still alive.”
“It’s divine intervention. Some call it coincidence, but I call it God-incidence,” Bruce said. “The Lord had his hands in this.”
When Patch was discovered missing the Monday morning before Easter, her kennel door was found unlatched. The Bergmanns placed ads in the Glencoe, Hutchinson, and Waconia newspapers, as well as with the Hutchinson and New Ulm radio stations, and talked to all of the surrounding sheriff’s offices, veterinarians, and humane societies.
“We thought she went south. Every weekend we’d drive a one to five mile radius. After about two to three months, we lost hope,” Bruce said.
Patch was raised by the Bergmanns since she was a puppy. The Bergmanns enjoyed Patch’s mother so much, they had her bred, and hand picked Patch to keep out of the litter.
Patch’s mother died from lung cancer, so after a long and well-planned search for Patch turned up nothing, the Bergmanns traveled all the way to Missouri to find another dog with Patch’s same pedigree.
“I needed another hunting dog for this season,” Bruce said.
Once Patch arrived home, it took a couple of days for her to once again feel comfortable with her surroundings.
“We thought she’d be jumping on us and running around, but she had her tail between her legs,” Bruce said. “We walked her up and down our property, and our trainer told us that Patch knew that this was her home, but things just weren’t quite right yet.”
“Now she’s happy. Her tail is high in the air, she jumps around, and she’s excited,” Bruce added.
Patch’s collar was worn, torn, and cracked all over, which makes Bruce wonder “where the heck has she been?”
She traveled a good 35 miles in her seven-month journey from south of Glencoe to north of Howard Lake.
“If dogs could speak, she’d have one heck of a story to tell,” Bruce said.
The Stuevens didn’t accept the reward money that was offered for the return of Patch.
“We didn’t even know about the reward, but when they offered it, we refused,” Kristal said.
“It just made us feel good to find this dog’s owner, especially because of what happened to our dog,” Chad added.
Bruce explained that the Stuevens wouldn’t have had to call, and that they could’ve quietly kept the dog and used it for hunting.
“It’s gratifying to know that there’s still good people in this world,” Bruce said. “They wouldn’t accept the reward money, but we still want to do something for their family to thank them.”