Snoopy the Beagle is one of the most revered dogs in America.
He has come across our Comics pages with regularity.
David Christopherson of Clarks Grove likely would take issue with the claim that Snoopy is the most beloved Beagle in America. He would put his Beagle named Austin in that place.
Christopherson, foods director at Bancroft Estates care center in Albert Lea, has a Beagle of his own, one that he would claim any day over Snoopy. His dog, just under 2 years old, went on an unannounced leave of absence one day last week.
This Beagle's story has a happy ending, being found a day and a half later due to the efforts of neighboring friends.
He was on a retractable leash at his owner's home on a Sunday night when Christopherson dropped the handle of the leash, startling Austin and causing him to run away with the retractable handle being dragged behind. He was running scared, Christopherson said.
"I have never seen an animal run that fast," he said.
Observing what had happened, neighbor Brendan Earl, 13, took after Austin on a dead run, without realizing that he had no shoes on his feet and was in his stocking feet. Christopherson also began the pursuit of Austin.
Austin, a rescue dog, was adopted by Christopherson with the help of Diane Snater of Almost Home Rescue and Care Kennels near Austin. Austin the Beagle came from Louisiana and had heartworm.
Earl, who had been at his grandparents' home next to Christopherson's residence, and his brother Payton tried to catch up to Austin but lost him across a farm field and into a wooded area. Christopherson was in pursuit with the boys.
Austin was lost in the minds of his owner and friends, and, of course, in his own mind he didn't care where he was.
Christopherson's friend Diane, within minutes after Austin ran away, placed a "missing dog" plea on Facebook. "We had it all over Facebook," said Christopherson.
Owner Christopherson spent the night on his porch, hoping that Austin would return during the night. He put out two baskets of laundry, thinking that the scene might draw him home. He did not return that night.
"David felt just terrible," said Todd Earl, father of Brendan and Payton and chief deputy for the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office.
Christopherson was fearful that Austin had been kidnapped, or became tangled in the woods because of his leash. Posters were made, appealing for help to find Austin.
The next day, the search resumed in earnest. "We walked corn fields and fence lines along Interstate 35W, hoping to find Austin. "He could have been anywhere," Christopherson reasoned.
Brendan went on a bike ride, still trying to find the missing dog. He searched the area near Tom's Taxidermy. David said Brendan's mother Heather was determined to find Austin because he would be sad if it were his dog.
On his search the next day, Brendan noticed an outline or shadow of a dog.
"I realized it was Austin," said a gleeful Brendan. He approached Austin who still wasn't sure he wanted to return home. Brendan telephoned his parents who met him, accompanied by Christopherson, and helped him catch Austin.
"David was in tears," Brendan recalled. "It was really nice to see how happy Dave was," remarked Brendan. "I would be pretty sad if we lost our dog," said Brendan. His family has a German Shepherd, named Maggie.
"This story had a happy ending and I am so grateful to the Earl family for their help in reuniting me with Austin," said Christopherson.
"Austin was a little dirty and still frightened but he looked fine,
said Christopherson. Austin's leash was torn about 18 inches above the collar. David took his newly found Austin home, fed and watered him.
"It took a little while for him to settle down but the next morning he was fine," Christopherson remarked. He said Austin and Christopherson's cat, Woody, were reunited and get along well.
Brendan agrees that it's nice to see a story with a happy ending. "It's been a rough year," he said, referring to COVID-19 and to recent protests and riots in Minneapolis.
Brendan will be entering eighth grade at Albert Lea High School this fall.
"I thank Brendan every time I see him and I plan on doing something special for him," acknowledged Christopherson.