- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Blaine Clooten had been fielding calls for days from people who had seen his dog, Mocha, a male German short-haired pointer missing since New Year’s Day.

On Jan. 8, he got dozens of calls from complete strangers who had been out driving around trying to locate Mocha. Around noon, he got a call from a woman who claimed to have seen him. She took a photo of the dog and sent it to Clooten.

Zooming in on the image to find the recognizable white markings, “I’m pretty sure it’s him,” Clooten recalled.

The photo was taken near 4850 Coleman St., with a St. Gabriel’s Community sign visible in the background. Clooten drove over to the area, but found nothing. After that, his phone got quiet.

“There were no more calls. We couldn’t find him. Me and some of the other people out there looking were like, ‘My god, somebody’s got to find that dog today,’” he said.

About 45 minutes later, more calls started coming in. This time, Mocha had been spotted on U.S. Highway 83 heading south toward Bismarck Motor Co. Clooten and a caravan of 10 to 15 cars drove along the highway. Spotting something, he jumped out of the car with a pair of binoculars. It was Mocha, but they couldn’t get to him and he got away.

Clooten’s son-in-law, Erik Way, then saw the elusive dog running along 43rd Avenue Northeast, back toward Highway 83. Mocha crossed the highway and ran to Brookside Lane. The search party headed to that area.

Clooten, with binoculars in hand, jumped on top of a snow pile trying to locate his dog, but saw no movement. The search party had lost him again. A feeling of disappointment set in.

Clooten said he and his family got texts and calls all week after his beloved 18-month-old “lap dog” went missing.

“We’ve had so many disappointing calls,” he said - reports of the wrong dog, or even a coyote.

“We chased down hundreds of leads this week,” he said.

Finally, around 2 p.m. Jan. 8, Way said he was driving around with his wife, Ashley Way, who is Clooten’s daughter. The couple came across a person who asked if they were looking for a dog and said they had it trapped in a stairwell.

“All of a sudden, (Ashley) calls me and says, ‘Dad, come and get the dog.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean come and get the dog?’ I’m confused,” Clooten said. “And she goes, ‘No, Dad, come and get the dog. We’ve got him. He’s stuck.’”

Mocha was found in an outside stairwell, The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2jmfc8W ) reported. The homeowner and his brother had placed a few wooden pallets over the entryway to make sure the dog couldn’t escape before his owner showed up.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’m still in shock. There’s no way we got our dog today,” said Clooten, who went to the stairwell and found Mocha whimpering in a corner.

“As soon as he saw me, it was like he recognized me and he started whimpering and crying really, really bad. And of course I did, too. I couldn’t believe it was him,” he said.

Clooten couldn’t believe he found his dog, which had been gone for exactly a week, surviving wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero. This week, brutal wind chills will continue, with single digit highs and lows dropping into the negative teens.

On Jan. 8, Mocha was reunited with his furry brothers and sister in their north Bismarck home. Besides Mocha’s ribs showing from hunger, he has no visible injuries, Clooten said. They plan to take Mocha to the vet on Monday.

When Mocha got home, he gobbled up some food and drank some water. Then there was a “giant sniffing session” with Clooten’s three other dogs, Polar Bear, Porsche and Mocha’s brother, Cocoa.

Countless people helped search for Mocha in the past week.

“It’s been overwhelming,” said Clooten’s wife, Coleen. “We can’t believe it - people we don’t even know.”

The family created a Facebook page called Bring Mocha Home Bismarck, which received over 2,000 likes. Clooten’s daughter Danni Hauck has been managing the busy page, which they plan to repurpose for other missing dogs in the community.

Clooten, a custodian at Northridge Elementary School, took the week off from work, going out each day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. looking for Mocha. He said he might spend a day or two to recuperate with his dog.

And Mocha happily curled up on Clooten’s lap and dozed off, exhausted from his adventure.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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