Phoebe and Tillie’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure{33}

Heart of Puget Sound

Heart of Puget Sound and Home Sweet Home

In terms of landmass, Vashon Island (37 sq. mi.) is about the size of Manhattan (34 sq. mi.). The north-end ferry connects Seattle, while the south-end ferry unites us with Tacoma. As slow as the car drives along the I-5 corridor that connects these two cities, the trek seems an interminable exercise in commuting. That said, I believe I’ve now made my case for just how big Vashon Island is.

So when my friend BJ called to tell me his dogs Phoebe and Tillie had escaped the fenced confines of his acreage, my heart sank. You see, Phoebe is a Basset Hound and Tillie a retriever-setter mix, and their middles names are “Breakout” and “Explore” respectively. While Tillie would be complacent to stay home, and chase tennis balls, Phoebe has a nose and the will to sniff out any good or bad smell between her paws and Portland.  She is the Houdini of Basset Hounds. If she had thumbs and a credit card, I’m sure she would carry a blowtorch and buy ferry tickets. Tillie is her devoted companion; wherever Phoebe goes, Tillie follows.

Because BJ is not on Facebook, he asked if I would help get the word out on the island through social media. We also contacted Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP), an exemplary nonprofit on the island, where volunteers do more for pets, whether lost, abandoned, fostered, or ailing, then any animal advocate group I’ve ever come across.

Phoebe and Tillie covered a lot of ground

Phoebe and Tillie covered a lot of ground: home is the gold star on the left side of the map; found is the farthest paw on the right.

As the hours and then, days progressed, the search continued, but just a few sightings surfaced. There was an encounter near Old Mill Road, a sighting by Judd Creek, and call in from Reddings Beach. One person commented that when she saw the gamboling duo, they looked as if they knew where they were going, so she didn’t think they were lost.

Almost a week went by, and islanders involved in the search and the saga seemed resigned to that fact that this was not looking good for our beloved Phoebe and Tillie. Amy Carey, VIPP volunteer extraordinaire, had been through scenarios like this before, and felt the two were likely trapped, maybe in shed, or a barn, or ravine or even worse, an abandoned well.  There was a collective sadness; anywhere I went on the island, folks would ask if I had any good news. The look on my face was answer enough. Later, I sat at home holding a reluctant Gracie, and not wishing the likely outcome on anyone, especially my dear friend BJ.

Then, we got a message from Amy that one of our wayward island explorers may have been spotted. She made a beeline to the area, and let us know that Phoebe and Tillie had been found, and apparently there was quite a story to tell. I believe our cheers of joy could be heard across the Sound. Amy posted the following recount and photos on the VIPP Facebook page where we could all read and be amazed by this story with a surprise happy ending.

In Amy’s words:


We are overjoyed to report that after being missing for a week, Tillie and Phoebe are now safe after being found deep in a ravine off Monument Road – with Phoebe being stuck in an old cistern. VIPP volunteers have been helping search for the dogs and today we received a call from a community member reporting that for the past few days a “reddish” dog had been coming up to them when they were out on their property and then promptly heading back into a ravine. So with a needle-in-the-haystack hope, we made our way into the ravine, and after a bit of searching, finally heard that sweet sound we have been waiting for all week — a small one-woof response when we called out “Tillie.”

Phoebe on the rocks, trapped in a cistern

Phoebe on the rocks, and trapped in a cistern

A few minutes later we found her laying beside an old cistern with her head resting on the concrete wall. Heart sinking…we knew that meant Phoebe was inside the cistern and every breath was held and every doggie prayer offered that the peek over the rim would somehow find her safe. And gratefully… this time we have a happy ending with dear Phoebe found perched on some concrete rubble that held her out of the water. For nearly a week Tillie stayed by her side with the exception of the few minutes of each day when she went for help. A huge thanks to Joe Curiel for realizing something was up and a round of applause to the awesome and amazing Miss Tillie. A true friend and a humbling example of the power of love. 

A haunting image

Tillie and Phoebe before rescue

Tillie and Phoebe are now home, rested, fed and happy, as if nothing happened; but their safe return was thanks to the many engaged eyes, ears and hearts on the island, the super-sleuthing of VIPP volunteers, and the dogged efforts of Amy. Thank you all. And last but not least, Tillie and Phoebe will be getting new presents shortly: GPS Collars from Another great resource for lost dogs is, which for a fee, depending on coverage, will set up robocalls to your neighbors and in your zipcode, detailing the lost pet information.


Update: Phoebe and Tillie send their love and appreciation!

Phoebe on the mends, and mugging for the camera at home.

Phoebe on the mends, and mugging for the camera at home. (Tillie’s by the fire.)

And here’s a news clip of an interview with their owner, BJ, and the dogs in tow.


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