PAWNEE – “Lucy!”
Ronnie Brown called across Blue Hawk Peak. The black and white dog did not appear.
His 11-month-old border collie had been greeting tourists at the Pawnee Bill Ranch Historic Site. It was 5 p.m., closing time, and she was gone.
“I started calling for her and searching buildings,” Brown said.
Was she locked in a room? He searched the 1903 log cabin, the ranch blacksmith shop, the 1926 barn, a museum and a rock tower on the hilltop. Lucy was not visiting the bison, longhorn cattle and draft horses grazing nearby.
The dog was nowhere on the 500-acre ranch where Brown is the site manager for the Oklahoma Historical Society. In the 1870s, Gordon W. Lillie came to Pawnee as a teacher to the Pawnee Tribe. Lillie became Pawnee Bill, famous Wild West showman with Buffalo Bill Cody.
Brown, his wife Erin and children live in a house next to the imposing 1910 rock mansion built by Pawnee Bill and wife, May. Below the hill is the arena where each June the ranch recreates Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show with Indian dancers, trick riders, chariot races and shoot-outs with stage robbers.
Brown drove to Pawnee. His children, Leah, 16, Quinn, 13 and Ian, 9 were in “The Sound of Music” that night. Lucy had not followed the children to school.
“I looked all night,” Brown said. “Lucy was gone. She stays mostly at the house if no people are around. She does not go to the entrance gate or to the highway.
“Somebody had taken her.”
People had stolen gas and tools from the ranch, but nothing like this.
“Trust. We trusted people,” he said.
Brown did not know how they could stand to lose Lucy. Two years earlier, the family’s large white dog Sasha died at 14.
“Lucy was a teeny tiny puppy when she came to us,” Brown said. “Erin thought I was ready for another dog and gave us Lucy for Christmas.”
Erin Brown said Lucy stayed close to her husband.
“She is his baby. She goes in his truck with him. She sits by his office door.”
Lucy grew to around 40 pounds. She wore a black leather collar with pink stones and tags.
Aug. 17 was a hot, busy day with lots of tourists. Some saw visitors with Lucy just before she disappeared. But there was no reason to note a license tag. The Browns had no clue where Lucy was.
“It was a bad, bad week. It was too much. Everyone was depressed,” Ronny Brown said when Lucy disappeared.
Lucy was part of everyone’s day at the ranch. Each morning she ran with Erin. Lucy greeted the staff and construction workers who were repairing historic buildings.
“Lucy loves people,” Brown said. “She just wants to hang out with people.”
In the Brown family, even pets go to church at least once.
Lucy was blessed earlier that year by Pastor Pam Cottrill at Blessing of the Animals at the First United Methodist Church of Pawnee.
On Sunday, Ian Brown stood up in church and asked that they pray for Lucy’s return. The family felt Lucy had a special shield over her.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Fordia Glanville of Pawnee, 95 year-old great-grandmother to the Brown children. Lucy was part of her life, too.
“A dog is a family member after a while,” she said. “All the children could talk about was Lucy.”
“Everyone I know was praying,” she said.
Ronnie Brown and Ian posted flyers of Lucy all over Pawnee.
“The entire town of Pawnee was like, who would take your dog?”
Brown called animal shelters and veterinarians. He phoned those who signed the museum guest book that day.
Visitors remembered Lucy as “an amazing dog.” No one saw who took Lucy.
Ronnie and Erin Brown posted notices on social media.
Anna Davis, Historical Interpreter at the ranch, searched websites for lost dogs and dogs for sale.
“Lucy went viral,” Brown said.
“Lucy was plastered on Facebook and shared hundreds of times.”
Lucy’s photo on Lost Dogs of Oklahoma was reposted nationally by dog rescue groups. A woman from New Hampshire called. Telephone calls, emails with reports of strays and photos of black and white dogs arrived.
None of them were Lucy.
Brown realized that whoever took Lucy was not online or did not want to know they were searching.
“Erin was crying every day, the kids were crying,” Brown remembered. A construction worker told him, “My wife and I are praying to Jesus every day for Lucy.
“There was no Lucy to brighten our day.”
The Browns learned that most people don’t get their stolen dogs back. If Lucy was gone a week, chances were slim that they’d find her.
Glanville had a dream Friday night that she looked out her door and Lucy was standing in the street. In her dream, she called and Lucy came in her house.
“Saturday morning,” she said, “I prayed, ‘God, you know Lucy’s going to be gone a week tonight. But I know you can bring her home.’”
Around noon, Davis talked to a woman in Edmond who had posted a lost dog ad on Craigslist. A black and white dog was found running north along Interstate 35, about 80 miles south of Pawnee. She wore a black collar with tags and pink stones, like Lucy’s. The woman emailed a photo.
“I knew it was Lucy,’ Davis said.
“It’s a miracle!” Erin Brown said when she called Glanville with the news.
“The little thing had gotten away from the people who stole her,” Glanville said, “and she was trying to find her way home.”
The Browns drove to reunite with Lucy.
Lucy and the Browns were joyous.
“She was jumping all the way from the ground to our faces, licking our faces and hugging our necks,” Ronnie Brown said.
Lucy still loves to visit people at the ranch. She has a new computer chip and a collar with GPS.
“There’s always someone with Lucy now,” Brown said.
Glanville has an explanation for Lucy’s return.
“It was a miracle,” she said. “I believe in the power of prayer.
“I’m telling you, this was answered prayers. That is why we got Lucy home.”
Teresa Black Bradway is a cast member of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show and a member of the Oklahoma Historical Society Board of Directors.