It may have been the dirty sock hanging in a tree, the “stinky T-shirt” or neither. But something brought Bailey back to the Robinson house, and they’re grateful.
Bailey is a 1-year-old Cavachon, a cross between a King Charles Cavalier and a Bichon Frise, a little curly-haired white dog with one champagne ear that has helped warm the Robinson hearts for two Christmases, the first when Stan and Jennifer Robinson got him as a pup for their three daughters and son a year ago.
By all rights, Bailey should have been sleeping in one of the younger children’s bedrooms on New Year’s Eve but instead, terrorized by fireworks, he was fleeing down neighborhood streets and ultimately into the St. Simons marsh perhaps east of Oglethorpe Park and Wesley Oaks. And he stayed missing for the good part of 48 hours as the Robinsons’ friends and complete strangers looked for him.
“New Year’s Eve about 7:30, we realized he was missing,’’ Jennifer Robinson said.
She had picked up pizza for the girls and brought it home when they heard the first rattle and boom of fireworks, she said.
“He started barking. By the time I got down there, he was gone,’’ she said.
Bailey had escaped from the fenced backyard of the house which has two stories above a tall ground floor area.
Stan Robinson wasn’t worried and said confidently he would find him. But Bailey wasn’t next door at the neighbors nor at Vassar Point, the adjoining neighborhood.
Then Liz Turk said she had seen Bailey running flat out on a nearby street.
“I saw this little dog running,’’ she told Jennifer. “I’ve never seen a dog run that fast.”
A woman who lives on Peachtree Street saw him running by a saltwater pond about a quarter mile from the Robinsons’. The woman explained she does rescue work and said, “I knew the way he was running, he was distressed and scared.”
And so were the Robinsons.
Stan took care of the children while she rode nearby streets stopping periodically and calling Bailey. She got help that night from about a dozen people who also drove or walked the roads with flashlights calling his name. If Bailey had been scared by the early fireworks, it only got worse around midnight when there were loud blasts, some overlapping, for what seemed like hours.
Jennifer got home at 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s morning. Meanwhile, she had done “all the on-line things” updating her posting on Facebook and the site St. Simons Live Update. She was astonished at the response that included 1,000 shares on Facebook.
But people didn’t just check the websites; they also called.
“Every time the phone would ring, my heart would stop,’’ Jennifer Robinson said, but it was almost always someone saying immediately, “I don’t have your dog, but...”
“I think the only thing that got me through it was all the people who called and texted me,’’ she said.
One woman said bluntly, “We’ve got to help her find this dog.”
There were offers of help when she was out again all day Friday with her son John Porter, 16, driving. They stopped and asked everyone they saw if they had seen Bailey, sometimes people walking their own dogs. And when she talked about Bailey, she usually teared up.
“I knew my kids were sad, which made it worse,’’ she said.
And there was also the letter Stiles, 11, wrote on New Year’s Eve while Jennifer was out looking while Stan took care of their younger children.
“Dear Mom,’’ it says. “[Did] you get our dog? I miss him. I want him in my room. NOW. Love, Stiles.”
Sometimes when Jennifer Robinson goes to get Stiles up for school, she’s rebuffed with, “Go get Bailey. I want him to wake me up.”
At the same time her family looked, others were searching hard, some putting on rubber boots and tromping through the marsh. A man flew a drone over the marsh and reported seeing a lot of white birds, but no white dogs. Someone suggested Bailey was no longer white and that turned out to be true.
After a Friday with no sign of the dog, someone arranged a search party to gather at St. William’s Catholic Church at 10 a.m. Saturday and fan out from there. About 20 showed up and they covered some of the same roads again, but still no Bailey.
As night fell that day, Jennifer Robinson was upstairs reading to Harlow.
“All of a sudden you hear, ‘Bailey! Bailey! He’s home,’’ Robinson said.
She ran downstairs and there was a little dog, more black than brown, rolling on a rug. Madden, 18, had heard scratching at the back door and opened it and the dog came in and began rolling.
“I’m frantic. I said, ‘That’s not our dog. Why did you let this dog in?’ ’’ she said. “I was scared. Oh my God. Why is this animal in our house?”
But the rest of the family knew it was Bailey and Stan picked up the ball of grime and held him, and then bathed him until he was white but for that champagne ear.
Stan then held him for two hours, she said, as Bailey lay, “exhausted and shivering.”
They wondered why he hadn’t come to the front door, but when they came home from church Sunday they saw the muddy streaks on the front door where he had first pawed there before going to the less familiar back door.
Bailey is mostly happy at home now, but when he goes out, it’s not for long. The little dog that was once friendly to all people is a little wary now.
Looking back, Jennifer Robinson said she was touched by what people did.
“That was what made me more emotional than anything, knowing how many people cared,’’ she said.
But her own dogged persistence was also noticed.
A neighbor said if he ever goes missing he wants Jennifer Robinson to look for him.