BY CLAIRE HARLIN
If you’ve driven around Del Mar or Solana Beach in the last two months, you probably are aware that Puck, a black and white border collie mix, is missing.
The retired search-and-rescue dog went missing July 14 from Del Mar Dog Beach, and now a dedicated group of search-and-rescue volunteers is working endlessly to bring him home to his owner, Paul Wiester of Solana Beach.
Hundreds of signs have gone up, thousands of cards have been handed out and even a giant banner has been pulled by plane down the coast, from Oceanside to Mission Beach. But despite a number of positive sightings, Puck is still at large.
What makes Puck’s rescue particularly challenging, said Wiester, is that he is trained to run from anyone who approaches him. As a search-and-rescue dog, Puck used to seek out missing hikers in Rocky Mountain parks and peaks and report back to Wiester, who used to work rescues for the state of Colorado. In the case that Puck found a missing person, it was imperative that he immediately return to his owner without being caught.
In hopes of keeping Puck nourished and grounded, Wiester and volunteers have set up several food stations, equipped with food, water and wildlife cameras, in areas where the dog has been sighted. Wiester refills the food and replaces the cameras’ memory cards one to two times per day, but the footage has thus far turned up only sightings of cats, squirrels, birds and other dogs.
So far, there have been 12 sightings of Puck, the majority of which have been very strong. Just after his disappearance, he was seen near Solana Circle across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He then moved to downtown Del Mar, where he was seen by two witnesses the evening of Sept. 2, the night of the bomb scare at L’Auberge hotel. On Sept. 7, he was seen laying in a front yard at the South end of Ocean Avenue, and on Sept. 8, a witness called Wiester to say he was “100 percent sure” he saw Puck sitting in the breezeway of the Del Mar Motel, located at 1702 Coast Highway.
When Puck first went missing, Wiester approached the Del Mar City Council to inform them of his efforts.
“We are sensitive to the face that many people do not want a lot of signs hanging around town, but the council was really supportive of the signs,” said a volunteer who wishes to remain anonymous. “When Puck is found, every flyer and poster will be taken down with a big smile. We have no intention of leaving them up.”
Puck is mostly black, with a white chest and white paw. He stands about 19 inches tall and the naturally-spiked hair on his head resembles a mohawk.
Puck is 8 years old and shares many special memories with Wiester, including the time he led his owner to a lost trail at night while working a rescue.
“He saved my life,” said Wiester. “If I didn’t have him, there would have been a search and rescue for me.”
If you see Puck, please do not chase him. Leave food if possible and immediately call (970) 445-0033.