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Doggedly Retrieving the Lost Retriever

November 06, 1995|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

By any measure, the tale of Cody the golden retriever is no ordinary lost dog story.

There is, for instance, the psychic called in to use her Tarot cards to find the animal.

There was the woman named Mary who, having never even seen Cody, drove into the desert to rescue him.

And there was Mark Grayson, Cody's owner, who spent $2,800 in the six-week search for the dog.

It all began the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Grayson was out most of the day. When he returned to his Long Beach home, the first thing he noticed was that his back gate was unlatched. The second thing he realized was that Cody was not in the yard.

Frantic, he began walking the neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking people if they had seen a wandering golden retriever. Each time, the answer was no.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 8, 1995 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
Dog recovery--In a story in Monday's Times about a man's recovery of his missing dog, psychic Susan Tran was identified by the wrong first name.

Nor was the dog at the Long Beach animal shelter, something he found out by hopping the fence and checking the cages that night--only to be cited for trespassing by a passing police patrol.

"So that started the long, crazy process," said Grayson, sitting in a small Italian restaurant the other day.

To be sure, he tried the usual way people look for lost pets: putting up handmade flyers in the neighborhood, followed by ads in local papers. But Grayson realized he would have to spread his net wider because Labor Day weekend had attracted people from all over Southern California to the beach neighborhood.

He put ads in newspapers far afield of Long Beach, with the bills mounting to well over $1,000. He checked other animal shelters, only to be overwhelmed by the number in the Los Angeles Basin--22 by his count.

So he hired pet detective Andrea Dahm of Dog Gone Locate.

The handmade posters became more professional, with a color picture of Cody and the words "I've Lost My Best Friend." Each night, after returning from work as marketing director of an environmental cleanup company, Grayson would make the rounds, putting up more posters, hundreds of them. Dahm put up hundreds too.

Then, the first sliver of information: A Long Beach lifeguard remembered seeing a golden retriever with people who were driving a beat-up, light blue pickup truck towing a trailer. Something, the lifeguard said, seemed out of place--like the dog was too fancy for the truck.

Grayson thought little of the tip. A blue pickup didn't exactly narrow the search. Three weeks turned into a month, then five weeks. But still nothing.

Then, a woman named Mary from Seal Beach came into the picture. She doesn't want her last name used because of what followed. But she saw the posters and saw a golden retriever that seemed to match Cody's description.

She called Grayson. It wasn't the right dog.

Even so, Mary, who described herself as "very good at finding people and things," decided Grayson needed help. She started her own search and called an acquaintance named Mary Tran, a psychic.

"Now that was a bit of a stretch for me," said Grayson, who has a master's degree in biophysics. "But by then, I was willing to try most anything."

Tran, who lives in Long Beach, said she laid out her cards, along with a portion of Cody's leash. "I saw the dog being stolen and put in a blue truck," she said. She also told the searchers that she saw the dog near an old trailer, surrounded by lots of trash, in the desert near San Bernardino.

But the conjurings of the psychic did not get Cody back. Money turned out to be the key. Grayson made up a new flyer--and offered a $500 reward.

Two days later, Grayson, who was in Northern California on business, got a call from a man who left a pager number on the answering machine and said he knew where to find the dog. Grayson called Mary, asking her to check it out.

When Mary called, the man told her the dog was far away, in the desert, and that he would meet her at a gas station wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Mary countered that she would follow him with two friends, then went to the bank, withdrew $500 and began the drive east--led by the man in the Hawaiian shirt.

Well after dark, they drove to the sleepy town of Anza and into a littered trailer park that, according to Mary, "looked like something out of the 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' " In front of one was a light blue pickup.

There, beside the trailer, was a golden retriever. It did not, said Mary, look like a show dog, having been lying in the dirt. But there was one telltale sign she knew to look for--Cody was missing one of his molar teeth, rare for a dog only 4 years old. The dog tied to the trailer was missing the same tooth.

By then there was stirring from within the trailer. A woman and her teen-age son came out. Tempers began to flare. The boy said the dog was his and put a hammerlock around its neck. Mary put her arms around the boy and pulled him off the dog.

In a matter of seconds, the rescuers were speeding down the road, dog in the car, looking behind to make sure they were not being followed. They pulled into a liquor store and Mary gave $500 to the man in the Hawaiian shirt--even though the dog had not been identified by Grayson yet.

Grayson flew back the next day and drove immediately to Mary's home. As soon as the car door slammed shut, the dog began to bark. Grayson then saw his dog for the first time in six long weeks.

"They just merged," said Mary. "It was very touching."

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