Updated at 7:08 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Steeler, the champion show dog who escaped his owners when their motor home crashed yesterday on the freeway through Chehalis, has been found.
“He was nervous, I think kind of like, what’s gonna happen now, but not frightened,” said Cathy Spears who slipped a collar around his neck this afternoon.
The whippet was tracked down in the brush behind Darigold off Main Street in Chehalis about 2 p.m.
The canine was located by search dogs.
Yesterday morning, Steeler was riding up front with Donald and Patricia Rodgers, of Shelton, as they returned home from a series of dog shows in California, according to Spears.
Donald Rodgers is a professional handler; the couple and their young assistant had as many as nine show dogs belonging to others crated up in the rear of their 1999 Freightliner motor home, she said.
But Steeler, a retired show dog, is their personal pet, she said.
It was just before 11 a.m. when their vehicle collided with the rear of semi truck on northbound Interstate 5 near milepost 78, leaving their cab crushed and all three injured. It was one of several wrecks in the same stretch that slowed freeway traffic for hours.
Steeler fled onto the freeway and vanished.
Spears, a Centralia woman, has known the Rodgers’ some 20 years, she said. She met up with fellow show dog handlers at the Chehalis Starbuck’s this morning to organize a search. They hired professional searcher Harry Oakes from Longview.
Oakes said it took only about 30 minutes, once they figured out where to start looking.
They learned one of the Chehalis firefighters had seen the dog running near Main Street when crews responded to the accident, Oakes said.
They used a blanket Steeler had slept on to give Oakes’ two Border Collies a scent to work with, he said. They found some tracks. A local man and his yellow lab helped lure Steeler out, according to Spears.
Bret Bryan works for the steam train and his dog is just a pet dog, not trained for such work, she said.
Oakes said he and Bryan spotted the whippet cowering in a briar patch about a half mile off Main Street.
“It took some time to calm him down and get him to come to us,” Oakes said.
The dog appeared to have just superficial cuts and minor bruising, Spears said.
Spears took him to her veterinarian, where he is expected to stay overnight for observation.
The other dogs traveling with the couple were uninjured, she said.
Donald Rodgers and 18-year-old Debra A. Carter of Lacey have been released from the hospital, according to Spears. Patricia J. Rodgers remains at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a crushed hip and knee, she said.
Ironically, Spears endured a similar experience herself about 20 years ago.
She was part of a 16-car pileup on Interstate 5 near Mellon Street in Centralia in which a 16-year-old boy died, she said. She was traveling with three show dogs and two of them ran off, she said.
“We found one the next morning and the other two days later,” she said.
But that’s not what motivated her, Penny King of Vader and Rachel Morris of Adna, to look for the Rodgers’ pet, she said.
“That’s what kept us going, but these are friends of ours,” Spears said.
For background, read: “Multiple wrecks on I-5 tangle traffic around Chehalis, Centralia, show dog escapes onto freeway” from Tuesday February 19, 2013, here
KOMOnews.com caught video of when Steeler was located, see it here