Fats is rather unmistakable for a lab mix; he is one quarter great Dane.
That, along with the fact that a large community continues to help search for him leads owner Matthew McSheehy to hold out hope that he’ll get Fats back, even though he’s been missing more than a month and there’s reason to believe the dog might have been stolen.
That is an improvement over what McSheehy feared the day his dog went missing. That day, he worried his dog was no longer alive.
He and Fats liked to hike early in the morning when trails were lightly used, if at all, so that McSheehy could let Fats off the leash for a bit.
They were headed up the Wallace Falls trail the morning of Sunday, May 11, at about 9 a.m., when Fats trotted ahead and out of sight.
The large lab mix, five years old, never typically went far, said his owner.
“I call for him and he always comes right back,” he said.
But when McSheehy called the dog he has had since it was a pup, there was no response. Not only did Fats not come running back, he didn’t bark or whine.
“My fear was that he slipped over the edge and into the river and went over the falls,” said McSheehy. “I was frantic. I ran down to the next level to see if he’d gone down, but there was nothing.”
Nor did any evidence of a fatal fall arise in the next days.
Volunteers from the Washington State Animal Response team, an organization that works to save animals in emergency situation, came out and looked for him over the next couple of days, but there was no sign of the dog in the water or on the shore.
Distraught, McSheehy made posters with photos of Fats and descriptions of him and put them up throughout the area, posting them on Facebook as well.
Dog lovers began spreading the word, and soon the search went viral.
People began calling with reports of sightings of a large black dog in the Gold Bar area. Then another woman reported seeing a dog that matched his description in Startup. McSheehy believes that at least some of descriptions matched Fats, especially in the Gold Bar area, where a woman described the dog as 100 pounds or more, with two collars, one a silver pinch collar.
A week later, sightings of a similar dog had moved to Monroe and Snohomish, where there were reports of a large black dog jumping fences and chasing smaller animals in the early hours of the morning.
A Facebook group formed called Team Fats, and other well-wishers, would sometimes drive out and join in the hunt after a sighting, or put posters up in their neighborhoods. Even though days would go without a lead, the ever-growing community remained devoted to finding the dog.
Then someone saw a dog that McSheehy strongly believes was Fats, tied up outside a store in Monroe, possibly in the company of a vagrant couple. Team Fats leapt into action, with people getting into their cars and driving the area. Unfortunately, the dog and the people were nowhere to be found.
But McSheehy did get a promising lead; a dog very like the description of Fats had been seen around the homeless camps of Monroe.
Thus began a strange odyssey for McSheehy. He began exploring the hidden world of homeless encampments, especially in the woods on undeveloped land behind Fred Meyer. He sometimes brought with him offerings of canned food and snacks, and repeated to all he met that he wished no one harm, he just wanted Fats back.
“The amount of homeless and drug abuse, seeing all this, it’s opened my eyes to a lot to what’s going on,” he said.
The Monroe police assisted as much as they were able, said McSheehy. And the willingness of strangers to help has been overwhelming at times.
“I learned a lot this week about the human spirit,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “There are so many people willing to selflessly drop their own needs to wander through thick woods littered with trash and potentially dangerous characters in search of one man’s missing puppy.”
McSheehy widened his hunt to include homeless encampments up and down the Sky Valley, up the Sultan Basin Road, and to places where people reported seeing a dog that matched his description, including Gold bar Nature Trails and Reiter Road.
Touched by his affection for his dog and his tireless search, dozens of people over Memorial Day weekend hiked trails throughout the region and drove back roads hoping to glimpse the large black dog.
While Fats wasn’t found, the efforts of the ersatz community did result in another dog named Mo being found and returned home, and the possible discovery of a stolen bicycle.
Now that it has been almost a month since Fats disappeared, McSheehy knows that he might never see his old friend again.
But he has not given up hope. There is a security video form Fred Meyer that may contain an image of the dog; he believes he’ll have a chance to view it soon to perhaps identify what may be his new companions.
And people far and wide continue to search.
As long as there’s hope, McSheehy will continue to try to find Fats, he said.
“I love my dog, and I want him back,” said McSheehy, voice slightly unsteady. “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to get him back.”
He asks that if anyone sees a dog of Fats’ description, please take a picture of it so he can verify if it is in fact the right dog.
And regardless of the outcome, he said he will never forget the way people have pitched in from all over the region and even the nation.
“The most amazing part of the story is the community outreach,” he said. “So many people have been a part of trying to find Fats.”
Black lab/great Dane mix of about 100 pounds
He is all black, with a very small strip of white on his chest. You may have to be really close to actually see it.
He had a license collar
He also had a silver pinch collar at the time he disappeared
He is neutered
He has big eyes
If seen, please take a picture if possible and call Matthew McSheehy at (425) 246-3475. A reward is offered.