BRATTLEBORO — A local man looking for a rock where Native Americans may have once gathered ended up finding that and a lost dog.
"It just happened," said Rich Holschuh of Brattleboro, who works at Austin Design and serves on the Vermont Commission for Native American Affairs. "It was completely fortuitous, unexpected, and I don't know what the word is, unbelievable."
Information about the dog named Brianna had been posted March 30 on Granite State Dog Recovery, a Facebook page for missing dogs in New Hampshire.
"A hiker found her in the woods and was able to track down the owners," an administrator for the page wrote later in an update. "Remember, even the smallest can survive!!"
Holschuh had been hiking in Westmoreland, New Hampshire on April 13. He had read about the "Pow-wow Rock" in town history. It "had to do with the native presence here, one of my perennial research projects," he said. "It's a place, according to local folklore, where native people gathered to meet and hold ceremonies and, they said, exchange prisoners. I don't know how accurate any of this is."
Holschuh said the Poocham Hill Winery owner provided him with directions once he realized the spot Holschuh had been looking for. Holshuh crossed the winery property and went down to Ox Brook, a tributary of the Connecticut River.
Beginning to hear sounds that he thought came from a young coyote or fox that had been abandoned, Holshuh said he tried to find the source of the noise.
"My eyes settled on a little pug dog," he said. "It was tucked into an overhang of the brook, like a little cave. It was looking blankly at me. It was sort of trapped in there."
Holschuh said the water in front of the pug was deep and he wondered if the dog had fell into the space.
"So I worked my way around and got to the other side," he said. "I had to throw rocks into the brook to make a platform to get to the dog. I got over there and it wouldn't come over to me."
Holschuh said the pug was not responding to him. He described the dog as "very, very skinny."
Holschuh said he was able to get close enough to the dog, grab the scruff of her neck and pick her up. He expected to be bit or clawed but there was no response. He said he went up to the road with the dog in his arms and a homeowner came out, recognized the pug who had been lost three weeks ago and helped connect her back with her owners.
"The owner had a tire blow out on his truck and lost control and hit a tree," Holschuh said. "And the dog apparently ran out of the cab in fright. They had been looking for it for a long time and had given up."
Holschuh said he found the dog "totally by accident half a mile from the road. It had been out in the woods, and it's relatively blind and deaf, with nothing to eat for three weeks. It was just a little bag of bones. That's why it didn't respond. It didn't have any energy. It couldn't have."
When Holschuh delivered the dog back to her owners, he said, "They were just besides themselves. It was quite the reunion."
Once word spread via Facebook, "the comments started to pour in. Apparently, I'm a dog angel," Holschuh laughed, calling the incident "one of the weirdest things" to ever happen to him. "It's a pug for God's sake. You expect to see them in a baby carriage on a city street. Here it was in the woods."
Holschuh said the owners were "bawling" when they met back up with Brianna.
"They were so happy to see their dog again," he said. "They said Brianna is only a couple years old but she's basically blind, appeared to be deaf."
Holschuh said he does not know the owners' names. On Facebook, he wrote, "I guess I was supposed to be there today."
"Rich, you were guided somehow," someone replied. "You are a hero. Thank you and your helpers."
Brianna "is safe and blessed because of you!" someone else added. "You were put on that path for a reason."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.