Jackie Vestal's days are an emotional grinder.
Each morning brings hope this might be the day she is reunited with Maddox, her 7-year-old miniature pinscher who went missing Christmas Eve.
But as morning gives way to afternoon and afternoon gives way to evening, the hope gradually fades and she becomes consumed with angst and worry about where her 12-pound dog might be.
“I always wake up thinking today will be the day that we'll get that call and I get hopeful, but the nights are so hard,” Vestal said. “Then the process repeats itself all over again the next day.”
Vestal and her husband, Brandon, are from the Los Angeles area and were in town for the holidays to see her in-laws. Once in Oklahoma City, the family decided to take a quick overnight trip to Dallas, leaving Maddox with a family friend who lives in the 11000 block of Camelot Drive in northwest Oklahoma City.
Maddox escaped by darting out of a garage when the door was opened and has been missing since.
Her husband has returned to the couple's home in California to resume work, but Jackie has remained in Oklahoma City. She took a leave of absence from her job as a systems analyst for a commercial real estate company.
“Maddox is like a child to me,” she said. “I consider him to be a part of our family. He's my little baby, and I know he needs me. When my mother died four years ago, he helped me get through it. I know he wouldn't give up on me, so I'm not going to give up on him.”
Vestal's days are spent checking out possible sightings. Laminated posters of Maddox can be found on utility poles and street corners all over Oklahoma City.
“If I get calls from people, I rush out to see if it is him,” she said. “I've ended up saving other min pins that have been abandoned. I've literally been walking creeks to try to find him and keeping up with social networking.”
Vestal has even brought in a heavy hitter to aid in the search, hiring Karin TarQwyn, a Nebraska-based private investigator who specializes in lost pets. TarQwyn has brought her team of dogs to Oklahoma City twice in an effort to locate Maddox.
There was at least one sighting in northwest Oklahoma City and TarQwyn's dogs have tracked his scent around a four-square-mile area around his last reported location.
TarQwyn said she regularly finds dogs that have been missing for a month or longer. She said Maddox's case is challenging because his profile is that of a dog that wants to roam.
“He is aloof and skittish and when a dog goes missing from an area that they are not familiar with, that's not their home territory, they tend to roam,” TarQwyn said. “And that's what Maddox has done. He's covered a fairly large area.”
Maddox's 12-pound size and short coat might seem to make him vulnerable, but having tracked miniature pinschers in the past TarQwyn said they are resilient.
“Contrary to what a lot of people think, these dogs don't generally succumb to elements,” she said. “Sometimes there are accidents, but most of the time these dogs are survivors. They want to live.”
For Maddox to be found, TarQwyn said his face will have to stay in the public eye and he also will have to stay in an area for at least two or three days. Maddox has been traveling along creek beds and in fields. He has been tracked to a road just once during the search.
“The biggest issue is keeping the dog on people's minds,” she said. “We also need him to slow down.”
But even though the two-month anniversary of his disappearance is approaching, Vestal remains hopeful. She has created a Facebook page that has more than 1,000 likes. Several people have come forward to volunteer to check local shelters for Maddox on a rotating basis.
“The support has been amazing and it really helps me get through this,” Vestal said. “It gives me a lot of hope. I know he's out there, and I can't wait to see him again.”
Vestal can be reached at 615-3279 or (323) 217-9337. An unspecified reward is being offered.
I always wake up thinking today will be the day that we'll get that call and I get hopeful, but the nights are so hard. Then the process repeats itself all over again the next day.”
Her 7-year-old miniature pinscher went missing Christmas Eve.