SAND SPRINGS — Just about any pet owner has at least one good story about an animal doing something goofy to try to get out of going to the vet, but Grant and Shauvonna McCalip might win the prize.
Their dog Merlin, a Great Pyrenees, went on a roughly 8-mile hike to the far side of Shell Lake, on the north side of Sand Springs, returning home only with the assistance of the Sand Springs Fire Department.
The McCalips live on 20 acres just off 177th West Avenue between Shell Creek Road and Water Tower Road. With adjoining acreages of family and friends, Merlin is accustomed to having plenty of room to run around.
“He does a lot of roaming around, but he normally sticks closer to home,” Grant McCalip said, noting that Merlin wears a GPS collar.
So Thursday morning, when Merlin failed to show up for breakfast, the McCalips went online to see where he was.
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Much to their surprise, Merlin had left their property entirely. He had crossed Shell Creek Road and gone up the west side of the lake to its far north side.
Even as they monitored the GPS for a bit to see where Merlin was headed, the couple had an idea about why he was so far away.
“Merlin had a vet appointment today at noon, and she (Shauvonna) had told him about that last night,” Grant McCalip said. “I think he knew what she was saying and decided he’d rather go on an adventure.”
And one from which he couldn’t be retrieved easily.
“There are no roads over there — just hundreds of acres of undeveloped property,” McCalip said, adding that the couple began contacting friends to try to find someone with an available boat.
Coming up empty-handed, they were just beginning to consider the prospect of a 7- to 8-mile hike across private property to get their dog when the GPS showed Merlin headed south along the east edge of the lake toward the area near the Shell Creek Dam.
When they finally spotted him across the lake, “you could see he was thinking about swimming, which made me very nervous” because of the distance, McCalip said.
So with friends and an online crowd of followers urging them to action, they called the nearby volunteer Rock Fire Department, who said it was the Sand Springs Fire Department’s jurisdiction.
Not expecting much, they placed the second call.
McCalip said he “talked to a guy named Larry” who said he needed to check with his boss. Just a few minutes later, he called back and told McCalip that they were suited up and on the way.
“It was a blessing, because we had exhausted all options, and it was time to be headed into work, and we didn’t know what to do,” said McCalip, who works for the Bama Cos. in Tulsa.
“When you call like that about a dog that got out, I feel like they’re going to say, ‘That’s a personal problem,’ but it was really cool to see the community support.”
Sand Springs Fire Marshal Mike Nobles said it’s always nice to be able to help out residents and even more so when firefighters can get some training in the process.
“We have our boats out more for training than for actual emergencies, which is obviously a good thing. But this time of year, we don’t get to do much training,” he said. “So this gave us a chance to deploy the boat and practice some maneuvers.”
Nobles said Merlin initially ran away from the firefighters when they approached, but they whistled at him a few times and he came around, “so they loaded him up and brought him home.”
No treats were required, he said.
“I think that dog enjoyed the boat ride more than our guys did,” he said.
Nobles said the Fire Department doesn’t get called for animal rescues very often.
“I can’t recall us running a water rescue on a dog any time in the recent past,” he said. “We did pull some dogs out of a sewer lagoon one time, though.”
With any luck, firefighters have seen the last of Merlin.
McCalip said the plan is to fence in a yard near the couple’s house where Merlin can hang out, and then they can take him on longer walks around the more-remote areas of the property.
The couple got Merlin — who is about a year old and weighs 130 to 140 pounds — from a farm in Arkansas when the pup was about 3 months old, McCalip said.
He said Merlin protects the chickens and keeps the deer out of the garden, and he gets along well with his two canine siblings.
“We asked them where their brother had gone,” McCalip said, but, perhaps in solidarity, they had nothing to say.
For all of the shenanigans, though, Merlin still has to go to the vet.
“We had to cancel” the appointment, McCalip said late Thursday, “but we’ll call tomorrow” to reschedule.