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Dogged pursuit, miraculous discovery

Angie Hunter's Labrador retriever Ace is home Naperville after vanishing New Years Eve when he was startled by fireworks. Angie

Angie Hunter's Labrador retriever, Ace, is home in Naperville after vanishing on New Years Eve when he was startled by fireworks. Angie, her husband Andy and their six kids were helped by many volunteers in the week-long search that ended happily when Ace was found - cold and famished, but otherwise unharmed - five miles from home on Jan. 7. | Submitted

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Updated: February 22, 2014 6:10AM

Fast approaching obsolescence ­(it doesn’t take long these days), my smarty-pants phone had something to tell me: get rid of some of those goofy pictures.

Turns out if you have too many images packed onto your phone, it can leave you with insufficient space for things like the latest operating system.


Having procrastinated the download for several weeks already, despite chiding from my children over my resistance to modern contraptions and all they supposedly know how to do — we need to let the bugs work themselves out, right? — I reluctantly set about erasing some of the 1,000-plus snapshots and videos that somehow had accumulated on my phone.

Lo and behold, a great many of them turned out to be of Olive.

I’ve told you about her before, probably more frequently than necessary. She’s an almost-7-year-old golden retriever who shares our home, the dumbest and happiest dog ever born, as my husband likes to say. She’s a keeper.

She’s also more than willing to have her picture taken, and tends to scowl at the camera less consistently than do the cats, so the camera had plenty of images of her: wearing hats, wearing sunglasses, nuzzling her people and, especially, staring dolefully at the camera.

I know I should seek professional help for this. But it helped underscore for me something that was made crystal-clear in the course of a story I wrote last week. Perhaps you saw it, the piece about Ace Hunter, the Labrador retriever who shares his house with a big Naperville family and went missing on New Year’s Eve, remaining lost for a week that included some of the most brutally cold temperatures we’ve seen in decades before he miraculously was found.

It’s an amazing tale, and you can read about it by clicking the related story link.

Incredible as that was, though, it was more than a story of a dog surviving against all odds and coming home to his best friends — even a dog with a name that sounds like it belongs to an action hero. It also was testament to the less-tangible elements that go into the things that matter the most to most of us: family and friends, neighborhood and community.

Almost immediately after Ace disappeared, a little-known network of dog people went to work, hoping to help the Hunters with the hunt. Among them was Teresa Barlow, who hangs out with Ace when his people go away on vacations, and her aunt, Peggy Moss, who works with the organization Lost Dogs Illinois.

“We were definitely concerned the whole time,” Barlow said later. “Especially Monday, when it was going to be so cold out.”

She was dogged in the effort, and went the extra mile in looking for Ace, who apparently had strayed some five miles along the West Branch of the DuPage River, coming to a halt near the movie theaters on Diehl Road.

Bolingbrook resident Moss — who has seen a lot of miracles in the four years she’s been affiliated with the dog-finding agency and related that she was “discouraged but not hopeless” as the foreboding forecast promised a couple of truly god-awful freezing-cold days — was impressed.

“(The Hunters) did all the right things,” Moss said of the search party that instantly took shape when Ace bolted off, terrified by the bang of holiday fireworks nearby. “I was amazed at my niece, how she just never gave up.”

The neighbors, too, inspired awe in rallying around the Hunters and their missing pooch, helping out for days as the agonizing search went on. Even local police were in on the effort, telling Angie Hunter, the mom in Ace’s house, “we’re all looking for him,” she said.

“All the good, all those volunteers,” Hunter would say later, shaking her head. “It just amazes.”

I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the sweet and handsome Ace with my phone.

They’re keepers.

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