The elusive white Great Pyrenees, Vixen, has been caught and is receiving love and care.
"It was a Christmas miracle," said Crawford County Animal Control Officer Denise McKinney.
For almost three months the agency has been working to catch a large-breed white dog running loose along Illinois Route 1 near Gordon Junction.
McKinney was first notified about a white dog wandering loose near Porterville a couple of weeks before Halloween. "I remember I was worried about the dog with Halloween coming," she said.
As she was able to get closer to the dog, McKinney believed it to be a Great Pyrenees. The breed is a large, thickly coated, and immensely powerful working dog bred to deter sheep-stealing wolves and other predators on snowy mountaintops. Pyrenees today are mellow companions and vigilant guardians of home and family.
Almost daily McKinney would get reports of the wandering white dog, and from time to time would spot her in fields or too far away to catch.
At the time she had five different reports of Great Pyrenees dogs and was able to account for all of them, but the one.
"They were returned home or their owners found them," McKinney said. "This one did not go with the others. It was confusing."
McKinney has worked at the Robinson Hospital for Animals for 10 years and knows lots of animals and their owners. There are not a lot of Great Pyrenees in the area. So she called or texted those she knew of to see if their dog was gone, or if maybe they had gone on vacation, but all were accounted for.
When McKinney first saw Vixen she believed her to be a male dog. She was in excellent condition with a thick white coat, but two and a half months of running wild and eating deer carcasses had taken their toll.
"Normally it takes about 10 minutes to catch an animal," McKinney said.
McKinney would go out every day in search of Vixen. She began to stay around the storage buildings on South Route 1 near Duncanville Road.
Mckinney received all kinds of reports - including a few that she was dead in a field.
When McKinney would find Vixen, she would stop, get out of her vehicle and talk to her in effort to gain her trust. At one point someone even placed a dog house near the storage buildings for her.
"The community was trying to help," McKinney said.
As more reports of the wandering dog kept coming in, McKinney began keeping residents updated via social media.
"Happy Thanksgiving from Crawford County Animal Control. I'm out trying to catch this dog again this morning," wrote McKinney. "He has been sticking close to Rt. 1 and the prison road. Crawford County Animal Control has been working on catching this dog every day since I received my first call. I don't know if it's a male or female, and I get a little closer every day, but this is not the normal everyday dog. He/she almost acts like he/she is waiting for the person that dropped him/her off. I don't understand how the owner of this dog, hasn't come forward. I'm worried sick about this dog and I'm in the field trying to catch it, instead of being at home with my family on Thanksgiving!"
Almost daily concerned residents would report on seeing the wandering dog, and became more and more concerned with its well-0being. Several local residents would also stop and try to coax the dog to safety. Women would also stop by the animal hospital to check in on the search.
McKinney's biggest concern for Vixen was that she would get hit by a semi.
On Christmas Day McKinney posted to Facebook this message. "This is the Great Pyrenees that has been running Rt. 1 for almost three months. Crawford County Animal Control in Robinson, Ill., caught her this afternoon. She is our Christmas Miracle and we have named her Vixen. Vixen hurt her leg a few days ago and will be going to Robinson Hospital For Animals hopefully tomorrow afternoon. I'm hoping and praying that the leg is not broken.
"I personally have spent time every day for three months on this dog and I'm truly hoping she doesn't have any major medical problems. Considering Vixen has had a lot of people attention through out the county, I just wanted everyone to know that she is now at Crawford County Animal Control and I will do my very best at getting her well enough for adoption or a Great Pyrenees rescue!"
McKinney said on Dec. 22 she made her daily check on Vixen, and she was up and running around, but on Dec. 23 she was down and moved away very slowly as if she was injured, when McKinney approached. "I thought she had been hit and may have internal injuries," McKinney said.
On Dec. 24, Vixen was nowhere to be seen, and Mckinney feared she was gone.
But on Dec. 25, she got a call from dispatch that Vixen was seen across from the hospital in a fenced in area. McKinney believes the quiet of Christmas Day, no traffic noises, Vixen's injuries and that she at least knew her, led to her surrender. "She just gave in," McKinney said.
After taking Vixen back to the county animal shelter, she was cleaned up and examined. The next day she was taken to the vet. Dr. Allen Lueking examined Vixen and put her on medication.
McKinney said Vixen is around three years old, and is starting to be more trusting. She hopes she can be rescued and adopted, but time will tell. She has no idea where she came from or why she was wondering the countryside. All she knows is that it was a Christmas miracle.