Dilly at Dulles ..... DalliesApril 23rd, 1978, Flight #675 left Dulles Airport in Virginia for Los Angeles. Two of the passengers aboard were Mrs. Margaret Sullivan and her Cardigan male, AM CH Talbot's Pilot Programme. There was also another Cardigan crate in the cargo compartment, but unknown to Mrs. Sullivan, that second crate was empty.
Mrs. Sullivan had flown from California for the CWCCA Specialty Show, bringing not only Pilot Programme but also her other champion, the expensive import AM CH Robgwen Destiny, known as "Dilly", a beautiful brindle bitch, who won 3rd Brood Bitch at the show. In addition to her quality and her sweetness of disposition, her blood lines were rare and valuable.
Dilly and Pilot Programme were duly checked in at the Air Freight office on April 23rd for the trip home to Los Angeles. When Dilly's crate reached the cargo door of the plane, the crate was empty. For some reason this was not reported.
Nobody quite knew how Dilly got out of her crate. Some thought she jiggled the hasp loose, others that it was improperly fastened. Some said that the crate fell off the conveyor belt, which was some seven inches above the ground. Anyway, the crate apparently not more battered than before, went on without Dilly.
It seems to be habitual practice for cargo packages, including, unfortunately, crates with live animals, to be slid down belts or chutes onto platforms from which the cargo is loaded. If these chutes are several inches above the horizontal platform, no harm is done to suitcases or trunks. But the additional jolt to a dog crate can, and in this case did, break open the latch.
As Margaret Sullivan flew back from California to Virginia, the alert had already gone out. First, naturally, to the local radio. As soon as the news reached American Airlines, all flights to and from Dulles were delayed in order to facilitate a search under and over the seats, in the microwave ovens, in the lavatories and adjacent premises, and so forth. Mrs. Sullivan was informed, as she landed, that so far no trace of Dilly had been found except that an employee had sighted what appeared to be a brindle fox lurking near the end of a runway. Reference to the local hunts, such as the Middleburg, made it reasonably certain that at no time had any brindle foxes been liberated in northern Virginia, so Dilly's identity was certain.
Dilly, by the way, had ecstatically discovered that at the Airport alone she had ten thousand acres to play in. Plus extra farm land if she felt cramped.
With the help of the airport employees it soon became evident that Dilly was not usually where she had been seen. By the end of the week the search party seems to have become reasonably large, although the Marines had not yet joined in, so that when finally Dilly noticed what appeared to be a full company of airport police, security men, American Airlines stewards and stewardesses, she fled incontinently, and was not seen again for several days.
Somewhat disheartened after day upon fruitless day of calling, whistling, putting out food (the raccoons haven't been as well fed before or since), Mrs. Sullivan returned temporarily to California in order to consult other dog experts and buy a sleeping bag. The experts assured the grieving owner that the thing to do was to sleep out in the woods near a known haunt of the missing animal. Eventually, they averred the dog would be drawn by curiosity to find out what the strange object could be, and thereafter would naturally recognize the grieving owner's most familiar voice.
Another week went by. It is said that the wild life residing at Dulles has a tunnel system of its own, by which it evades capture. If so, Dilly, obviously accepted by the community, must have made use of it, since she was not seen, except as a fleeting figure in the far distance. Anyway, by the end of the third week Margaret Sullivan, complete with new sleeping bag, returned to Dulles.
And, naturally, it rained. And it rained. And it rained. American Airlines did its best to discourage Margaret Sullivan from using the sleeping bag. As a spokesman put it: "I have a dog. I love my dog, too. I am upset about Dilly, and really haven't had a full night's sleep since she went off. But neither would I wish to send a lady out to sleep in the wilds of Dulles Acres, surrounded by bears, bobcats, possums and God knows what. Why, I wouldn't let my mother-in-law do that!"
Finally, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) decreed that Mrs. Sullivan should have the freedom of the Acres, and could sleep when and as she desired, escorted by FAA police. Not to mention the American Airlines representative, their security man or men, representatives of the County Police and other relevant organizations, including the local Canine Tracking Club and Boy Scouts, whose mothers wouldn't let them sleep out. Indications are that by this time Dilly was climbing trees.
Leaflets were printed, bearing Dilly's picture. Many of these were distributed by hand to the local agriculturists. A helicopter went up, which saw nothing but two apparent escapees from Lorton prison.
The Canine Tracking Club tracked Dilly to a hole in the fence, at which they sat and howled.
A month had now gone by, and what with the rain and all, even Margaret was a bit disheartened.
But then, two days later, came a message. Dilly, perhaps tired of her freedom, or tired of a diet of field mice and whatever, after thirty-two days on the loose, was discovered at a farm on the outskirts of the Dulles property. The farm of Mr. and Mrs. Saunders was across from the hole in the fence. Mrs. Saunders had prize chickens who lived in a hen house. At least, they used to live in a hen house. For a short time Dilly lived in the hen house surrounded by decapitated chickens. After all, Dilly had to feed over a million ticks besides herself!
Friday, May 25th, 1978, was the glorious day of reunion. Dilly was thin and tick-covered, but her spirits were high, and the reunion joyful.
Mrs. Saunders got two hundred dollars for the chickens. The Vienna Emergency Clinic took the ticks off. Dr. Reid of the Vienna Animal Hospital subsequently found Dilly remarkably well, considering, and able to go on her way.
And, with a deep sigh of relief, American Airlines put Dilly in the pilot's compartment, not to mention Mrs. Sullivan, and sent both home.
The fact that Dilly was in such amazingly good shape after supporting herself in the wild for over a month, tells us that our Cardigans are worthy of their stalwart ancestry.
Thanks, American Airlines. Thanks, FAA. Thanks, Canine Trackers and many thanks to everyone else helping to find Dilly.
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Abstracted from two articles written by Mrs. Michael Pym and Mrs. Margaret Sullivan for The Cardigan News-Bulletin 1978/79