Scott Warfield is pictured with his bulldog, Buzz. After Buzz went missing in the hills south of Monroe, Scott searched day and night for weeks, even after he figured a cougar had caught the dog. “Twenty six days, and dad never stopped,” says his daughter Brenda. “He was bound and determined to have some sort of closure.” (Photo by Larry Coonrod)
The forests of western Oregon are a dangerous and foreboding place for a lost, pampered, stubby-legged bulldog, so when Buzz disappeared, his owner feared the worst.
What started out as a trip to scout an upcoming logging project on the morning of Oct. 13, took a heartbreaking turn for Scott Warfield and his son.
“We stopped to look at a tree, and I never saw him again,” says Scott. “He usually stays right beside me. I never even remotely thought he’d take off.”
The two Warfields searched all that day around the logging site in the hills south of Monroe, expecting Buzz to wander out of the woods at any moment.
“He was flat gone. It was like someone picked him up and took him away,” says Scott. “From that point on, it was 26 days of hell.”
Buzz rode to work with Scott just about every day for four years.
“Every morning I’d get up and make him his own peanut butter sandwich,” says Scott. “Every time I’d eat a bite of my sandwich, I’d tear off a bite of his sandwich. If I ate a cookie, he got a cookie.”
Determined to find Buzz, Scott put his work on hold, devoting himself to searching the woods and nearby farmlands.
“For the first 12 days, I hunted every day,” says Scott. “Sometimes I stayed there all night long looking for him.”
When word that Buzz - the company’s mascot - was missing, others joined in the search. A Warfield shop mechanic spent an entire week walking the woods with Scott.
Log truck drivers kept an eye out for Buzz. Scott’s brother brought out his hound dogs. Steve Gravelle, manager of Plum Creek Lumber in Toledo, and his employees fanned out in the woods. Loggers and truck drivers left treats along the road at night in the chance Buzz might be near.
“It was amazing how it affected men,” says Scott’s wife, Tammy. “They were coming out of the woodwork looking for him.”
Scott and Tammy’s daughter, Brenda, ventured into the forest on foot, calling for Buzz.
“I went through some woods I never thought I would to look for him, and I was terrified the whole time,” she says.
Paw prints belonging to Buzz turned up, briefly sparking hopes. But days went by, and searchers found no other sign- living or dead-of the dog.
“One thing about Buzz is that he never barks, so you could walk right by him, and he’d never say a word. And he blends in with the dead grass and leaves,” says Scott.
Local landowners kept in contact every day, asking if Buzz had been found. Advertisements went out to local papers and the Oregonian. People as far away as Bend called with offers of help.
Word circulated around town that Buzz was missing.
“I’d go to the coffee shop in Toledo in the morning, and everyone was asking, ‘Did your dad find his dog yet.’ I went to a funeral and someone asked me about him,” says Brenda.
And then, more than two weeks after he vanished, he appeared in front of a log truck rounding a corner in the early morning darkness. The driver slammed on his breaks, tires screeching across the pavement toward Buzz. Fortunately, the truck stopped in time and Buzz ambled off the road and across a field.
As luck would have it, that driver seemed to be the only one on the logging site unaware of the frantic search for Buzz. The sighting may have gone unreported if several hours later another log truck driver hadn’t asked over the CB radio about the skid marks.
News that Buzz was still alive spurred the search effort. Scott put trail cameras out hoping to spot the lost dog, to no avail.
When three weeks had passed since Buzz’s disappearance, hopes for a happy ending started fading. Scott thought it likely a cougar had caught Buzz.
“It sounds terrible, but you start looking for those birds circling around,” says Tammy.
Even when he had to work in Cottage Grove, Scott still managed to swing by the Monroe site everyday in hopes of finding Buzz.
“He’d come home, change his clothes and head out again at night,” says Tammy.
“Twenty-six days, and dad never stopped,” says Brenda. “He was bound and determined to have some sort of closure.”
Closure came at 1 p.m. on Nov. 8, when Scott was working at the bottom of the hill where he’d last seen Buzz.
“I never found him. He found me,” says Scott. “I just finished my cup of coffee, put it back in the cup holder and turned to step out of the pickup and there he was, sitting there looking at me like, ‘You ready to go dad?’ I had to do a double take. It freaked me out.”
Buzz weighed almost 19 pounds less than the day he vanished in October and had trouble keeping down food. Three weeks after he returned home Buzz seems nonplussed by the experience that still has family members shaking their head in wonderment that he survived.
“He had to be living under the trees or something,” Scott says. “This poor guy never spent a night outside before.”
Scott says he hasn’t taken Buzz back to the woods, and he won’t until he has his collar fitted with a GPS tracker.
He figures expenses and lost wages by everyone involved in the hunt for Buzz probably figure up to around $20,000. During the search, he posted a $1,000 reward.
“He was going to give away the house,” says Tammy with a laugh.
Brenda, half jokingly questioned whether her dad would spend 26 days and nights looking for her if she wandered off in the woods.
“I used to accuse Scott, ‘You like that dog better than me,’” says Tammy.
Scott just shrugged and grinned at Buzz.
Contact Assistant Editor Larry Coonrod at 541-265-8571 ext. 211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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