Two-week ordeal ends with
by Kelly Feser Eells
Two-year-old Brandee had been living in Ojai just over two weeks
when her adoptive mother, BeBe Fehlhaber, reported her missing.
The heartbroken Fehlhaber described Brandee, whom she had "fallen
in love with at first sight," as a cross between a white
Labrador and a beagle - "what the vet called a 'Harrier.'"
Fehlhaber, who moved from Orange County to Ojai last April, adopted
Brandee from the Camarillo Humane Society shelter on Jan. 15.
Within 10 days, the dog that was "real shy with people"
had already gotten used to Fehlhaber, "and was always hanging
around me," at her mistress' side. She was at Fehlhaber's
side on Jan. 25, as the Daly Road resident was preparing for
their daily walk along Shelf Road. "I'd just boiled water,
for some instant coffee I was going to bring along, in the microwave.
For five minutes," said Fehlhaber, indicating that five
minutes was "much too much" time. As she was getting
ready to put Brandee's leash on, the dog excitedly knocked the
cup of coffee from her hand, the scalding liquid splashing over
both her feet. It was, she recalls, excruciating. "The tears
were coming as the blisters formed. Brandee was so upset that
I was upset."
Fehlhaber's second and third degree burns required hospitalization
and daily visits from a home health nurse. "I couldn't walk
anymore, but Brandee was so sweet. She always just sat here,
by my side."
Fehlhaber, however, "felt bad for Brandee," deprived
of any outdoor exercise, and, on Feb. 1, she called on friends
of hers for a favor.
"My friends, they have three dogs, so I asked them if they'd
mind taking Brandee for a good run." She notes that, while
her friends are in their 70s, they "very kindly" agreed
- although Brandee was reluctant to go.
"Then, after about an hour, they came back with a horrible
look on their faces," Fehlhaber continued. Brandee had run
off, disappearing in the orchards lining Shelf Road. "I
felt so bad for them because they felt so terrible. Here I'd
gone and asked them this big favor and, well."
She immediately placed pictures with both the Camarillo and Ojai
Humane Societies, and relied on friends to conduct the search.
"Every day, someone went to look for Brandee. People saw
her, but she wouldn't come. She was so afraid, and those orchards
are like a maze."
The ordeal was doubly frustrating for Fehlhaber, whose injuries
kept her from looking for Brandee herself. "One man (with
property adjacent to Shelf Road), he was lovely. He opened a
can of food for her, but she ran off." Though she "really
wasn't supposed to," Fehlhaber began driving up and down
the streets of her neighborhood, calling for Brandee. "I
was thinking, 'all of these streets must look the same to her,'"
she said. "My heart was just hanging."
Fehlhaber visited with her granddaughter, Julia, on Feb. 5. "She
loved Brandee. So I said, 'Let's do something special, Julia,
and pray for Brandee. 'Okay, Oami' - that's German for Grandma
- she said, 'Dear God, please bring Brandee back safe.'"
Late that night, "It was 2 in the morning, actually. I heard
this crying outside, around the house." Fehlhaber, marveling
at the memory, pauses before adding, "I opened the front
door, and there she was. She was beautiful. She hugged me like
a human being. I spent three hours on the couch with her."
Fehlhaber started walking again on Feb. 10. On a recent walk
with Brandee, who "won't leave my side," she tripped
over the devoted dog and "fell right on my tummy. But I
wasn't even upset. She is my lovebug."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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Fehlhaber and Brandee