Eileen Oprins’ animal rescue experience has taken her far and wide.
She joined a group of women who went to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and saw a People magazine article about Island Dog Inc. on the plane ride home. Island Dog helps dogs that have been abandoned in Puerto Rico, and Oprins has helped find foster and permanent homes for these dogs in the Chicago area since 2008.
A medical assistant and mother of seven, Oprins also travels to Puerto Rico once a year or so to help deliver medication and perform medical procedures on dogs in need. (If you want to learn more about animal rescue in Puerto Rico, visit islanddog.org.)
Her latest project is much closer to home, however. Oprins volunteered to help Rick Beck and his family find his dog, Buddy, after the 30-pound beagle-Jack Russell terrier mix ran away from rescue personnel when Beck got in a crash.
She saw a post about Buddy from a friend on Facebook.
“There was something in those dog’s eyes that said: ‘You’ve got to get out there,’ “ Oprins said, adding that Beck reminds her of her late father.
She hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing Buddy’s eyes in real life, though. Buddy was riding in Beck’s Buick LaCrosse about 3 p.m. Oct. 21 when a semitrailer turned left in front of the vehicle on Fairview Avenue near the Nestle Distribution Center, DeKalb police have said. The driver didn’t see Beck’s car because of other semitrailers lined up in the center-turn lane, police said.
Buddy ran from police, and a helicopter took Beck to a Rockford hospital.
Seven weeks later, Oprins, the Becks and a few other people are continuing to search for the little dog. They have a humane trap and a night-vision camera near where he’s been seen in the past. The camera has caught images of Buddy during the daytime, most recently Saturday, and plenty of other things, too.
“You’d be surprised what’s out here in the middle of the night,” Oprins said. “... We have a dog out here we like to call Quasimodo, because he looks like a hyena with a big hunchback.”
They are careful not to announce the location of the trap, because they don’t want other people walking near it or setting out extra food.
“If we have multiple people out there feeding him, he’s not going to go inside the trap,” Oprins said. “He needs to be motivated to go into the trap.”
They also are concerned the $500 reward Nestle USA is offering for Buddy’s return might inspire someone to help in a nonhelpful way. They have a few ways folks can help, though: They need people to pass out flyers and spread the word with area farmers.
“You never know, people could have seen Buddy, and not realize he’s lost, thinking he’s got a collar,” Oprins said. “... We need to get the word out further. I don’t think we’ve gotten as far as we could. We could be distributing flyers in Sycamore, Genoa, even Kingston.”
Beck checks the trap, walks the same route he used to walk twice a day with Buddy and stops by sites where people reported seeing him weeks ago, Oprins said. She’s suggested that he stand for five minutes or so and call Buddy repeatedly, so Buddy can get used to the sound and smell and identify his owner.
“If you drive around in a car and yell Buddy’s name, he’s going to be confused,” Oprins explained. “He can’t locate it.”
Some might wonder if Buddy is still alive and well after all these weeks, especially with the bitter cold. But Oprins said Beck found tracks that match Buddy’s on Tuesday near the trap. They think he’s visited the area around the trap, just not gone into it. He lived in the wild for the first three years of his life (he’s about 8 years old), so they suspect he’s reverted to survival mode.
Oprins does have her days when she wonders, too, though.
“It depends on what day you ask,” Oprins said. “If you asked me yesterday, I would have feared we’re never going to get him back. But today after I saw the prints, I would say yes.
“I’m hoping like crazy for a Christmas miracle. I wish Santa would just bring me Buddy for Christmas.”
• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
Buddy is a reddish tan dog that weighs about 30 pounds and has a light blue collar with two tags. He does not like to be touched and might bite, so residents are encouraged to call DeKalb police at 815-748-8400 or a Beck family member at 815-757-2825 if they see him.
You can follow the search efforts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/updatedbuddy.