MARQUETTE - Scott Wilson chokes up a little when he tells the story of his dog Gracie and how she came back to him.
"I saw her bolt," Wilson said Tuesday, his voice catching. "And I thought I'd never see her again."
Thanks to the efforts of a large group of people in the Deerton area - really, throughout the world through Facebook - his beloved boxer is back by his side.
Scott Wilson poses with his dog, Gracie, in the lobby of the Ramada Inn in Marquette, where the two are staying. Gracie, a 6-year-old boxer, ran off after a traffic accident near Deerton Sunday. An effort to help find her and reunite her with Wilson was successful and Wilson is grateful to all who helped. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Wilson was in an accident Sunday afternoon on M-28 on his way home to downstate Shepherd from Copper Harbor, where he had been snowmobiling.
"I was maybe 20 miles east of Marquette when I hit a whiteout. The visibility was less than a quarter mile and then a snowplow in the westbound lane reduced the visibility to zero," he said. "The next thing I knew, there was a car 10 feet in front of me."
As the cars collided, nearly head on, Gracie, who was sitting on top of two totes in the back seat, slid forward.
"It actually was probably a good thing she was there because the snowmobile I was hauling came off the trailer and through the rear window glass," Wilson said. "She wasn't hurt, but Gracie was really scared."
Although he himself was banged up, Wilson got out of the car to assess the situation and thought he had closed the door behind him.
"But I didn't get the door closed and about 5 minutes later, Gracie ran out of the car and into the woods," he said. "I chased her for about a quarter mile into the woods. She loves the woods and the deep snow. I couldn't catch her. I figured I would never see her again."
Gracie was dragging a long blue leash behind her, increasing Wilson's fears she would get caught on something and stranded.
"She had gotten loose before near home," Wilson said. "But the woods here are nothing like those downstate."
While Wilson wanted to stay by his car in case Gracie came back, emergency medical technicians at the scene insisted he needed to go to the hospital to be throughly assessed for possible injury.
"EMS encouraged me to go get checked out," he said. "One of the EMS people put something on Facebook and that's how it started."
It was a search for Gracie, physically joined by dozens of people and emotionally joined by thousands of people on Facebook through the page Lost & Found Paws of the U.P., people who wanted to reunite Gracie and her family, which also includes Wilson's wife, Cathy.
Through the Facebook page, Cathy contributed a photo of Gracie to aid in the search.
Scott Wilson was taken by ambulance to Marquette General Hospital. His ribs are sore, but were not broken, and he was released from the hospital Sunday evening.
"While I was still in the hospital, people were already chatting about Gracie on Facebook," he said. "When I got to the Ramada at about 6 on Sunday, there was already a network going, trying to help."
Wilson's belongings were at the garage where his Subaru Outback, which was totaled, had been towed. But through the search party that was forming, he got a ride out to the area where Gracie had run off.
"The response from people was unbelievable," he said. "Just incredible."
And through the diligent efforts of a group of strangers, Wilson was reunited with his dog Monday evening.
"Gracie was relieved to see me," he said. "And she was very tired. I cannot thank everyone involved enough. I wish I had everyone's phone numbers so I could call each of them. People were amazing."
A chemistry professor at Delta College near downstate Saginaw, Wilson has cleared his schedule so he could stay in Marquette for the rest of this week. He's going to have a different Subaru Outback or Forester to travel home in. And he will be bringing Gracie, who's garnering a lot of attention, home with him.
"When we walked into the hotel at about 9 o'clock (Monday night), there were two women in the lobby and one of them said, 'That's that dog on Facebook. That's Gracie.' My Gracie is a rock star now."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.