By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
As the Jeep Cherokee rolled to a stop at the Sumpter Stage Stop Tuesday afternoon, 12-year-old David Wolfe jumped out and ran toward a group of people congregated around a yellow dog in a cage.
andquot;This is the 5-month wilderness dog,andquot; Gordon Wicklander, a Sumpter resident who helped find the dog, told the boy.
David's day and year had just gotten a whole lot better.
The ordeal began back in July, when he, his father Kurt, and brother Sam arrived in Sumpter for the start of their vacation. The Wolfes live in Vancouver, Wash.
On their first day in town, the family decided to have a bite to eat at The Nugget Restaurant. Because of the July heat, they rolled down the windows so their three dogs Pixie, Sunni and Baby could have some fresh air.
andquot;I guess it was down too far,andquot; Kurt said. andquot;When we came back she was gone.andquot;
Pixie had jumped out the open window and disappeared in the crowds at the town's Fourth of July flea market.
Instead of the planned two-night stay in Sumpter before driving on to Utah, the Wolfes stayed and began looking for Pixie.
andquot;We spent about the next week all times of the day walking around, driving around. It kind of killed the vacation,andquot; Kurt said.
They finally gave up the search, thinking someone had taken a liking to the lost dog and given her a new home.
andquot;I figured we'd never see her again,andquot; Kurt said.
But they didn't give up. And with good reason.
David had owned Pixie, a Labrador/pit bull cross, for four years. He found her as a stray near Oceanside when his mother took him and Sam on vacation to the Oregon coast.
While there, they encountered this dog who had been loose for over a month and were encouraged by a local to give her a home. They named her Pixie.
The bond between the boy and his dog became even more important, his father said, when David's mother passed away two years ago.
That connection between David, his mom and Pixie resulted in several more six-hour drives to Sumpter to look for the lost dog.
The Wolfes returned to Sumpter on Thanksgiving, armed with lost dog signs describing Pixie tan and white, black nose with a little pink on it, floppy ears and encouraged anyone who spotted her to call him collect.
Kurt said the next week they received a phone call from Mike Theodore, Sumpter's watermaster.
andquot;He called and said he'd seen a dog fitting the description up by McCully (Forks) Campground.andquot;
That was last Monday. By Tuesday afternoon the family was back in Sumpter, searching for the dog.
andquot;We spent till 6 o'clock tromping around looking for her,andquot; Kurt said.
Somewhat discouraged, they went home again. Fortunately, the people of Sumpter kept their eyes open for Pixie.
andquot;I saw her Thursday night when I was coming back from feeding my horses,andquot; said Louanne Fuller, owner of the Stage Stop. andquot;She stopped and looked, but didn't come to me.andquot;
The Wolfes received another promising phone call, this time from Fuller.
andquot;She said, 'The whole town's looking for the dog. We'll let you know,'andquot; Kurt said.
However, five months must have been enough time hiding in the woods, because Pixie suddenly made herself very visible around the town.
On Friday, they found out where she might have kept warm during the recent chilly nights. Fuller said that she gave dog food to Jerry Rowan, who had been doing some burning in the area and told her he'd found tracks and a place where she could have bedded down near the embers.
John Jensen, who helped catch Pixie, also began to track the dog.
andquot;We were just walking around, looking for the routes she had taken. I located her at the fairgrounds, but she took off like a bullet,andquot; he said.
andquot;She gave me a run for my money, I'll tell you that,andquot; Jensen continued. andquot;She found some of the hardest places to climb.andquot;
After setting out dog food in the same place for a few days, a group of men decided to try a live trap to capture the dog.
Wicklander and Ken Fuller built a trap just for the occasion.
andquot;It was built especially for getting ahold of Pixie,andquot; Jensen told David Tuesday. andquot;Two days ago this trap didn't exist.andquot;
They set the trap Sunday night, rigged with a hunters sausage as bait and fishing line to snap the gate shut. By Monday morning they received word from Theodore that they'd finally captured the elusive canine.
andquot;She hadn't been in the trap for an hour. I just put my hand in and patted her,andquot; Jensen said.
After the days of tracking Pixie through the Sumpter area, Jensen looks admiringly at the calm dog held by a collar and a leash.
andquot;Thanks for an interesting week,andquot; he said, patting the dog on her head.
After the capture, Pixie was kept in the spacious cage and transported to the Stage Stop's tire shop, where she was supplied with a blanket, food, water and another companion the Fuller's dog, Ajax.
andquot;Ajax went out of his way to babysit her,andquot; Louanne said. andquot;He brought her a ball, he brought her a bone.andquot;
andquot;I was really hoping David would get the dog back by Christmas,andquot; she continued.
In the meantime, David was notified that his dog had finally been found. The 12-year-old was ready to leave for Sumpter immediately, but settled for the next day instead, his father said.
While some Sumpterites were amazed Pixie had survived in the wild for five and a half months there's been a cougar and a bear sighted lurking around town David was confident he would once again get to hug and pet his dog.
Although andquot;it was unlikely,andquot; he said he never gave up hope of finding Pixie.
He almost seemed to think Tuesday's reunion was too good to be true, as he kept repeating Pixie's name, and ruffling her pale hair.
Even David's father had begun to think Pixie was gone forever, but Kurt didn't hesitate to make another trip to Sumpter this week.
andquot;I just think the people are tremendous, just really unique. With all the people involved you wouldn't find this everywhere,andquot; he said.
Then he pointed to Pixie.
andquot;I think we're going to rename this one Sumpter,andquot; he said with a grin.