Milton man grateful for community's help

A one-and-a-half-year-old bird dog named Nestle went on her first hunt on Saturday, Jan. 13, and didn’t return home for over a week.

Pete Wham, a 32-year-old Milton man, sent his chocolate Labrador puppy away for seven months of training last year. She finished on Dec. 15. In mid-January, Wham planned to go hunting with some friends in the area of the Great Marsh Preserve, near Oyster Rocks Road in Lewes, and thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce Nestle to the sport.

“I got a bird, and I thought she was going for it, but she didn’t come back right away,” Wham said. “I thought she was going to the bathroom, but she had just wandered off.”

He got on his boat and began to search for Nestle, burning through a whole tank of gas that day. He came back the next day, and the next. On Tuesday, he printed out flyers and posted them around Lewes and Milton. On days he didn’t have to work, he’d take the boat out to where he’d last seen Nestle and search for hours.

“I’d come out at night and check her kennel, just in case she showed up,” Wham said.

He also posted a picture of Nestle on Facebook that was shared thousands of times.

“Just astonishing numbers for a guy looking for his dog,” Wham said. “And it connected me to awesome people that helped me find my fur baby.”

While Nestle was missing, temperatures were frequently below freezing. Without much hope, Wham went out searching for Nestle, once again, eight days after her disappearance.

“That morning I was like, man, my dog died in the marsh or someone got her,” he said.

Two people Wham met via the Facebook post went with him to search that day. One of them was posted at the front of the boat with binoculars.

“He said, ‘There’s a dog out there,’ and I said it was probably just a deer, but he said, ‘No, the tail’s too long to be a deer,” Wham said. “I took the binoculars and hit right on her. I said, ‘That’s my dog!’ We started calling for her and she kind of bunny hopped over to the boat. I had tears of joy.”

Nestle was found just 300 yards from where she originally went missing. Wham immediately shared the good news on Facebook, and when he arrived back at the Lewes boat ramp, several strangers had already gathered to celebrate Nestle’s return.

“The community involvement was amazing,” Wham said. “I really can’t say thank you enough.”

Miraculously, although Nestle lost about 12 pounds while in the marsh, she was given a clean bill of health by the vet.

“She’s perfectly healthy,” Wham said. “She wasn’t even very dirty!”