Stray Duluth dog covered 300 miles in seven weeks, owners say

DULUTH -- How a husky named Chassis could travel from rural Duluth to a hair's breadth of the Iowa border, her owners will never know, but that's what they believe happened.

In this Feb. 23, Chassis, a lively pure-bred husky, romps with Mia Musel and her brother Mason, while their mother Teresa Musel talks of finding her dog during an interview in Duluth, Minn. A Siberian husky who broke loose from her chain in rural Duluth on New Year's Day was found safe seven weeks later - almost 300 miles away near the Iowa border. BOB KING | THE DULUTH NEWS-TRIBUNE

DULUTH -- How a husky named Chassis could travel from rural Duluth to a hair's breadth of the Iowa border, her owners will never know, but that's what they believe happened.

The 1½-year-old dog broke loose from her chain late New Year's Day. On Saturday, a family in Taopi, Minn., almost 300 miles south of Duluth, took in a dog matching Chassis' description. On Tuesday, the dog was home in Lakewood Township.

"Their natural instinct is to run," said Teresa Musel, who, with her husband, Nick, owns the husky. "She loves to run."

And although Chassis had escaped before, sometimes for hours, she always returned home until that day.

The Musels' journey to find Chassis was a long one, beginning with lengthy searches via foot, snowmobile, truck and four-wheeler in the woods and roads of rural Duluth and beyond. Through posters and Facebook postings, dozens of tips poured in for Chassis sightings, none of which proved fruitful.


"We would drop what we were doing every time we got a lead," Musel said. "We spent endless hours driving around."

Weeks into Chassis' disappearance, Musel heard from a Cloquet woman, also missing a husky, who had seen a Craigslist post for a dog found in southern Minnesota. Musel contacted the poster, and the two exchanged photos and information about the dog, culminating in a Skype session that gave Musel enough certainty to make the five-hour drive to be sure.

"I prepared myself for it to not be her," Musel said. "When I got out of the car she jumped up and put her paws on my chest and looked at me, and licked my face. I just knew it was her."

Brenda Kiefer's family took the husky in after she had been hanging around their property.

"It was the last thing I expected when this woman called from Duluth," Kiefer said, because of the good health of the dog and the distance she supposedly traveled.

"People could have fed her along the way," she guessed. "She went crazy when she saw her blanket and pillow."

Musel had brought both along on the trip. The dog had the same red collar as Chassis, the same patch of bare skin on her leg and similar features and mannerisms. And she wouldn't let Musel out of her sight. One feature, a difference in the white stripe on her nose, almost stopped the couple from deciding to make the trek. But after consulting with dog experts, they learned coloring can change in the course of a young dog's life, Musel said.

The dog's body and coat were thinner, with thorns stuck to her matted fur and a strong skunk smell. Her energy level is low and she's eating and drinking water "constantly" now that she's home, Musel said.


As for her mannerisms, "she seems a little disconnected," she said. "Whatever she went through ... the stress and the trauma, you can tell she is still trying to figure things out."

Kevin Holubar was a Central High School classmate of Musel's. His bulldog, Ham, went missing near Duluth in 2010 and was found 11 days later and 30 pounds lighter.

"Not very many people can say, 'I know what you're feeling,' " Holubar said. "The good thing with a husky is, it's a dog that can handle being outside for a long period of time, and it's a mild winter. They had lots of things in their favor."

Chassis was micro-chipped on Thursday and the Musels have plans for a GPS collar.

"I have no idea how she got that far," Musel said, "but I really think her instincts probably kicked in as a husky, as far as hunting. You want to know the story, and I don't think we ever will. But I am overjoyed."

JANA HOLLINGSWORTH is a writer for the Duluth News-Tribune. The Bemidji Pioneer and News-Tribune are Forum Communications co. newspapers.

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