January 12, 1998
Photo courtesy Estrada family
Annie, a 13-month-old German shepherd was struck by a car and ran away from home in late November, leaving a family desperate to find her again.
by Andrew Walgamott
COTTAGE LAKE--With eyes half filled with hope, half with memories, Kim Estrada looks into her and husband Jim's back yard from where her 13-month-old German shepherd, Annie, used to announce she was ready to come into the house. "I keep thinking I'm going to see her big ears. And her saying, 'Okay, Mom, I'm ready to come in,'" Kim said from the kitchen of the Cottage Lake-area home. Annie, the reddish-coated shepherd that means so much to the Estrada family, has been gone for two weeks now.
But Kim and Jim Estrada's haven't given up hope of finding the dog that has helped them to begin living again following the death of their son four years ago. "We're still in the don't give-up-hope mode," Kim said Wednesday afternoon. Day and night, the Estrada's have been looking for Annie who ran out an unlocked gate December 28 and was struck by a car. Her collar with her tags fell off in the collision. But she kept running instead of turning for home.
In the days afterward, residents along Woodinville-Duvall Road and 176th Ave. N.E. reported seeing a dazed, limping dog similar to the recognizable shepherd. But nobody stopped to help her. So the Estradas began offering a $1,000 reward. "We thought if we offered a reward, somebody would have the initiative to help her," Kim says, but adds that having Annie back is beyond money.
Even so, thousands of residents have seen the 500 yellow signs posted along roads between Clearview and Redmond, Bothell and Duvall. Hundreds of thousands have read or seen the Estrada's story in print or television. How Annie came to the Estradas is a story of destiny and hope. The shepherd came from California where Kim's brother breeds dogs. Earlier this year, Annie was originally given to another family, but was first brought by the Estrada's home near the corner of 174th Ave. N.E. and 172nd Pl. N.E. by Cottage Lake.
The Estradas immediately knew Annie was the dog for them. "When my husband saw her, he took one look at her and said 'That is the dog I've been waiting for all my life,'" Kim said. She pauses, tears beginning to roll down her cheek for the umpteenth time in the week-and-a-half Annie's been missing. "I remember Jim standing right here in the kitchen saying it." Annie went with the other family, but returned to the Estrada's two weeks later.
That's when the Estradas began to heal again from the loss of their 19-year-old son who passed away from bone cancer. Having the big, full-of-life shepherd on their three-acres helped them to start over. "We just thought this was going to be our year. Things were looking up, you know. We just started to feel like living again. She was the love of [Jim's] life," Kim said. "She brought us back to life and living again." At that moment last Wednesday afternoon, Jim was in South Center somewhere, following tips that had been phoned in to the family. Kim says Jim hasn't been to work in the time Annie's been missing. They own Woodinville Auto Sales about a mile away.
Annie means a lot to Kim, as well. "Annie to me...I can't even explain. I can't put it into words. She just loved me with all her heart and soul." Kim says the odds are good for Annie surviving in the wild. Authorities have told her dogs can live without food for three weeks. "I've heard stories of people finding their dogs 40 to 50 miles way," she adds. But she hopes Annie is nearby. She's been driving local roads late at night, even crawling through coyote trails in the woods near her house, searching for the dog. Kim wishes she knew what Annie was thinking. "Maybe she thought she was bad. Who knows what they think? But I know she thinks; that I do know," Kim said.
It's a search that has involved people beyond Woodinville. On a kitchen table are pages and pages of messages from residents around Puget Sound. "I have never met these people. They're calling me, telling me 'I've been out all day, I didn't see a thing,'" Kim said. She also keeps a list of people who are standing by to volunteer for search parties. Humans haven't been the only ones affected by Annie's disappearance.
Her best friend, a Husky mix named Mimi was brought to help search, but began shaking when she came to the Estrada's home and hasn't been the same since, Kim says. It seems like it would be so easy to spot the distinctively colored dog. Kim says that once after Jim walked Annie in Winthrop, a city in north central Washington, passersby at their business recognized her as the same dog they'd seen in the old west style town. But so far nothing has turned up. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Annie can call the Estrada's at (206) 954-5098 or (206) 954-5099.