Sitting by a campfire, Caitlyn Walker and her boyfriend, Randy Kersteen, tossed a pound of bacon and some "stinky" bologna into a pan and stirred it around, hoping the aroma would spread into the woods.

They never intended to eat the unusual mix of food, Walker said, which, frankly, was fit only for a dog.

At least that was the plan. The couple hoped the smell would coax their 2-year-old pooch, Eli, to emerge from the wooded area near Larksville Mountain.

The midnight cookout was the latest in a list of extraordinary measures the heartsick dog owners took during their increasingly desperate effort to find their beloved pet, who got lost on Nov. 1 after he bolted from the Courtdale home of a friend who was dog-sitting while Kersteen was away on business.

They were willing to do virtually anything to find the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, they said, including living for a week in tent in their friend's yard in the hope Eli - who loves to camp - would see them or smell their scent.

"I'm sure the neighbors thought we were nuts," Walker said with a laugh. "We had our clothes strewn all over the yard, hanging from trees, hanging from the car."

They also took a more traditional approach, hanging flyers, posting his picture on a Facebook site and launching day and evening search parties. Ultimately, their Houdini-impersonating hound was captured 19 days after he disappeared thanks to a trail camera and a cage-trap filled with - what else? - bacon and bologna, among other meats.

Kersteen, 24, of Forty Fort, said he's also thankful for the help of followers of the Lackawanna and Luzerne County Lost Dog Project, a Facebook group created by Ellen McCormick of Scranton to assist owners in finding lost dogs and other pets. With more than 7,000 members, the site, created in August, has reunited more than 600 dogs with their owners so far this year, according to McCormick.

Walker, 26, and Kersteen said they were stunned by the outpouring of support they received from the site's followers as they searched for Eli. Dozens of people contacted them with information on sightings, with many joining them in their daily searches.

McCormick also joined the search one day. She said she's met many owners who have gone through extraordinary lengths to find their dogs, but the efforts of Eli's owners really touched her heart.

"Their love for their dog inspired me," she said. "Someone cares so much about their dog they camp out?"

It was, Kersteen admits, a desperate measure, but Eli was worth it, he said. The dog, who had been abused as a puppy, stole their hearts the moment they rescued him from a shelter. They were determined to do whatever it took to find him. For Walker, that included traveling every day to Larksville from New Jersey, where she works and lives.

"He's just my little sunshine," Walker said. "He evokes this love out of us."

She was ecstatic when she got the call Eli had been found in the cage trap. He was in rough shape, having dropped to 59 pounds from his normal 70- to 75-pound weight, and he was covered in ticks. After a trip to the vet and some tender, loving care at home, he's doing much better.


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