When a stranger called and offered her talents to help the Montgomery County canine unit find their police dog, the cops were skeptical.
But they were also missing one 2-year-old Hungarian shepherd named Vader, who had given chase to a rabbit on Saturday and just kept on going.
After three days' search and a helicopter equipped with an infrared heat-seeking device failed to turn up the $2,500 dog, Officer Lee Marsh and Officer Timothy Carroll of the canine unit were willing to try anything. Even a psychic.
The big search -- eventually involving five canine handlers, two dogs, seven police officers, and a state police helicopter -- began on Old Columbia Pike in Columbia Park, where Vader had bolted for a bunny near Oakhurst Drive.
A 12-hour search on Day 1 failed to turn up Vader. The helicopter was brought in Sunday afternoon to use a tracking device that finds anything giving off heat. Officers went back at night and searched for six more hours. No dog.
And on Monday they did it all over again. No luck. Until they decided to stroll through woods at Columbia Park with the Baltimore psychic, whose only request for payment was that her anonymity be preserved.
She called at 2 p.m. Monday, Officer Marsh said. "She said, 'Please don't laugh, and you'll probably think this is weird, but I really wantto help find your dog,' " he said.
"We picked her up at 3:30 p.m. and found the dog underneath the dead tree near the baseball field at 6:45 p.m.," he said.
It happened like this: When the police and psychic got together, the woman said she would need a few things that Vader was familiar with.
"We gave her his tracking harness and tennis ball," Officer Marsh said. Then the psychic spent 10 minutes sitting in a patrol car where Vader usually sits.
When she emerged, she asked Officer Carroll where he last saw Vaderand asked to be taken there.
When they got to the woods, she would stand in an area and say whether she felt the dog was near or not. Finally, the woman said, "Did you hear that? I heard a dog panting." The officers hadn't heard anything.
Vader had been a mere 50 yards from where the psychic heard him, his 20-foot cotton leash wrapped around a fallen tree. Dog obedience will be improved when Vader learns to understand English, Officer Carroll said. The dog, which arrived in Montgomery County from Hungary via North Carolina two weeks ago, only understands Hungarian.