COEUR d'ALENE — Montana Hodges has been driving hundreds of miles between Missoula and Spokane, searching for her "life partner" — her missing black Lab-husky mix named Ted.
Ted, 9, was last seen in Missoula at a Pattee Canyon trailhead on Nov. 16. He took off after a deer or another animal, and Hodges hasn't seen him since. She believes he might have been taken by a homeless hitchhiker, who was reportedly spotted leaving Missoula several days later on Interstate 90 with a dog that looked a lot like Ted.
Since Ted went missing, Hodges, a 33-year-old Missoula resident, has undertaken a massive search along Interstate 90 to Spokane. The hitchhiker was believed to be headed west.
A Facebook group called "Fetching Ted," with nearly 600 members, has sprung up to contribute to the search. Information has spread far and wide and tips about possible sightings are coming in regularly. Many people are offering recommendations to improve the search, and spending their own time and money searching and posting fliers.
The growing Facebook group has been providing information to law enforcement, homeless shelters, gas stations and stores, among other places they believe would be useful.
There have been posts to Craigslist, too, where a $2,000 cash reward is being offered.
Hodges, a doctoral student in paleontology at the University of Montana, hasn't been to school or work in days, she said.
She has to find out what happened to her partner. She adopted Ted eight-and-a-half years ago from a Fairbanks dog pound. He is named after late former Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.
"We have probably camped and backpacked like a thousand times together," Hodges told The Press Wednesday. "We've been all over the place with each other."
"Ted loves sticks and singing to harmonicas and backpacking under the Northern Lights," according to a Craigslist ad.
She received reports that Ted was spotted in Coeur d'Alene on Monday and Post Falls on Tuesday. But she hasn't been able to confirm it was in fact Ted, who has a characteristic curly and bushy black and tan tail.
She cautioned that it hasn't been confirmed Ted is with anyone, either. If someone does have him, she said, she is offering the $2,000 reward with no questions asked. The money was donated.
"I never asked — people just gave," she said.
An emergency phone number for sightings only is (406) 830-0141. Hodges asks that all other information go to Facebook.
Wednesday night, Hodges was in Post Falls searching for Ted at known panhandling locations and homeless hangouts. She said she will continue searching in the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls area until she has exhausted all leads.
She said she won't give up until Ted is found. She'll go wherever the leads take her.
"I need an end to this story," Hodges said. "I can't live with not knowing."