GLADSTONE, N.D. —Yolanda Martin is in Idaho for a wedding, so she's taking a few days off from searching for her family's missing dog. That doesn't mean the search has stopped. Many people are still looking.
"Kurt, my husband, is searching. So are friends, people from work. People we don't even know. There are plenty of people still searching for her," Yolanda said Thursday, Feb. 27.
There is no news to report, however.
Yolanda said the search for Sami, a blind Labrador retriever about 8-10 years old that's been missing since Feb. 11 when she apparently wandered away from the Martins' western North Dakota home, hasn't yielded any results.
"We haven't heard nothing. I don't know what I'm going to do next," Yolanda said.
The story of Sami hit North Dakotans in the heart last week when the Martins bought half-page ads in six newspapers, including The Forum, asking for the public's help in locating her. I wrote about Sami and the ads in this column, which was shared nearly 15,000 times on Facebook just through The Forum's website InForum.com. The column also ran on the websites of the Dickinson Press, the Grand Forks Herald and the Jamestown Sun. All, like The Forum, are owned by Forum Communications Co.
Combine the mainstream press coverage with social media and Sami's story has reached tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people.
Sadly, it hasn't resulted in anybody locating the Martins' dog. Or even any solid information that might lead Yolanda and Kurt to find Sami.
"None whatsoever," Yolanda said. "I've heard from people from all over the place, even Colorado and Montana. A lot of people are calling wondering how they can help or giving me tips on different ways we could search. It's all been things we've already tried or are doing."
Yolanda paused and sighed.
"I just don't know what I'm going to do about the old girl," she said, a catch in her throat obvious.
Sami's story is a tough one to digest and many readers have contacted me wondering if she's been found. I've been told some people cried when reading the original column, knowing that Sami was blind and wandering alone somewhere in western North Dakota in the winter. Dogs, man. They do that to us.
The Martins adopted the beautiful 85-pound white dog in 2013, the third Lab in their rural home. A botched cataracts surgery in 2016 left Sami blind, but it didn't leave her any less loving or happy. She found a way to cope and lead a fairly normal dog's life.
Sami wandered away from the Martin home, four miles southeast of Gladstone and 12 miles east of Dickinson in Stark County.
The Martins have tried everything they can think of to find her, including hiring an airplane for an aerial search. They've also used a drone, driven countless miles and scoured their 480 acres of land by four-wheeler. They've stuffed flyers in mailboxes, they've posted on social media. They even alerted companies like UPS, FedEx and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to ask their workers to keep a look out.
And, of course, there were the newspaper ads.
None of it has yielded a clue as to Sami's location.
Yolanda isn't giving up hope, even as the days turn to weeks in Sami's absence.
"I had one lady call me whose Shar-Pei went missing, and it was blind like Sami. She called mostly to comfort and support me, but she also said there's a chance Sami could be missing for a long time and still be found," Yolanda said. "She said a cross-country skier found her dog after it was missing for 30 days. The skier just happened to be going past a grove of trees and heard the dog and found it. It was a little underweight, but it was OK after 30 days missing. And Shar-Peis are small dogs. So ...."
Another pause and another sigh.
"The nights are worst for me," Yolanda said. "I just wonder where she is."
The Martins are offering a $1,000 reward for tips leading to Sami's whereabouts and a $3,000 reward for finding and returning her.
If you have information, contact Kurt Martin at 701-290-0640 or Yolanda Martin at 701-590-9801 or 701-483-3478.