Operation Teddy: Inside the Search for the Most Wanted Dog in St. Louis


Teddy ran away on St. Patrick's Day.

It seems crazy now that it started so simply. Before the drone searches, the 900-member public Facebook group and then the smaller, secret one, before #TeamTeddy, motion-sensor cameras and K9 tracker teams from out of state, Teddy was just a ginger-haired dog who hopped over a chain-link fence in the suburbs of south county one evening and trotted away.

A pet detective hired to untangle the case would later theorize something on a nearby street spooked the eight-year-old shepherd and retriever mix, which made sense. Teddy had always been a nervous dog.

Mike and Carolyn Holden rescued him and his brother from a shelter in late 2008. The brother, a chubby fluff ball, was easily the more gregarious of the two. For Christmas that year, the Holdens showed both pups to Mike's mother and told her to pick one to keep as her present. She chose the brother, so timid little Teddy went home with them to O'Fallon.

He eventually made friends with the young couple's beagle and the revolving pack of kittens that Mike and Carolyn fostered. But he remained shy and cautious of strangers.

"That dog tucked his tail tighter than any dog I've seen in my life," Mike's mother, Mary Holden, recalls.

She had agreed to watch Teddy for eleven days in March while Mike and Carolyn went on vacation to Florida and the Bahamas. Two days after they left, on March 17, Mary left home for a bit, returning at 8:30 p.m. All the dogs were inside, except for Teddy.

Her younger son told her the dogs had been in the yard, but Teddy wouldn't come when he called. Knowing Teddy's personality, he decided to give him some space and try again later.

Mary Holden looked outside, but the yard was empty. The sun had already set, and the late evening was quickly growing dark. She and her son raced out into the neighborhood and called out for the missing dog.

"Teddy!" they yelled. "Teddy!"

They got in their cars and drove along the streets. Mary Holden recruited her brother-in-law to help them search. They cruised round and round, widening their search and doubling back for hours. They took flashlights out on foot.

"Teddy! Teddy!"

Near midnight, they finally returned home, exhausted and upset. Teddy was gone.

Carolyn and Mike's trip was already off to a rough start when they learned the news.

The couple usually love to travel. It's one of the few times when the two of them can spend much uninterrupted time together. Carolyn, who at 34 has long brown hair and a broad smile, runs her own business, making and selling high-end soaps from a storefront off South Main Street in St. Charles. In 2007, she had also been working with an organization that helps people with special needs get jobs. Mike, a manager at a Wehrenberg Theatre, hired one of the program's clients, and he met Carolyn when she came to help get the woman set up. They started to date shortly after and married in 2010.

They always seem to be running in different directions. At 32, with a touch of gray creeping into his beard, Mike keeps unusual hours as part of his job at the theater. He often spends his time off helping out Carolyn at the shop in St. Charles, but the only time they really get to relax together is when they travel.

In March, they spent a couple of days in Orlando and then drove south to Miami, where they boarded Flogging Molly's three-day Salty Dog Cruise. They'd taken the same cruise the year before and had a blast, but Carolyn caught some sort of bug this time and felt miserable.

"It was literally the worst trip of our lives," she says now.

She was still sick when the cruise ended. They picked up their rental car in a Miami parking garage, planning to spend another day in the city and then Key West before returning home.

Then they checked their phones. Mike had a voice mail and a text message from his mother, both telling him to call as soon as he could. He nervously dialed and spoke to his mom. Teddy had already been missing for four days.

"We were both in shock," Mike says. "I don't even know how to describe it. Carolyn was in tears."

They immediately canceled their trip and booked the first flight out of Orlando. Losing a pet was always one of Carolyn's worst nightmares, especially with the travels that sometimes took the couple out of the country. It worried her so much that she'd already designed missing posters in case it ever happened.

"I guess I'm kind of Type A," she acknowledges. Carolyn called her employees and asked them to start printing copies.

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