Be careful when you search for a dog. Today, it is both unusual and scary to see a stranger on your property. We first notified the local police where we would be looking, and then we knocked on every door before searching. We also learned to have flyers at the ready to help explain what we were doing. If something warranted a detailed look (tracks leading up to a barn, for example), we again called the police and told them what we intended to do.
Despite these precautions, an out-of-town and off-duty police officer approached me when I was searching his neighbors' property. After a right-from-the-outset, verbally abusive confrontation during which I told the out0of-town officer (1) what I was doing, (2) that the local police had our names and physical descriptions, and knew what we were up to, and (3) that he would not stop me from searching someone else's property for a possibly dead or dying dog, he threatened me. When that did not sway me, he assaulted me. After he began that assault I told him he should think real hard about whether or not he wanted to continue that assault. This brought him to his senses. It is important to be prepared for this kind of confrontation, and probably the best preparation is to search in teams; you will at the very least have a witness. Also, because we notified the police often, they were on our side when called to the scene. The state police actually apologized for the off-duty officer's behavior and thanked us for the way we handled the incident. KEEP THE LOCAL POLICE INFORMED.
I will follow up with offending man's commanding officer; it is sobering to know he both carries a gun AND has a badge. If I'm not satisfied with the results of an informal complaint, I will file a formal one and pursue criminal charges, and then go to the press as a last resort. This is one anger-challenged, bully-of-a-man who happens to be sworn to protect and serve. It is both shocking and disheartening that a police officer would be the only person who had no empathy or compassion for our situation. BE CAREFUL, BE VIGILANT, AND BE WARY OF EVERYONE UNTIL THEY PROVE YOU CAN BEHAVE OTHERWISE.
That being said, except for the one notable exception, EVERYONE was at least empathetic and at best unbelievably helpful.
Thanks again for all your support, good advice, and positive energy. You all gave Lucienne, Zoey, and I the stamina and will to bring Bunny home.