Runaway Dog Story

I faced a nightmare situation today and managed to not panic. I stayed relaxed automatically, didn’t even have to remind myself, and I guess that means I’m starting to trust my dog-knowledge.

Months ago I was as the volunteer orientation for the Parkersburg shelter (HSOP) and Carrie Roe, shelter President, was telling dog walkers that  (paraphrasing here) “if a dog manages to get loose do not chase them, it will only turn into a game of keep-away. Also, this place is often the best place these dogs have ever lived, so there’s a probability the dog will simply return here by feeding time. Just return to the shelter and let us know the dog is loose.”

When I’m working with dogs I always work with slip leads with the leather tab slid down to keep the leash from coming off the dog’s head, or I use a limited slip martingale which fits a large number of dogs. My worst nightmare is a loose dog in danger of running away.

I’ve discovered that there are a few dogs who are escape artists. They’ve got this move where they wait for that fraction of a second when the collar is loose, they drop to the ground and slither backwards to slip right out of that collar. It’s magical, unless you’re standing in a country field watching a shelter dog run away from you. Then it’s just freakin’ eerie.

So today, when the “anonymous brown dog” and I were walking behind the shelter and she threw me this escape move, I was completely taken by surprise. As she peeled away from me I stood still, calmly whistling to her and trying to be welcoming. She took a long run around a field, heard my whistle, ran straight for me and stopped beside me. I reached down to put the collar on her and OFF she went again, through the orchard behind the shelter.

Again, I just stayed calm, whistling for her, and walking toward a large fenced area. Before you know it, here she is hopping in the gate beside me. I guess the few hours I’d spent training her had paid off and she trusted me.

I let her run around the fenced area for a bit, then whistled softly and leaned over in a welcoming posture. She roared up to me and allowed me to put the collar back on. I told her how brilliant she was and removed the collar. She roared around the yard again, I whistled again, and she came back to accept the collar again. This time we went in the building after I took a deep breath and thanked my lucky stars that this dog didn’t know it’s Friday the 13th.

It was an important lesson for me, one I’m sure I have the opportunity to repeat again. Shelter dogs aren’t the best creatures for a nice long walk on a leash. Today was a lucky bit of dog wrangling. I can hold this memory for that horrible day, in the future, when the dog runs away and disappears.

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One Response to “Runaway Dog Story”

  1. Teresa Says:

    Hi Marsha, you and I talked about finding homes for dogs that just didn’t fit into our pack. My first experience started out great! We couldn’t have asked for a better home for Penny. A home with only one other dog (the same breed as Penny) two cats and an empty Nester. She only trains her dog positively and uses her for Therapy. Anyway, my husband was going to be about halfway between our home and Penny’s new owner (10 1/2 hours total) so they met and went their separate ways. The new owner decided to stay over at a hotel two hours from the exchange of ownership. While letting the two dogs out they heard a really loud bang. Both dogs bolted. She called Ruby and she came. Penny on the other hand didn’t. The lady started running after Penny (to of course, you guessed it, no avail) until she was out of site. She called me three hours after looking. As you can imagine my heart sank. I quickly regrouped knowing that Penny was in a serious situation. I told her to call the Sheriff’s Department and clue in Animal Control, call the local radio station, check for local Search and Rescue, talk to the hotel staff, vets, Humane Society, put up posters, and that I would call Home Again pet finding service. We were up the entire night (she seven hours away and me just sick with worry in our home). Finally at 9am the next morning I received a call from Penny’s new owner that she had been found under a park bench curled up in a ball with her leash and collar and what we now refer to as the Miracle coat still on. She walked right up to the employee of the business that the park bench sat in front of and leap up into her arms. The temperature had dipped down to -2 degrees the night before and Penny has a smooth coat. Although Penny is safely and happily in her new home 10 1/2 hours away I think a great and really hard lesson was learned about chasing a dog that is running away.


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