The weekend of my daughter’s sixteenth birthday was as exciting as they come – although we had decided to forgo the traditional overblown “Sweet 16” that is popular on Long Island. Sunday, her birthday, was to be a nice, quiet day spent at home – a welcome day of rest in the midst of preparations for varsity softball playoffs – topped with dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant. Saturday afternoon changed that plan.
Audrey had softball practice followed by a car wash with the team. My son Alex and I were putting together a pool ladder. In doing so, we had removed something that was blocking a broken picket in the fence. All of a sudden, we realized our dog Honey was gone. My husband Kevin came in the backyard, where he had been mowing, and said she ran into the sump next door. He tried to catch her but she ran into some humanly inaccessible brush. The sump opens onto miles of protected woodlands in the back of our property. Every few weeks she gets out like that, and comes back a little while later, wanting us to chase her down. On her last romp, she had lost her identification tags.
Kevin kept mowing and my son was on the lookout for Honey, and I went to pick up Audrey. When I got back, she still hadn’t shown up. I drove around the neighborhood to no avail. I had to take Alex to his travel baseball game. It was raining, and I was sure it was going to be rained out, but it wasn’t. When we got back from there, it was dark, and she still hadn’t come back. Kevin said our six-year-old daughter had gone to bed crying, after standing at the back door saying, “Honey didn’t come home.” We started to get really worried. Honey is scared of the rain, and we were afraid she might have gotten stuck somewhere in the sump and possibly drowned. We left food out on the front porch and hoped she would be there in the morning.
Sunday I woke up early but had to wait for one of the children to get up and go looking with me, since the overgrown and wooded sump isn’t a safe place to go by yourself. Audrey got up and was the first to go with me. Allison and Alex quickly followed. We went through the sump into the wood, split up into pairs, and went through all the main paths. We hope to at least leave our scent, since the rain might have washed away the scent for Honey to find her way home. We walked all the miles through to the main roads to no avail.
I did a drive around all the main roads to make sure she hadn’t been hit by a car. I called the town shelter, where dogs are brought dead or alive if hit on the road. I was relieved no dogs had been brought in from our area. We got dressed and went out for the birthday dinner, which got our minds off the dog for an hour or two. When we got back, I started posting pictures of Honey on Craigslist, Twitter, and Facebook. I told my kids we would pray that some puppy angels would guide Honey safely home to us.
On Monday, I started posting fliers. On my way to teach religion, I got an email from Denise May, a local Rescue Coordinator for Ridgeback Rescue, a volunteer organization devoted to the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed ( www.ridgebackrescue.org ). One of her volunteers had seen my ad on Craigslist and she wanted to help. She asked if a humane trap might help. I answered that I was not sure, but that I would call for her advice after my class.
When I got home, I called Denise. I was surprised to hear her say that some people were already on their way out to my area to look for Honey! They had already made up a flier with the information from my ad. The volunteers working on Honey’s case were Val, Eddie, and Judi. This is what they do with their spare time, to bring dogs safely back to their owners. I thought maybe these were the “puppy angels” God had sent for Honey.
Valerie was the first at my house. She had hot dogs in her car and squeaky toys (to attract the dog); she started by driving around calling Honey. She also runs a Facebook group called Help Bring Hampton Bayz Home ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Help-Bring-Hampton-Bayz-Home ) dedicated to finding a male golden retriever who has been missing from the Medford areas since February, but which also allows others to post lost and found dogs. The group suggested that I set up a Facebook group just for Honey. Honey actually does have her own page, set up by my kids, but it’s private. A public group would allow for people to report “sightings”.
The group, accompanied by Judi’s friendly retriever Chloe, searched the sump and the woods that night. They flooded the area with fliers, searched other adjoining roads and another wooded park. I was really amazed at the goodness of these people. They suggested that I set up feeding stations, so that I would know if Honey was in the area – in which case a humane trap might work. I should hang unwashed shirts belonging to whichever family member she was closest to, where the wind would catch and carry the scent. Another suggestion was barbecuing bacon, something that recently worked in the rescue of another dog that had been missing in the woods over the weekend.
I should call around to all the local animal hospitals, as well as my vet, and fax them my flier. My vet at Wooded Acres told me that generally the vets and animals hospitals share this information in case a found dog with no identification is brought in. I also should call the pounds in adjoining areas, fax them fliers, and visit my own town shelter on a regular basis. I heard from the group, as well as several nice people I ran into while hanging fliers, that you really need to go into the shelter and look for the dog on a regular basis. Many people have called the front desk and been told no dog matching that description has been brought in, and then found the dog there.
On Tuesday I went to the shelter. That was such a heartbreaking experience. When I got in through the front door I imagined I heard Honey’s voice among the many dogs howling. My hopes were to be lifted and dashed repeatedly during this visit – there is a Proverb that says “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”. In each room I walked through kennels on the left and right. I kept hoping the next dog might be her. There were many dogs that had similar characteristics to her and I started to doubt myself, wondering if I would recognize my own dog. One was her breed and although she sounded different and showed no sign of recognition, I looked at her for a minute and said, “This looks a little like her if she lost some weight.” The guide laughed and said, “Except it’s a he.” So that settled that. That was the last dog. It was everything I could do to hold my tears back until I could get outside.
When I got home there were a few pieces of steak missing from the bowl on the front porch, which got my hopes up a little, but anything could have taken it. I put some sand around the bowl so I could see the paw prints next time. That night Val was out again, and the rest of the group was hanging more fliers. I made some bacon in the backyard and made a trail from the sump to the front porch. On Wednesday there was some bacon missing, but the prints left were the size of a raccoon’s. Then I got a phone call.
“Good morning,” said a man with a gruff voice.
“Good morning?” I said, hopefully.
“I hope it’s a good morning for you,” he said, mysteriously.
“Yes?” I prompted.
“Are you still missing your dog?” he asked.
I asked for a description – he was describing her as a “puppy”, but the size and collar description matched. He lived on the road on the other side of the woods. I went over there right away. When I knocked I could see through the window her body being carried and I knew it was her. He answered the door carrying her. She was so excited! We got her into the car and he explained how she had shown up on his front doorstep either Sunday or Monday afternoon, wet and scared. He had another older dog and “I don’t need another dog”, he said, but he kept her safe and fed her organic dog food. He had gone to the food store, where people post lost and found pets. I had given them my flier, but they swap them every other day, so it wasn’t up at that time. When he woke up Wednesday and went outside, her flier was smack in front of his nose on a post in front of his house. “She’s gonna need a bath. She has some ticks on her. I was gonna give her the works today,” he said. He proceeded, “She is such a sweet dog and really needs loving. You can’t ever yell at her. She’ll do whatever you tell her to.” I told her she had been a rescue dog and he said he figured as much.
When I brought her home, I texted the really essential people – my daughter at school and Denise and Val – first, and they had questions, but I really had to get her into the yard for her bath. I did that, and felt bad I had to make her uncomfortable, but afterward she laid in the sun and looked so happy to be in her own yard. She slept all afternoon.
“Never underestimate the power of a flier”, said Denise. She and Val told me to give Honey a kiss and hug from them, a treat, and a set of shiny new tags. I spent much of the afternoon calling around to all the places that had posted my flier so they could take them down. I would spend the next week on a hunt for fliers throughout town to take them down. I kept the large, beautifully done posters in case she ever got on the loose again.
The reunions with the children continued for hours as they all finished up with school and sports. Alex came home and knew something was different. “Is Honey home?” he asked hopefully. They had a little romp and she went back to sleep. Allison came home from track. She went up the stairs and I asked her to come to the windows. “Look what’s under the trampoline,” I said, and she ran out to give her some petting. I met the school bus with her on the leash – the bus driver was ecstatic for us – Honey jumped up and licked her on the face. Audrey came home from softball and dove onto the couch with Honey.
Honey slept all the next day and ate quite a bit. The following day she got microchipped. Over the weekend she perked up a bit and by Monday was her energetic self again. It was so nice to have my running partner back!
I asked Denise what someone should do if they find a lost dog. This is what she had to say:
“A finder should take the dog to the local vet to have him/her scanned for a microchip. If no chip and the finder is willing to hold, they should hang flyers, list on Craig's list and/ or place a newspaper ad. The finder should put limited information. Like for Honey the sign or ad should merely say found large brown dog. This way the caller claiming the dog will have to fill in the pieces such as breed, gender, collar or no collar. What you are trying to prevent is people claiming the dog when it is not theirs, for nefarious purposes (such as dog fighting or breeding). I require a claimant to provide proof of ownership through vet records and/or photos.”
We are so happy to have our beloved Honey back! To anyone who ever loses their dog, be persistent, and don’t give up hope! I heard from people who lost their dog for days, weeks, even months, and their endings were happy. I am so blessed to be able to share my happy ending with you.