Wednesday, February 9, 2011


That was about the quickest turnaround time I've ever experienced in response to a request to the universe/Spirit /Buddha/Earthmother/a nonhuman animal. Lars was found, the day after I asked him to be! He is happily snoozing at home with Gigi. Thank you for listening, young man! You have made a lot of people very happy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Born to be Wild

It has been some time since I posted, largely because this blog is for me a place to chronicle my successes and provide a boost--to myself and other dog trainers and dog fanatics--when we sorely need them. When the news is not so encouraging, the inspiration leaves me. Which is all a way of saying that Lars' adoption did not work out, Lars moved to another foster home, Lars escaped from that foster home, and Lars has been on the run in Rosedale, MD ever since--for a month now!

The good news is that his most recent foster, Gigi, has shown a heroic level of dedication to getting him back, and that we continue to get calls and emails from people who say they've seen him. The sightings are concentrated along Route 7 near 695 in Rosedale, and he is apparently eating the deer carcasses left near the salt dome by transportation workers and the food we've left in the area. The entire town of Rosedale seems to be involved in the search and concerned. Both Gigi and I have seen him, or at least what we think is him--but he didn't come to us, just kept running.

We are hoping that at some point he'll get tired, or he'll fall in love with another dog like he did with Fozzie and stick around.

The situation depressed the crap out of me for a while. I felt I had failed him. This scared dog who needed protection from an unfriendly world was all alone, fending for himself again. All those months of stress, the fights with Lamar, the endless anxiety over whether there was any human in the world with the patience and the lovingkindness to be able to stick with Lars for the long haul, see in him what I saw in him, but have the space and the calmness of temperament and the right amount of other dogs to be really at peace with who Lars was.....all that, only for Lars to end up on the street again.

What was the point of it all?

Well, we have learned a lot about tracking lost dogs.
The most important thing is to put up signs in the area where the dog was last seen. Harness volunteers and put up as many as possible, focusing on highly visible intersections.  Put down food where he's last been seen.
Leave scraps of clothing that smell like the people and dogs he loves.
As others recommended to us, hire a tracking dog. The scent tracking dog can verify sightings, show you where the dog has been, help you concentrate more sign-posting efforts. If the dog is moving slowly enough and hunkers down somewhere, the tracking dog can lead you right to him.

Mallory, who is now in a forever home
But what if the dog doesn't want to be found? What if the dog is already semi-feral, is skilled at surviving on the streets, has always had mixed feelings about humans, and is a fast little devil on top of it? In the case of Mallory, my foster dog who got lost years ago, the tracker dog led us clear to the opposite side of town from where she was eventually found; Mallory was recovered because diligent sign-posting led to calls which led to a feeding station and volunteer presence that were in the right place at the right time. In the case of Lars, the tracker folk gave up on getting us anywhere close to him because he is covering so much ground.

Next steps, we will try to pinpoint a location to place a live trap with really good food in it. Will Lars go into a trap? Good question!
Lars, please remember how you once enjoyed your crate

Can we get a sharp-shooter with a tranquilizer gun to the right place at the right time? Maybe we'll try!

These questions remain, but despite them, I am relatively at peace with Lars now. My heart still longs for him and prays for him but part of me has surrendered. It happened on the last day that I went up to Rosedale to help with the search.

This was the fourth time I had spent all day driving around, putting up signs, leaving scraps of my clothing and piles of food, hiking through streets, streams, woods, and people's yards to leave my scent for him, urinating wherever I could get away with it, and encouraging Fozzie to do the same. This was the time that I went to the salt dome where the carcasses are, was walking with Fozzie along the utility line, coming up a hill, when ahead of us a ran up the hill and in the opposite direction, barely stopping to look.

Fozzie and I followed those pawprints in the fresh snow for the next 3 hours along heavily traveled trails and through silent, pristine woods, watching, in heavily trafficked areas, for the pawprints that were heavier and darker in the snow, and spaced out in a line rather than plotted in a rough trapezoid like those of dogs on a relaxed leashed stroll with their owners. I kept thinking, maybe he'll get cornered in a yard or on a porch, then he'll see me and stop running. Maybe he'll remember life with humans has its perks.

When that failed to happen--when bone tiredness set in and I realized it was time to buy Fozzie some pepperoni and call it a day--I found myself for the first time in a state of peace. Lars--in both appearance and temperament--is so close to his lupine forebears. Far closer than someone like Fozzie, with his floppy ears and his addiction to human contact, or Lamar, who is never more content than when he is sprawled across his humans' queen-sized bed and getting an ear rub. Lars is getting the exercise, the mental stimulation, the challenge and excitement of finding his own food that come naturally to wild dogs. And he is surviving.

Which is not to say that if given the chance, I wouldn't wrap his fuzzy body in my arms and kiss his nose for the rest of eternity. Come home young man!