Jill was a black Lab mix from Texas who was lacking in social skills. A group tried to train her to be a “gun dog” (hunter companion) but she failed. Her fate almost sealed, a caring shelter volunteer in Massachusetts rescued and found her a home. Jill, 30lbs thin, was here only two days when she escaped while on a walk with the new owner and a friend. Sensing slack in the grip, she took advantage and ran off with harness and leash still attached. Trying to catch her was a useless endeavor once she entered the woods which transitioned to dense swamp, thick with vegetation, including poison ivy. Bob, her new guardian, ventured forth, even into the ivy, but in vain. The ordeal started about 4 PM, and she covered a lot of ground in a few hours. I got asked to help and met Bob that very night to establish communications and assist with a plan. Kendra (a friend of Bob’s), Animal Control Officers, Friends of the Attleboro Animal Shelter (Kim, Kelly, Audrey & others), and Linda (North Attleboro Shelter), all provided immense support. Large neon signs and standard fliers were tacked on poles and tons of residential-style fliers (see “Fliers & Signs”) were distributed. The postings and going door to door resulted in calls that put us on locations quickly. Her initial route that evening brought her out of the swamp, through fields, along power lines, over railroad tracks, and by 8 PM, onto a major rural street parallel to the one she bolted from, but in another town. Adding to the chaos, Jill used roads that transitioned from one town into other. Seen mostly on the move and vanishing just as quickly, the sightings ranged from 4 AM to 1:30 AM throughout the search.
Within four days she had found her way back closer to home but further down the road. She constantly crossed town lines. One 7 AM caller saw her resting in the middle of a power grid access path, close to the main road. She’d run if you made eye contact, called to her, or got out of a car. Concerns were traffic, predators, and dragging leash. More detailed sightings revealed she’d lost both harness and leash. With dots on the map, albeit haphazardly, I chose a yard she ran through to set up my cage trap. After a few nights amid thunderstorms and no luck, I pulled out but kept the trap ready to go at a moment’s notice. One man saw Jill (skinny, no harness/leash) in his garage and let us place a trap in his yard that same night. It was a hasty last-minute setup but decent location. We hoped she’d pass through his yard again and get caught there. I still had my trap as a backup.
On August 12th, a morning call reported seeing Jill at 2 AM on the main road near town lines. We passed out more fliers, concentrating in a small area. At 10 AM she was wandering in a yard near a large fir tree. Walking up the short driveway, I immediately saw the birdfeeder, a huge draw for lost dogs. I gave the woman a flier and asked permission to trap in her yard.
The lady agreed but was having company later and she needed to mow the lawn. I politely asked if she’d mow the front yard first. It was there that I saw Jill for the first time. She dodged my glances with graceful, evasive moves around fences and shrubs and was gone in a flash. With mowing started, noon traffic 40’ away, and a crowd watching from across the street, the location was less than ideal, almost hazardous, but I was very confident and set up anyway. The ground next to the fir tree was leveled with a yoga mat and a low branch straddled over the middle of the trap to help it blend into the landscape. On the road, my own food often doubles as bait, so I put a nugget of a peanut butter sandwich on a large rock and a small bowl of mixed food bits off to one side of the trap. Inside, my bait bowl had Cesar dog food, cheese, and hot dog bits. Via a “quick release” back door, I also added sandwich bits to the bait and then tipped the bowl to face the rear wall, thus making it easily visible and more tempting.
I left to scout the adjacent short dead-end road for a safer “throw-down” spot and check the other trap. Most homes had woodsy backyards and birdfeeders. While heading back, a call reports Jill’s in the yard again. I parked at the curb just opposite the house and see Jill’s eating birdseed ground debris….slim pickings. The lady’s mowing her side yard. Cars stop behind me thinking I’m waiting to exit onto the main road, or pull alongside to ask what’s going on. Does it get any worse? Jill watched cautiously but didn’t bolt as I exit the Jeep and talk to her in a soft voice. Then I did something I’d never done before but thought necessary under these circumstances. I sat on the curb in plain view but kept a low profile by the Jeep’s rear hatch. My head bowed, I offered kind words as I watched her indirectly. When the mowing noise stopped, Jill suddenly disappeared behind the home. Still talking, I slowly walked over to add another tidbit to the rock then went back to my perch. Jill re-appeared almost immediately, looked at me, then walked directly towards the trap. She ate food bits off the rock, glanced at me, ate bowl tidbits, glanced again, and then went to the rear of the trap to sniff the bait inside. She walked around the cage 3 times (common behavior) and then right into the front entrance. The split-second noise of the door springing, latching, and locking is always a sweet sound.
The group in Texas said the only way we’d get Jill was with a tranquilizer gun. Upon hearing that I had hoped to prove them very wrong. She wasn’t that difficult to catch, but it’s never “easy” until you are in the right place at the right time. While most dogs are caught with food as bait, sometimes you have the luxury of using both food and scent. To that end, I put Jill’s old, worn Texas collar with tags inside next to the bait. I know she would have gone in for the bait mix, but her collar provided additional incentive that increased the odds of my success.
Upon adopting Jill, Bob changed her name to “Liebe” which means “sweetheart.” During the search we referred to her as Jill. I stopped to visit months later, and though still a bit shy, Liebe looked great. Bob made a commitment when she came into his life, and he never gave up on catching her. I was very impressed with his determination and positive attitude.