In my work with the Hollywood Park Humane Society, I get a lot of calls about lost and found pets. On the first Sunday of the year, I had a call about a dog that was supposedly trapped in a fence at a house that backed up to the highway. I arrived to find what turned out to be a Bernese Mountain Dog, not trapped, but trembling with fright. He was hunkered down by a wooden fence, among trashcans and piles of dirt and rock from a neighbor’s construction project. The residents had attempted to approach the dog with food, but the dog barked and growled if they tried to get near.
With a leash tucked in the back of my pants and a bag of dog treats in my hand, over the next 45 minutes, I inched closer, until I was able to stand within 2 feet of the dog, with a trashcan in between us. I tried to sweet-talk the dog and offer him food, but when I would reach my hand toward him, he would growl. After about an hour, I said to hell with it, and I pulled out the leash, and made a slip knot out of it, and I reached over and put the leash around his neck. The dog didn’t react. I took a picture of the dog and the police loaded him in a crate and took the dog to city hall to scan for a microchip. I went home to find the owner.
The dog was not chipped, so I sent out an email to residents, asking if anyone had info on the dog. I received a response from a resident named Jennifer who rescues large breed dogs, offering to go to city hall to assess the condition of our rescue dog.
After sending the email, I went on Craigslist, but didn’t find anything. I searched Lost Dogs of Texas looking for a post of the dog, but didn’t find anything. And then I went to a neighboring community’s Facebook page, and scrolling down, I found a post from some one named David dated five days earlier, saying, “Still looking for my Maggie. . . if anyone sees her please let me know asap!” The dog in the photo looked just like the dog we’d rescued, except it had white paws. I studied the photo of our rescue dog and couldn’t see any white on the paws, so I called the police officer and asked him to check the sex of the dog (we thought it was male) and see if it had white paws. I told him I may have found the owner on FB. He reported back that our rescue dog was a female, with white paws that were so dirty, they looked brown. After seeing the picture I had found on FB, he said, “That’s it! That’s exactly how the dog is sitting in the pen.”
I set out to contact the owner. I posted on the FB page, saying that we had found a similar looking dog in Hollywood Park and to please call me. When there was no immediate response, I Googled the owner’s name and found a phone number. When he answered the phone, I told him my name and that I thought we had found his dog. He repeated in disbelief, “You found my dog?” and I told him that we had captured a dog that looked like his dog and that we had the dog in Hollywood Park. He exclaimed, “You have my dog!” then he told whoever was in the car with him, “She says they found Maggie!” We agreed to meet at city hall.
When I got to city hall, Jennifer was extremely concerned at the condition of the dog. She said she could feel every bone in the dog’s body and there was a knot on one of her legs. She asked how long the dog had been gone. I told her at least five days, because that was the date of the FB post. She was skeptical of giving the dog back to the owner, saying there was no way the dog could get in such bad shape in 4 or 5 days. We decided to wait and see what happened when the owner got there; see what he said; and see the dog’s reaction.
Within 10 minutes, a car pulled up with a man and woman, and a little boy. You could see all three of their faces through the windshield when they spotted the dog – looks of amazement and disbelief. Three doors swung open simultaneously, and they all jumped out of the car, exclaiming, “That’s her! Oh my God, it’s Maggie!” The man was in tears. The dog had been missing for two months.
David approached the kennel, calling the dog by name, but there was no recognition. Jennifer explained that this was normal behavior when a dog is in fight or flight mode, and that dogs often don’t recognize their owner at first. David stood at the gate talking to Maggie but she just looked at him. Then the little boy walked up beside his dad. And Maggie slowly lifted her head a little higher and her ears perked up; she looked from David to the boy. Then slowly, Maggie stood up, not taking her eyes off of them, and she wagged her tail. And then she started whining and wagging her whole body. David went into the kennel, and Maggie stood on her hind legs and put her front paws on his shoulders, nuzzling her head in his neck. The little boy joined them and Maggie was rubbing her head against the boy, while he hugged her and laughed. I was sobbing. Out loud.
David explained that Maggie had escaped through their back gate when someone didn’t close it properly. They live about 3 miles away from Hollywood Park. The dog had been missing since early November.
David texted me that night and said that they had taken Maggie straight to Lucy’s Doggie Day Care where she’d had a shampoo, conditioner and blow dry, and had all the mats cut off her fur. She was at home, lying down and resting comfortably. She would be visiting the vet the next day for a check up and to have a suspected fractured foot tended to.
Out of the hundreds of rescues and dog reunions I’ve been involved with, this was by far the most incredible and rewarding one ever. When I think of the look on the dog’s face when she recognized her owners, I still tear up. It was a great start to the New Year!