Friday, May 10, 2013

Abby dog's solo run, AKA, "Abby dog's great escape" & rescue

On Tuesday May 7, I took Abby dog to her final beginner dog training class at PetSmart. My goal for the class was to strengthen the bond with her by spending time with her away from home and hopefully she could learn a few commands. She seems to like Hugh but is still timid around me.  She will play with him if he throws a toy and won't take a toy from me.  I've felt like our bond is getting closer, but still not fully sealed.  We have both been running with her and she loves to run.  Whenever one of us would go on a run, she was usually at the closet door waiting for her collar and leash.  Since we got her in December, she had been running 30 - 50 miles per week and her longest run was 15 miles and she holds a steady pace unless it is really warm outside.  Running seems to give her a purpose in life and she is a happier dog as a result.

I honestly wasn't expecting much from the class since she is so timid and too shy to relax around people. I was hoping just being at the class would help her gain confidence. The first class she crawled under my chair and I wondered if she was truly ready for the class.  However, as the weeks progressed she gained more confidence in class and around me at home.  In class she was performing the commands with the aid of string cheese which I used since regular dog treats weren't going to cut it. She wasn't always quick and consistent to respond to commands but she was trying. She couldn't do commands like "sit" or "down" out in the open but did fine backed up against the wall. Handing her to the trainer and telling her to "come" was not a problem since she would rather be with me than a stranger or people she doesn't know very well.  "Watch me" is difficult since she doesn't like to make eye contact very long but I think we saw some improvement.

After the first class, the trainer had even mentioned the policy where we could take the class again if we weren't satisfied. I wasn't sure she would be able to pass the class either so wasn't surprised that taking the class again might be a good idea. We couldn't train much outside of class since it was too frightening for her.  This is a dog that wouldn't even come to the kitchen to eat when we first got her and we had to take her food to the bedroom and feed her on the bed. Finally, she started coming to eat when called to the kitchen and eating under the counter we were making progress.  She seemed to enjoy going to class since she would make excited noises when we turned into the parking lot. Theses were the same types of noises she made when she was excited to go for a run. She passed the class and received her certificate on Tuesday night. Before leaving, I talked to Amanda, the trainer about another class since she had mentioned she hoped we would take her next class. Even though she had passed, I didn't think she was quite ready for the next class. Amanda said she could still take the class again as she had said on the first night so I decided I would bring her back on a Saturday class that starts in June.

On the way out of the store, about 7:25 pm, our friend John and his friend Samantha were at the checkout. I stopped for a moment to talk to them and Abby was pulling while I was stopped. Whenever we are walking and she pulls, I stop until she quits pulling before proceeding.  However in this case we were already stopped and she was pulling,  tuning me out, and seemed to be having a panic attack that I had not witnessed in the past.  She started pulling harder so I gave in and started to leave and then she pulled out of her collar. She got to the automatic doors that opened, but just slow enough I was able to grab her neck and put the collar back on. I am not sure what happened next, but the leash came off and her identification tag was somehow hanging with it. I'm guessing it must have attached to the leash earlier and I didn't notice. She broke loose and started to run. I thought she would go to the car so didn't run too quickly after her, but she kept running. Also, thought if I did run after her, she would be more likely to keep running from me. The next thing I know she is across the parking lot and a car coming at her as it was leaving  and hits her. I heard the hit and her yelp and saw her get knocked down, but she got right back up and ran. I heard a woman yelling at the driver and not sure exactly what that was about.  Maybe he wasn't going to stop, but certainly couldn't blame him.  I jumped into John and Sam's car and we take off but weren't sure where she went. We looked a bit on the same side of the road as the store around some apartments on Ash St.

At 7:33 pm, I get a phone call from the trainer saying a guy (Jack) in my class has her. She then called back and said he didn't actually have her but was with her at Providence and Ash  which is 2.3 miles from the store. John took me back to my car and we took off and didn't see Jack. I'm really not sure the sequence of events  at this point (there were so many phone calls), but Amanda called and said Jack was following her in a gold Lexus. She went ahead and gave me his number. I called him and he said they were now at Stephen's Lake (4 miles from the store) and a guy on a bike also was following her. Before I could get to Stephen's Lake, he called and said she was at Broadway Village apartments (about 4.5 miles).  He thought maybe she wouldn't be able to get out. Then he called back and said she was at Landmark Bank (half mile from Broadway Village)  at the corner of Old 63 and Broadway. At this point I was pretty sure she was headed home (near Hollywood Theaters) but was possibly injured from the car and could get hit by another car.

Jack called back and said he lost her. Then I got a call from John they had spotted her. I was having problems with my phone and had to call back. Before I could call back, Sam called at little after 8 pm and said she Abby had ran down Valley View Drive, a dead end off of Old 63 and into the woods. John had followed her. I was there within a few minutes. I went down a trail between some houses but had no idea which way he had gone and he was out of ear shot. I went back and waited with Sam. She mentioned that Abby had been hit again by a car on Old 63 but the guy that hit her said he didn't think he hit her very hard. Seemed like a half hour passed and we got a call from John.  He was at the Phillips 66 station just a little bit up the road. He had followed her and said she was wearing down, mouth foaming, but had lost her. Not knowing what to do I drove around a bit looking, but it was dark.

I went home and told Hugh. We went to where she went into the woods, but it was too dark to go looking. Chuck from his quartet had driven to the area to look around. We went home and he went back out on foot but no luck. I was hoping she might find her way home. I was pretty devastated at this point and pretty much shut down. Hoping for the best but assuming the worst since she had been hit twice, I went to bed feeling helpless and couldn't sleep. I was afraid if she did try to get home, she would get hit again since she doesn't seem to have any sense that cars can hit her. Hugh came back and waited outside for awhile. We left her dog bed on the steps, the garage door open, and the gate in the back yard in case she came home. Some neighbors went out looking when he told them what happened.

After a very sleepless night with a few dreams about her showing up, Hugh got up and went for a run. I couldn't sleep so I got up and decided I would go looking in the woods where she was last seen. I took my GPS so I would have a record of where I looked and a water bottle.  I parked at Grindstone Park around 6:45 am and was hoping I could just follow the creek from Stadium and Old 63 but couldn't get very far before I ran into obstacles that prevented me from going further. I decided to walk up to the Phillips 66 where we met John and see if I could get down the bluff to the creek. I really didn't want to go between people's houses and get arrested for trespassing.  I was able to get to the creek down a hill that wasn't too steep near the little park off Old 63 and near the Phillips 66.

Once I got to the creek, I walked as far as I could and reached a point where I didn't think she could go any further since the terrain no longer followed the creek where it would be easy to walk. I turned around and went back and reached the point where I had been the night before when she went into the woods.  Even the night before I wondered if maybe she could have crossed the creek. I determined it was possible in a few places since it was shallow but there was also water moving but not too fast. I walked as far north as I could to a point where it was impossible to easily go any further. I then went back and looked at the point of the creek where I thought she might cross and I could cross as well. I thought about crossing to go look but decided to go home around 8 am. I had walked only around 4 miles round trip from my car.

Shortly after I got home I got a text from Tom S. (Tryathletics) offering to look and also gave me ideas where to post on Facebook.  I gave him an idea of the area and he went looking on his bike around campus, Grindstone park, and the apartments near Old 63 and Stadium.  I put a message on several Facebook pages (City of Columbia, University of Missouri, CMHS, emailed Second Chance).    Also, shared on my own page and ended up with 133 shares, plus others shared so a lot of people were aware.  I received a response from a woman named Liz that contained some very helpful information from No Kill Columbia - Lost Your Pet as to what to do if you lose your pet. This is the organization that Abby and I won the race It's Raining Cats and Dogs on April 28th.  Liz posted on a FB site called Columbia Missouri Lost and Found Paws.  I was already planning to do many of these things on the list but it gave me a clear plan to make sure I didn't miss any steps. I left a report with animal control, put an ad on Craigslist, sent picture to my coworker whose husband works for animal control, went to the CMHS with a picture and filed a report. Animal control and CMHS were very helpful. The employees at CMHS remembered her since we just adopted her in December.  I went back home, and of course looking along the way for any loose dogs.

I had taken the day off but still planned to attend a training class in the afternoon since if I did not attend my department would be charged for the class. It was too late to cancel or I would have done so since I was not in a good state of mind to attend. Hugh and I went to lunch.  We didn't feel like eating but were still hungry. At lunch, he asked if she was still wearing her thunder shirt (a shirt to calm dogs) when she escaped and I said yes, but wasn't sure if it had stayed on. I called the guy that followed her and he said she was wearing it so I added that to my Craigslist ad. I was glad to learn she was wearing it since it would make her look even more lost and easier to identify if she was still alive. On the way home from lunch some scam artist called from a private number that was difficult to understand. The gist of the call was they had retrieved thousands of lost pets over the past 10 years. I assume he got my number from Craigslist and I hung up. I went to my class while Hugh would do so more looking. Since she had not come home I held little hope we would see her again. I thought she could have been so injured she crawled off somewhere to die in the woods.  Also, I still had a bit of hope that we might see her again.

I made it fine though the first half of the class, but found it increasingly difficult to concentrate the rest of the time. During a break I sent a mass e-mail to all of our neighbors with the Craiglist ad. I got a text from Kathy in class offering to help search after work. I told her Hugh was out searching and we were not going to be able to do any looking later but gave her an idea of where she might look. I had been thinking it was a good idea to look in the area along roads and bike trails thinking she might have been hit or the chance someone would see her alive as well.  I read an article during a break in class that 93% of missing dogs were eventually found and returned to their owners. I had read an article earlier that the odds for finding timid dogs were not good since they won't go up to people (even won't recognize their owners), and are often hit by cars since they are so skittish. Also read that they would usually hide out somewhere away from people which got me to thinking maybe I should check out the other side of the creek very soon.

I got out of class around 4:20 and made it over to a trail entrance near the vet school that I thought I could use to get to the creek. I figured I had about 40 min to look and then would go home. It was a gravel trail and at one point there was an option to go right on a dirt trail. That looked to be the way to go to get to the creek. Eventually, I got to the creek and followed it south as far as I could go before the terrain made it difficult to walk and that trail ended. I turned around and somehow didn't get back on the same trail but instead climbed higher onto a bluff and decided to walk the bluff back which really didn't have a trail. I heard and saw a bunch of deer. A few minutes later I could hardly believe my eyes. I see Abby and when she sees me she runs away from me. I knew for sure it was her since she was wearing the thunder shirt. She isn't moving too quickly but I slowly follow her since she is moving away from me. I lose her and call Hugh to help come look and am hoping she might come to him if we see her.  He mentioned he had been to the same trail earlier but not up higher where I found her.

Hugh arrives and finds me. He runs around calling her and I retrace my steps back to where I went up the bluff. He has headed back towards the beginning of the trail which isn't too far. Soon he calls and says he has her in the car and at this point there were tears of joy. As he was going back to the car, he spotted her off the trail and she came right to him. I called Kathy to tell her to update Facebook since we would need to take her to a vet to have her checked out. At first we considered taking her to the vet school since we were right there, but realized that our vet was still open so I called to tell them on my walk back to the parking lot. She looked pretty good other than bloody pads on her paws. I called everyone that needed to know we found her on the way there. Dr. Debbie at MyZoo Animal Hospital checked her out and prescribed an antibiotic due to the bloody paws since sometimes something can get in a nail and cause an infection. Everything else checked out and her temperature was normal. I told her I was worried there could be injuries from the cars and she said to observe her gums closely for a change from pink to white. Also, she could start to show signs of soreness once she calmed down. At this point I think she was still pretty hyped up on adrenaline from her adventure so she seemed to be moving around just fine.

We took her home and fed her. She devoured her food and drank quite a bit of water. Then she went to the bedroom and noticed that she walked pretty gingerly. I carried her outside to potty before bed since I didn't want her to have to walk and she didn't seem to want to get off the bed. Thursday morning she still wanted to stay on the bed so I fed her in bed and she got her in her crate before leaving. She seemed a little interested when I left to go to a run Thursday night but didn't make an attempt to get off the bed. Her paws will need to heal before she can go on a run with us again. I think the paws are the reason she is walking so gingerly.  At this point, I don't suspect any other injuries other than she is likely just sore overall.

I also fed her on the bed last night so she didn't have to get up and carried her outside. This morning she came to the kitchen to get her food but still is walking cautiously.   She sat under the counter like usual during lunch and we even got a few tail wags. She showed interest in going outside so I put the leash on her and we walked around a little in the front yard.  She actually seems a little more comfortable around me, but may be that she can't move very fast right now so lets me walk up to her and pet her.

I learned a few things from this experience.  I actually feared something like this could happen and is one reason I used the Lupine Combo Collar on her when running.  It keeps her from backing out of her collar which she tried to do several times after we first got her in December.  I didn't think she would need it in the class so just used her regular collar.  I had tried a harness at one point when I first took her on a run but she refused to move.  We might have to revisit the harness at some point since I think it might work well for running.

I think I had such a bad reaction at first since I witnessed her being hit by the first car and assumed the worst and feeling tremendous guilt since it happened. The chase was very stressful since I knew she was out on the roads and could never make it to the point she was at since she kept moving so quickly.  All that adrenaline released and still not able retrieve her and made me want to retreat and give up at that point.  Also, wasn't sure what to do next right after it happened.  Looking seemed obvious, but it was dark and there were so many places she could have gone.  I read a lot of people will give up too easily on finding a lost pet to avoid the grieving process. Also, read in an article that 93% of lost pets are found and safely returned to their homes.  I found that statistic a little hard to believe since I assumed the worst.  Usually, I'm a pretty optimistic person but was not feeling it at the time.

In order to have a chance of finding her, I realized that I had to consider her temperament and not just expect her to come home or appear on a street somewhere.  I read the article What You Don't Know About Lost Pets Can Hurt Them which I found helpful but also discouraging if you have a timid pet since they are often hit by cars.  Also, I read Petfinder's How to Find Your Lost Dog.  The part that I found helpful is that "Most dogs are recovered well within a two-mile circle of their home".  Even though she escaped 5+ miles away, she was actually about 1.2 miles from home "as the crow flies" and just over 2 miles if she had taken roads.  I'm glad she did not take the roads and hid out in the woods since she could have been hit by a car again.  Also in this article, "If it is a shy or older pet and not trusting of strangers, it will hide." This got me to thinking if I was going to look I should look in places away from humans which led me to searching the other side of the creek.  I'm still amazed that I found her that easily.  With all the people praying for her return and sending good thoughts and helpful tips our way, it definitely helped me to think more clearly and take action rather doing nothing other than feeling sorry for myself like I did the night she disappeared.

5/13/13 update:  On Saturday I took Abby for a walk and there were no signs of limping and she seemed fine.  On Sunday, she demanded I take her on my run at Rock Bridge.  I checked her paws and decided they were healed enough for a run at Rock Bridge.  She enjoyed the the run with no problems.

Above is an approximate map of Abby's Run  (to see more detail click on link).  She was 2.1 miles from home via woods/roads and only 1.2 miles "as the crow flies"

Abby's certificate (it got a little mangled since I was holding it during the initial chase.
Graduation picture with cap and wearing her thunder shirt.  Looks like a happy dog and not one that is about to run off.
Above is the picture used in her Craigslist ad.
Abby just after she came home from being checked out at the vet.  She had just eaten dinner and jumped onto the bed to lick her wounds and get some much needed rest on her comfy bed.

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