By Guest Blogger Sarah Swango
As the mom to a four legged “child”, July 30, 2014 was one of the worst days of my life and the day the worst nightmare of all dog owners came true. Let me start from the beginning. Before I describe the agonizing search from the moment we found out our sweet Georgia was missing, to the overwhelming joy and relief we felt when we had her back safe and sound, let me describe the year that led up to this moment with Georgia, a very special rescue dog from City Dogs Rescue.
Last July (2013), I was feeling restless and wanted to do something that would occupy my time while giving back. I was going to volunteer! I had always been a dog-lover and grown up with dogs of my own, so the natural fit was to help out with a rescue organization or a local shelter. Immediately CDR popped up in my search and without hesitating I signed up for all volunteer activities, one being something I was most excited about – fostering! I listed the top three dogs I was most interested in and within a week I received an email from one of the Directors asking if I’d be able foster Georgia. Sure, I immediately replied, already envisioning all the dog toys and treats I’d be bestowing on this sweet dog who I’d take on long walks and cuddle with.
I’ll preface this by saying I had never owned a rescue dog. When I met Georgia at her then foster family’s home, I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw. Before me was a skinny and scared, but incredibly sweet Coonhound, huddled in a corner. “Why isn’t she coming to greet me? I have treats!” I thought. Needless to say, I knew right then and there this dog was going to take a lot of TLC and special attention. Over the course of two weeks I couldn’t bear the thought of letting her go to another family, right when she started to feel safe with me and my husband, Blake. We could tell we were gaining her trust and after those two weeks, we had officially failed as foster parents and adopted little Georgia.
Over the next year, Georgia became a spunky dog with a funny personality who loved nothing more than belly rubs, sleeping on her dad’s lap, and dairy products, (milk, cheese ice cream – you name it!). She was still shy meeting new people and walks at night weren’t her favorite thing because she startles easily, but she was and still is making major strides and growing more and more confident every day. Maybe it’s because she’s a rescue or because she is my little lady, but I have never had a bond with any of the dogs I grew up with like this and she certainly knows who her family is. We love her to pieces and feel that we’re really the lucky ones in this relationship.
The Dreaded Call
This leads me to Wednesday, July 30, 2014. I was at work and received a call from our dog walker saying that Georgia was on a walk with a substitute dog walker, (not her normal walker that she had built a relationship with – and it definitely takes her a while to warm up to new people) when she slipped out of her harness and collar and had gotten away. From what we later learned when we hired a dog tracking company to track her scent, she had tried to go home to our back door, but the dog walker and others from the company had been running after her (absolutely the wrong thing to do!) and had scared her off.
That afternoon, which turned into evening and then night, went by with no sign of her. The Washington Humane Society came by and set up a humane trap which we put on our back steps with articles of our clothing, (for our scent) and stinky food for her. That first night was rough. We sat out back until the early morning hours and eventually had to get some sleep. We took turns waking up every hour to go check the trap but there was so sign of her.
The next day we hired Pure Gold Pet Trackers to track her scent from where she escaped. We thought this would either lead us to Georgia or give us an idea of which direction she was heading. What was reassuring was that we realized she was walking in one HUGE circle. She went from our neighborhood in Shaw to the Southwest waterfront, The Nationals Stadium, the new Navy Yard, across the capitol and back up towards the Bloomingdale/Ledriot Park area. Although we didn’t catch up to her as she was way ahead of us, we felt reassured that she made it through the night and was seemingly smart about her travels.
Over the next couple weeks as our hope dwindled and surged based on the calls, conversations, and support we had from CDR volunteers, friends and family, we continued to post flyers everywhere! With any call we got, whether it was legit or not, we went to the area of the sighting and put up flyers. We printed thousands and spanned from Rock Creek Park and Chevy Chase, DC to Glover Park, Bloomingdale, Southwest, Northeast, Eckington, and more. When we noticed flyers had been ripped down, (obviously by people that never owned a pet) we put them right back up! And in the end, it was the flyers that led us to our girl.
On Wednesday evening, August 20, 2014, (exactly two weeks from when Georgia went missing) Blake and I were at home when we got a call from a man who thought he saw our dog in the Glenwood Cemetery about 10 blocks away from home in Northeast, DC by the monastery. So of course we jumped in the car and drove through the cemetery at 10:30 that night. When we finally found and drove up the driveway to the monastery, who did we see standing there in our headlights, but Georgia?!
We were elated to know she was safe and seemingly unhurt, but as we drove up the driveway, she bolted at the sight of the headlights and scurried under a fence. As we canvassed the monastery grounds, we learned that the whole area was fenced in, which was a good thing for Georgia to be contained and safe, and also for us in hopes that we could catch her while inside the fence. Being almost midnight at that point, the monastery was quiet so we left more flyers and I wrote a note to the inhabitants asking if they had seen our dog. The very next morning I got a call from Brother Michael saying sure enough, he had seen Georgia on and off for the past two weeks. This was now three weeks since she had gone missing and this was the best news we had heard yet!
Thanks to the help of CDR volunteers and new friends, Carlyn Kuder, Carmen Brothers, Patricia Kennedy, Laura Adams, Ryan Toro, and many more, we were able to put the efforts together to locate and bring Georgia home. Carlyn was able to get us a humane trap, (the Humane Society’s trap being long gone) and Blake bought a trail cam. Carlyn, Pat, Blake, and I set up the trap on Saturday, August 23rd in the pouring rain, with the trail cam facing the trap entrance. We put food, water, Georgia’s bed and kong filled with peanut butter right at the edge of the trap so she could get used to it and left to see what tomorrow would bring.
Blake and I were heading to check the trail cam and trap the following afternoon and immediately noticed the food, water and kong were all gone. The kong was completely missing which we thought was strange… As we were looking at the trail cam photos, (175 of them and they were ALL Georgia!) I looked up into the woods at that moment, and who did I see looking at us? Georgia!!! I may not have done everything by the book at that moment, but I slowly looked away, at that point Blake knowing she was standing behind him, and said “Hi Georgia” as calm as could be. There was a moment of recognition and then fully realized it was her mom and dad and they come to rescue her!
For more information about what to do if you've lost your dog, please visit our Lost Dog Page.
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