Learning from Blaze
By Lisa Gabrielson
It was my worst nightmare- I had left my 20-lb mix breed dog, Blaze, at my aunt’s house when out running errands. In a panic, Blaze got out of the house and ran off looking for me. He was lost in an unfamiliar, rural area too far from our own home for him to return there, and he was still missing as the sun went down that evening. He was last spotted headed into a heavily wooded area known to have coyotes and fisher cats. As the first day of searching came to an end, we started to look elsewhere for ideas. That’s when we hired a tracker and her dog.
When Blaze initially went missing, we did everything we were supposed to do: we created flyers and posters, left our dirty clothing outside so he could find his way back by scent, we trekked through the woods and neighborhoods calling his name and shaking bags of treats, posted on facebook and craigslist. Advice poured in from other City Dogs Rescue alumni. But, because Blaze was lost in an area he wasn’t familiar with we were particularly concerned that he wouldn’t follow his own trail back to the house- after all, he had run away from there trying to find me, and knowing that I wasn’t at the house we thought he may not try to come back.
So, we hired a tracking dog to come look for him the next morning. Barbara and her black lab, Casey, specialize in tracking cats and dogs. Casey is able to track humans, too; as Barbara pointed out to me, dogs have the ability to track pretty much anything, you just have to train them how to do it and train yourself how to read them.
Within minutes of getting out of the car from Blaze’s last sighting, Casey had picked Blaze’s scent up off of his bed, which I had put into a garbage bag about 2 hours after he went missing in order to preserve the strength of his scent. She began tracking all around the neighborhood, under a porch where I believe Blaze might have spent the night and back into the woods behind a neighbor’s house. Based on the way Casey was pulling against her leash, we knew she had a strong and likely very fresh trail.
We were headed back in the direction of the house, Casey began to pull harder and harder and we jogged behind her through the woods as best we could. She was on his trail, and even the humans sensed that we were getting close.
About a quarter of a mile from the house, my aunt called to alert us that Blaze arrived on the porch just moments before. We were less than ten minutes behind him with the tracker, and clearly on the same trail that we had followed home. While the tracker didn’t find Blaze, we certainly succeeded in ‘herding’ him back towards the house, and certainly were on his trail. Had Blaze not been moving in the direction of the house, I have no doubt we would have caught up to him in very short order.
Thank you to Barbara, and her black lab Casey, for helping return my sweet Blaze!
If you’re in the New England area, I highly suggest you save the contact information for Barbara Costa (860-917-7367) and Marjorie Lineweber - (860) 460-2447. Marge, is a certified MAR Technician and owner of a dog training and daycare center. She referred us to Barbara who was able to come help us track Blaze the next day.
Carlyn Kuder, a volunteer who is amazing at helping us find CDR dogs when lost in DC, recommends Sam Connolly of Pet Gold Trackers if you lose your dog in the DC area.
"I am very proud of how supportive our team was [for Blaze]," Kuder said. "The time people spent posting on lost dog pages and making the poster for her - Patricia Kennedy, Kimberly Raue, and Carmen and I'm sure there are others.
"When the unfortunate happens," she added, "we do have a great team that mobilizes and even long distance can help in bringing a lost dog home."
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) teamed up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to recognize the need for pet owners to have an emergency plan in place for their pets.
According to the ASPCA, the following are some easy steps to make ensure the safety of your pet in case of an emergency or natural disaster:
1. Have a Plan. Make sure your family’s plan includes how you will transport your animal(s) in an evacuation, possible routes you will take and your destination/sheltering options. Practice that plan at least yearly and share it with your family and friends.
2. Build an Evacuation Kit. The Kit should include the supplies you will need for your pets, including a photo of your pet, medical records, vaccination records, and any special food or prescriptions. This kit should be clearly labeled and easy to carry and records should be kept sealed or made waterproof. Make sure that everyone in your family knows where it’s kept. Update your kit each time you change your smoke alarm batteries so it’s easy to remember.
3. Stay Informed. Keep an eye on the weather, follow a projected storm’s path and don’t get caught unprepared. Staying informed also means knowing which shelters house both people and pets, monitoring possible road closures and having alternate travel plans.
4. Know Your Neighbors. It’s best to form a relationship with your neighbors well in advance of a disaster situation. Develop a telephone tree and determine who is home and when. If a disaster occurs while you’re at work, your neighbor may be the only one who can reach your pets.
5. Vaccinate and Microchip. If you’re ever required to shelter your pets, you’ll want them protected against disease. And the single most important piece of advice we can offer is to microchip your pets. It is truly their ticket home.
Check out this video on Pet Preparedness Day from the FEMA Deputy Administrator. http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/75356
What should you have in your pet’s emergency evacuation kit?
The ASPCA recommends these items:
Visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness for more information and tips for pets other than dogs or cats.
More information on caring for animals in case of disaster can be found here http://www.ready.gov/caring-animals
And here: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/78847
City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties volunteers.