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From My Window

Issue Date: November 11, 2020

Hoping for a Miracle

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I follow the web page of a small, independent central Wisconsin dog rescue group. This group does not have a shelter building, but relies on a network of "foster" homes for dogs it takes in until permanent homes are found. That allows this rescue to operate at much lower overhead with fewer volunteers. Truly a "grass roots" effort.

Unfortunately the group recently had a sad accident. Two brand new rescues, who had arrived from well out of state, escaped the foster home they had just arrived at. The dogs were disoriented, frightened and had just traveled in crates for nearly 20 hours. They did not recognize the foster placement as "home," nor the people here as their friends. They had come from a overwhelmed shelter where they were slated for euthanization, so their lives have been hell for a while. They fled, and it has now been more than ten days.

Sadly, one of the dogs, Roscoe, was found killed on a four lane highway. The other, Suki, has been sighted a few times, but flees people in terror. The rescue group is heartbroken, and I have shared their pain following their on-line search updates.

On Tuesday, election day, I was feeling tense and needed a project. The rescue was looking for searchers, so I gathered up binoculars, a leash, a dog food dish with dog food in it to rattle, treats, and a can of canned cat food. Canned cat food is incredibly stinky, therefore, dogs love it. I also made up a dozen lost dog posters to supplement what the rescue team had already posted, and a staple gun.

I contacted the rescue for the location of the last sighting, 48 hours old, and set off to it, knowing it was a needle in a haystack effort. At least it would keep me occupied and doing something helpful.

Luckily the dog is quite distinctive - a 50 pound tri-color cattle dog mix. She would not be mistaken for a wolf or coyote and is big enough to be able to protect herself from most hazards. Cattle dogs are a hardy breed with high intelligence.

I was warned not to chase the dog - she'd already run from several people who saw her. They were hoping to re-establish her location and set one of the large box traps they'd borrowed from various animal rescue groups.

As I got close to the last sighting area, I noticed a road grader pulled over on the left shoulder of the gravel road and then something caught my eye, moving to the right. There was the dog. She was fleeing to a thicket around a pond. I hopped out of the truck and the grader operator said, "You one of them dog ladies? I think that dog is eating this deer!" and pointed to the ditch. Ah, yes, she'd found herself some food. There was water in the pond, and good cover. I didn't have much hope I could approach her either, but I decided to walk across the open field between us, ratting the dog food in the dish. I said to the grader operator, "I hope I don't get shot for trespassing!" He winked and said, "Nah, I know that guy. HE'S okay."

Unfortunately, Suki immediately hid herself. I didn't want to chase her away from her spot, so I left the opened cat food, returned to the truck and contacted the rescue group. There was immediate relief the dog was alive, and apparently uninjured. They called for one of their box traps to set by the pond with renewed hope. Mike and I helped them set another live trap in a second spot on Friday, and I have placed an ad in the local "shopper" paper that goes to all mailboxes, hoping to reach the substantial local Amish community who do not follow social media. Later, Mike and I also hiked along the gravel road for a long way with our dogs on leashes, hoping the need for canine company might draw her out.

I don't know if this story will have a happy ending, regardless of how desperately I want it to. But there was hope for me in my time helping.

I met (from a safe social distance outdoors) an incredible group of women. They are determined, compassionate, resourceful and tough. Despite having families and jobs, they've found time to make dozens of phone calls to get permission to search on private property; borrowed traps and trail cams; enlisted searchers far and wide; persuaded drone operators to help; and are being advised by humane society resources and DNR personnel. On Tuesday, we collaborated, strategized and consoled the heartbroken foster who lost the dogs, and is wracked with guilt.

After exchanging first names, we worked as a team. We didn't ask who was a Trump supporter or who was a Democrat. We were just like-minded people trying to help a single dog.

To some this must seem foolish. There are millions of homeless companion animals and hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs being euthanized in the United States every year. Yet the group models the famous story of thousands of starfish stranded on a beach and a single child throwing the live ones back in the water. When told he could not save them all, he said "but I can save this one."

I hope the dog is recovered alive. I also hope, and pray, that our nation looks and acts more like this team in the months and years to come.

Song I am delighted to have stuck in my head - "Let it Rain," originally recorded by Eric Clapton, now freshly covered by the Doobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. The guitar on the cover nearly lives up to the skills of Eric Clapton himself. Upbeat and awe-inspiring for guitar fans.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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