A Little Dog Lost in Winter in Maine’s Big Woods
Dear Readers, I’m giving this month’s column to the scary story of an agility colleague who got lost.
A Little Dog Lost in Winter in Maine’s Big Woods
This story is brutally condensed from over one hundred thirty emails!
E-mail February 5, from Linda Bennett in Charleston (25 miles northwest of Bangor) to her friend Julie Banta.
“Some bad news: our little Sheltie, Coach, is lost. He does not wander. He follows Teddy, our other Sheltie, everywhere.” Out last evening with Phil Bennett, Teddy ran into the woods with Coach. “When Phil called, Teddy returned, but no Coach. Coach depends on Teddy or us for direction and doesn’t bark unless he is with Teddy. Phil is out now, calling Coach, and Coach may hear him, and be stuck, but not barking. This is what we are up against.… Yesterday, the minute Teddy came out of the woods without Coach, Phil ran into the woods calling. Phil and I were out late last night trying to call him in. We are just heart-broken, and if we are so lucky to find our little guy, we will get a GPS to keep him safe.”
That evening Tiffany Smith and her mother searched the neighborhood and found where Coach had slept, but the snowy night hid his tracks. The e-mails started flying. “Do you want me to put something on the EMAC [Eastern Maine Agility Club] and AC-Me [Agility Central Me] Facebook pages?” Lori Clark, of AC-Me, to Bennetts: “I posted on my Facebook page, and it already has many shares. Maine Lost Dog Recovery is posting a flyer on Facebook that will get shared hundreds of times. We are all thinking of you guys ~Lori”
If you lose a dog, contact Maine Lost Dog Recovery (email@example.com) for lots of proven advice. “Posting flyers is the single most effective thing you can do to find your dog. DON’T WAIT! … Your lost dog may not come if you call. This is very common, especially if the dog is shy or newly adopted. It is critical that people helping you know not to chase after or call the dog, as this will only cause it to run further or into harm's way.” Advice specific to Shelties, including their tendency to travel, is on mainesheltierescue.org . An experienced tracker specializing in lost pets may be helpful.
Linda e-mailed how Coach’s past may have contributed to his getting lost and then acting feral. “When we got Coach at ten months, he had apparently spent so much time confined in a crate that he eliminated in his bed at first. It took a long time before he learned to go outside. He had an embedded chain collar that prevented him from eating. He was emaciated. When the collar was removed, he ate at such amazing speed he got sick. He did not know how to run or play with toys and fell down and trembled whenever we used a strong voice.”
Dozens of e-mails offered sympathy, good luck, advice on finding and catching Coach, and offers to help distribute flyers and search the deep woods on snowshoes. “Put food where he was last seen.” One helper hung bacon strips from her clothesline near where he had been. “His howling caught her attention….”
In spite of medical appointments in distant cities, Linda and Phil replied with gratitude and updates: “I don’t know how we can ever thank Lori.… Phil walked all day Sunday while I stayed in and made contacts.… The coyotes give us both nightmares.… The weather has been brutal; it keeps me awake at night thinking how cold our little guy must be.… We are hoping that Coach will find a way to hunker down during this terrible storm…. We have many flyers in this area, and we will begin again after the snow lets up.”
February 15, Linda: “I am writing to everyone who sent good wishes and hope as we searched. Dan, Chris, Bob, Aaron, Cheryl, Teddy, Phil and I covered a great deal of ground—sadly no sighting.”
February 19, fifteen days after Coach was lost, Linda wrote, “We went out again today.… We came home without having seen any sign of our little guy, feeling pretty depressed. It was hard to imagine our life without him, but we assumed we would have to accept that he would never come back.”…but then she continues:
“Around five, Debbie Bosse phoned us. While snowmobiling, her husband John and a friend saw Coach near Millinocket. He followed Coach and sometimes had to track him. Coach was frightened and elusive. Eventually, John was able to get within sight of Coach. He sat down, and then crawled to him on his belly. He was able to ever so carefully reach up and hook a finger in his collar. When he scooped up the dog, its body went limp with exhaustion. He took him home, fed him, and called his wife Debbie at their home in Lewiston. Luckily, she is involved in dog rescue. She contacted the Humane Society and the Sheltie Rescue who I had contacted last week. Sheltie Rescue had alerted humane societies and shelters all over Maine.”
Debbie got the Bennetts’ names from the Humane Society and called them. Her husband was leaving on a snowmobile trip, so Linda writes, “John took Coach to the shelter reluctantly because he fell in love with our little guy when he fell asleep on his chest after being fed. Debbie contacted the animal control officer who met us tonight to give us Coach.
“We brought Teddy with us. Coach recognized him immediately. He was trembling when I held him in the car, but soon fell asleep in my arms on the long ride home. He is weak, thin, and bony and can hardly bark at all. He had to be lifted to the bed he used to jump on. He had a great meal of chopped liver, a bit of bacon grease, mixed with kibble. He remembered to beg for his dessert, dog cookies. He is now curled up asleep on his favorite spot on the couch. Our life is complete, whole again.
“Coach traveled along snowmobile trails for over 60 miles in fifteen days looking for his home. He survived those terrible blizzards and frigid temperatures, and somehow he avoided the coyotes. He’ll never be able to tell us of his experiences. We are so very grateful to the Bosse couple, especially John who cared enough to follow and catch him. He was likely Coach’s last chance for survival since he was clearly very weak. It was why John was able to catch him—along with an understanding of how to approach a lost, frightened animal.”
To Debbie Bosse: “Thank you for all the efforts to find us and reunite us with our little guy—all the pieces of the puzzle that had to be put together by an experienced person. There are many lessons here so that others can learn about the wonderful work of the caring people who rescue dogs, and how your husband and his friend John Rouleau were able to catch our frightened dog who was returned home to continue to love us unconditionally. Bless you all, Linda Bennett.”
To the members of both Maine agility clubs: “Thank you all for all the advice, help, and support you have so freely shared with us through this very difficult time. What a wonderful, loving group of people you all are!!!
Sincerely, Linda and Phil”