It’s been nearly two weeks since Davey was adopted and then, without warning, took off into the North Carolina woods near Camp Lejeune. I’m thrilled to report that as of last night, Davey is back home with his new family!
If you’ve been following this story through our Facebook and Twitter updates, you know that Davey is a four year-old mix whose abuse by his previous owner left him unable to bark and people-averse. In spite of his sad life, by all accounts Davey is a sweet and loving dog with a gentle nature. During his time at the Carteret County Humane Society (a Pets for Patriots member shelter!), he grew attached to Rachel, one of the volunteers who cared for him during the several weeks prior to his eventual adoption.
Not two days after Davey was adopted by a Marine veteran and his young family, Davey got loose. As any dog owner will tell you, these things happen. But what does not usually happen is that your dog then disappears deep into a rural wooded area, which he eventually establishes as his own, new territory. He evades capture at every turn, in spite of an entire neighborhood and a cadre of well-trained Marines on his trail.
Bob “Mutt Master” Warren of Mutt Masters Canine Academy, our Colorado-based expert dog behaviorist and trainer, predicted that Davey would surface between three and five days after he disappeared. As if on cue, Davey was first sighted five days after he went missing. He had found a leafy shelter in the woods, close to a freshwater stream and near a house where the owner left out food for stray cats. He then settled in for the duration of his “adventure.”
The Marine and his family spared nothing in their efforts to safely capture Davey. I was on the phone daily with Bob “Mutt Master” Warren for day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour advice on not just what to do to lure Davey, but what not to do. Here was a dog whose trust of humans was totally violated by his previous owner and who had not yet established a bond with his new family. Talk about a challenge!
Each day I spoke with the Marine as well, often more than once, relaying Bob’s advice and gathering the daily ‘intel’ on Davey’s whereabouts and behavior. He had taken to running away at the mere sight of our veteran and even recognized the sound of his truck. One strategy of literally sitting it out and waiting for Davey to come to his new dad was a bust; Davey just ran the other way.
Time was not our friend. The weather was getting colder, especially at night. Davey’s heartworm condition was untreated every day he was on the loose. And equally troubling, he still had his collar and six-foot leash attached; we worried about an accidental hanging or strangulation.
A few days ago we had a glimmer of hope: Davey was taking ham bones from a neighborhood man. But he would dash off the second he scored the bone, leaving little opportunity for a ‘bone and grab’ strategy to work. Yet, we were hopeful that this might ultimately be how Davey was captured.
I called the local zoo for advice on trapping and was referred to the wonderful folks at the Carolina Animal Protection Society (CAPS). These were the same people who last year helped capture a wayward beagle that got loose at the local airport. After speaking to the founder at length, she agreed to lend us their humane trap. Our veteran went and picked it up that same day.
Bob suggested we place the trap just outside the tree line of Davey’s wooded digs, somewhere along one of his well-worn ingress or egress paths, and put a half-cooked steak inside as a lure. It worked so well that several neighborhood dogs found the trap irresistible. None of them was Davey, however. Plan ‘b’ was to place the trap outside ‘ham bone’ man’s house (I never did catch his name), and have him toss food in there for Davey to retrieve.
While we were making plans for a humane trapping, I called Rachel, the shelter volunteer to whom Davey was so attached (turns out the feelings were mutual!). I believed that if Davey would respond to anybody, it would be Rachel. I called her our magic charm. Without hesitation, she agreed to take the 30+ mile drive to our veteran’s home and spend her afternoon and evening as our best lure.
I made this call on Tuesday; Rachel didn’t get off work early til Thursday. Like the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. Still, I had a good feeling about Rachel.
Donald, our Marine veteran, called me early yesterday evening. I’d come to recognize his phone number and always greet him by name when he calls; my heart was racing: did our Rachel strategy work? It did not.
Davey never emerged from the woods the entire time Rachel was there. She even walked through the woods for over an hour, alone, hoping he would feel less threatened if no other person was with her. Still no Davey.
I recalled that Donald and his family were planning to move out-of-state early in the New Year; I asked him about that and his answer almost made me cry. He would stay behind and not rejoin his family until Davey was found; that sad, abused and very confused dog would not be abandoned. Donald and his family were committed to giving him a new life, and were prepared for the patience and love that required.
But I digress.
As darkness approached, Rachel and her boyfriend went to gas up their truck, but promised to come back for one last drive down a road where Davey was often spotted. He would just hang out by the side of the road, watching cars go by, and dart back into the woods if anyone approached him.
As Rachel drove down the road, she spotted Davey! She got out of the truck and called his name; he stopped dead in his tracks. Slowly, she walked towards him, calling his name and speaking to him. He ran over to her and in that moment, this heart-wrenching chapter of Davey’s not-so-excellent adventure came to a close.
Rachel brought Davey back to our Donald and his family. Amazingly, he seemed mostly fine. A little scared, very hungry, but otherwise enjoying all the hugs and kisses the family and their three year-old daughter had to offer. Rachel stayed for about 15 minutes and left, without fanfare. Davey hung back, perhaps realizing that he had finally found a home worthy of not running away.
At Bob’s recommendation, Davey will stay leashed and close to his new parents for the next four to five days, a tactic that he advises for any adopted shelter dog, not just one that fancies unannounced camping trips in the woods. On Monday Davey will see his new veterinarian for an evaluation. His heartworm needs attention, he developed a limp and he likely needs vaccinations and other treatment.
Because of the unusual circumstances of this adoption and the extraordinary lengths this family went to assure Davey’s safe return, Pets for Patriots will help pay for Davey’s veterinary bills. If you’ve been touched by Davey’s story, please make a contribution towards his care. Not only is your gift tax-deductible, but it will help make Davey whole as he starts his long road to recovery and rehabilitation, which he most definitely deserves.