July was a tough month for our dog Scout. It started when we went away for the July 4 weekend to a family wedding in New York that twice had been rescheduled because of the pandemic.
To find the right petsitter, I put out feelers on Nextdoor and screened candidates until I found what seemed a perfect fit. Then we went for a visit and the petsitter, her credentials and her doggie-daycare-like backyard all checked out. Scout, a female terrier-lab mix of 35 pounds, seemed to enjoy her test visit and get along with the petsitter’s small Maltese.
Of course I knew Fourth of July was a tough time to leave Scout with anyone. You see, Scout is afraid of thunder and fireworks, both of which are inevitable at that time of year. But I prepared the petsitter, provided Scout’s medication for her phobia and her crate, and we left town.
The petsitter provided daily updates until Saturday night, July 3, so I checked in after we returned from the wedding rehearsal dinner. “How is Scout? How are you doing?” The phone call I received in response late that evening was distressing, to say the least. “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but Scout ran away.” She apparently pushed through the backyard gate and got loose upon hearing early fireworks or thunder, and the petsitter had been searching for hours before resigning to call me when I inquired.
I called my family into the bedroom in which my husband and I were staying and for the next few hours, until our eyes were literally closing, we posted on a handful of websites for missing pets; talked the petsitter through how to look around the neighborhood for Scout; texted friends, some of whom agreed to join the search party that night and the next day; and notified the police and humane society to be on the lookout, providing Scout’s microchip number.
Among those we informed about our missing dog were our neighbors, in case our super dog, who I should also mention is a known escape artist, decided to venture the 20-minute trek back to our house. Typically, in the past, if she escaped by digging her way out of our fenced backyard, she’d be found close to home and someone would call us. She has a tag on her collar with our phone numbers, installed based on past experience with her fleeing tendencies. But it was late at night when the petsitter called us and no one would be outside at that time to notice a frightened pooch.
I probably got four hours of sleep before waking to continue the process of posting notices and fielding inquiries about whether Scout had been found. The outpouring of support was tremendous. People love pets, so they obviously empathized with our heartache about the possibilities of whether a dog could survive a night out by herself in the wild, not to mention potential roadway hazards. Although it was difficult to be social with relatives when a valued family member was in peril, a planned excursion to the beach turned into a prayer session near the breathing waves, always a therapeutic spot for me when it comes to communing with God. And then, out of the depths of despair came the phone call. “I found your dog.” For all the times we cursed Scout for demolishing the contents of closets during storms and fireworks in the past as she searched for a safe place to hide, you cannot imagine the cries of joy upon hearing those four words after a night of misery and imagined scenarios that didn’t end well.
Scout was found just a short distance from where she went missing, on the other side of a forested area, by a man who only left his first name, Kurt, and held our dog ’til a friend of ours could reclaim her. She changed hands a few times and was at our home when we returned from our trip. Needless to say we ordered a GPS system to track her every move. She got away again before it arrived — thunder and fireworks occur all month long — but we easily found her down the block.
We are the lucky ones. The American Kennel Club reports that July 4-5 are the most popular days for pets to disappear. They offer tips to keep your furry companion safe. We have tried oils, vests, drugs and the cage, but nothing really helps Scout. She’s just afraid. If we are home, she seems to fare better, comforted by our presence. For those who deal with similar pet trauma, my heart goes out to you. We almost lost our beloved Scout. Thanks to those who helped us find her or lent your support to the effort. We are forever grateful for your kind hearts.
By Roni Robbins, award-winning journalist, and author of Hands of Gold, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter finalist set for Feb 4, 2022 release by Amsterdam Publishers.