Thank you everyone for your thoughts, prayers, emails, phone calls, and help during Bunny's time in the wild. To recap, Bunny left home at about 5:25 pm on 12/22/10, to find her center of the universe, my wife Lucienne, who was preparing meals at a local soup kitchen. From 5:25 to 5:50 pm, Bunny returned home several times to see if Lucienne was there. Not seeing or smelling her, she immediately left the yard to continue her search. My daughter, Zoey and I, left the doors to the house open from the time she left until well after Lucienne returned about 6:10 pm, but Bunny did not come back after Lucienne came home.
At a few minutes before 6:00 pm on 12/22, a moderate snowfall began. So we looked for tracks beginning about 8:00 pm, because at that time there was enough accumulation to see tracks. No Bunny tracks were found, but a set of fox tracks were. I followed those tracks for around an hour until those tracks looked like they were made seconds earlier. They disappeared into a storm sewer and reappeared on the opposite side of the street, which was enough to let me know we were not on Bunny's trail after all.
Bunny was in the wild from 5:25 pm 12/22/10 until about 1:40 pm on 12/30/10, for a total of about 7 days, 20 hours, and 15 minutes. At 1:41 pm I took a call from a woman named Connie who had helped us search for Bunny for days. During this time, Connie was quite ill with the flu. Nevertheless, she likely spent more time and energy helping us than any other individual. As I mentioned in an email, Connie owns a Basenji mix (whose name is Ahu, and who came to the U.S. via Pakistan) that she rescued through Our Companions (http://ourcompanions.org/) . A kindred spirit, Connie is!
As you can see from an earlier post, we set a large Havahart-type trap (about 18" x 24" x 72"). Inside that trap was dry dogfood, cat food, bacon, chicken broth, and dog treats. Outside of the trap were 2 bacon fat trails; we wanted Bunny to scent the trail, but we did not want her to have a chance to eat anything until she was in the trap. At a different location 5 days earlier, we placed a carrot (Bunny's favorite treat; probably the reason for her name, though we're not sure. Her birth name is Attullah RU Ready to Party.) outside of the trap. According to the homeowners (Doris and Donna), who happened to be looking outside their darkened window when Bunny arrived, she snatched the carrot outside the trap and immediately ran to the woods. So, lesson learned, food inside the trap only.
Lucienne, Zoey and I, as may imagine, immediately sped to Connie's home after she called to tell us "Your dog is int the trap". When we arrived, Lucienne raced to the trap ahead of Zoey and I. When she arrived at the trap (about 15 seconds before Zoey and I) she started sobbing tears of joy. Zoey arrived a few seconds ahead of me and the sobbing became a chorus. Having a little more dignity than my wife and daughter, I cried quietly (okay, that's a fib). So, there we are, all crying tears of absolute joy and amazement (remember, the little crapper had us worried sick and riding a roller coaster ride from hell for nearly 8 full days!) …
and we look up at Connie's picture window in her dining room only to see another human crying tears of joy for a sweet, little, innocent (maybe not) Basenji. What a moment.
We loaded dog-and-crate into our car, Lucienne in the cargo area with the crate and Zoey in the rear seat with hands on the crate, and began the ride home into the next chapter. When we were safely in our pet room (yes, our mudroom has been outfitted for the sleeping comfort of one cat and one Bunny) with all doors closed and triple-locked, we let Bunny out of the trap. She immediately fell into Lucienne's arms. We gave Bunny some warm water (she just ate a huge meal inside the trap) and a warm bath, and then took her to the vet. She was pronounced healthy; no frostbite, clear lungs, no apparent infections. She had a several-inch-long gash on her left front leg, a deep laceration in the center of her forehead, and tenderness in her left ribcage. So, the reports (2 phone calls to the police and a personal interview of one of the parties making the call) that Bunny was hit by a car were apparently accurate. What a tough pooch!
That evening, Lucienne informed me that I had two choices, either I could …
sleep with her and Bunny, or I could sleep alone. She told me that even though Bunny was crate-trained and slept in the petroom with one of our cats without too much complaint (we usually listened to a few "wherrrrrrrre arrrrrrrrrrre yooooooooooou" roos, then she settled in for the night), she just couldn't be apart from her for a minute that first night. Lucienne assured me Bunny would return to her normal routine the next day. Well, 4 days later, we are still sleeping 3 to a bed!
Bunny's first 24 hours were what we expected. She did not want to be out of Lucienne's sight, she was utterly exhausted and therefore not her perky self, and she was famished. What we were unsure about was how her personality would change as a result of what we affectionately call "Bunny's Most Excellent Adventure". Surprisingly, she is significantly less skittish post-trauma than she was pre-trauma. Lucienne is still her center of the universe, but if I'm in my office out of her sight (we work from our home), Bunny comes and checks on me periodically, throughout the day. If I leave the room, she follows me just to make sure I'm not leaving the house; once she knows where I am, she rejoins the alpha female (Lucienne) until she feels the need to check on the whereabouts of the rest of the herd. She'll come for back scratches and pets, but she invariably goes to find Lucienne before long.
Bunny is also a little (not much) less anxious when Lucienne leaves the house. It takes her a little less time to settle down, and she's less frantic in the moments after Lucienne leaves. Also, she is significantly less interested in escaping or spending any amount of time outside. We've had a few bathroom accidents, and we notice that when she goes out she takes care of business quickly so she can go back in. Maybe, just maybe, she'll be a little easier to keep home. On a different note, I wanted to pass on some of what we learned from Bunny's Most Excellent Adventure ….
I was walking Bunny in our back yard at the time of her escape. She was in a harness. Bunny went under my pickup truck as we walked past (typical sled-dog maneuver), so I tried to pull her out. She then put her head down and both front legs straight out in front of her, and the harness pulled right off. We learned harnesses are not nearly as secure as we believed. We now attach her leash to both her collar and the harness. In addition, we have ordered an adjustable Martingale-style collar (http://www.rescuepetstore.com/product/LUP1CC.html), a roman-style harness (http://www.rescuepetstore.com/product/LUP12RH.html), and a coupler (http://www.rescuepetstore.com/product/LUP34COUP.html) for the belt-and-suspenders approach to dog walking. We received advice on the style collar from several sources, and on the harness-and-coupler approach from a woman who currently houses 16 rescued dogs, some of which are quite difficult when leashed (some of her dogs were feral for extended periods of time; God bless her). We'll post an update on the effectiveness of this approach sometime in the future.
As I mentioned, Bunny has a few cuts and bruises, the worst of the cuts being smack in the middle of her forehead. I believe she did this to herself trying to get out of the wire trap; an unfortunate-but-acceptable cost of recovery. The forehead wound was looked fresh when we got her back. This wound needs several-times-daily treatment with an ointment to keep it supple and to facilitate proper healing. When Lucienne applies the ointment, Bunny's eyes roll back into her head and she becomes completely relaxed. She apparently understands and appreciates that the treatment is good for her. So, overall, Bunny seems to be a little calmer and a bit more grateful to live with us. This is the best we could have hoped for. Bunny has had a traumatic few months: she left her first home, was separated from her 7-month old daughter, had a name-change and was fostered for just over a month, was then transferred to our home, and before she had time to really adjust to her new forever home, she became lost in a snowstorm. We are truly amazed that she both survived and seemingly became more comfortable in our home as a result. I'll wrap it up for now in another one or two posts….
We learned: (1) harnesses are not super secure; (2) Martingale style collars are probably the best way to go; (3) a harness-collar-coupler approach is likely the safest; (4) never put food outside of a trap, the dog must be motivated to enter the trap; (5) DO NOT GIVE UP, Basenjis are incredibly tough, tenacious, and resourceful; (6) distribute flyers door-to-door; (7) nearly everyone will empathize and at least passively help you out; (8) the true dog lovers will actively help in ways that are at once surprising and effective; (9) send emails to everyone you know in the search area, and ask them to forward them to as many people as possible in and around the search area; (10) use your BRAT coordinator as a source of advice and help; (11) make sure someone is posting in this forum, good advice and good things (if just prayers and thoughts) are the result; (11) get an appropriate trap or, better yet, traps, then bait them with smelly dog delectables; (12) call the local police as well as dog-control authorities. If we had called the police the first night, we would have known she was hit minutes later; (13) let the police know you will be making your search on private property. They will be prepared for any calls, and they will be most helpful; (14) call your local fire department and publice works department. A fire department member generated a huge email blast. Public works employees were on the lookout; (15) call the post office. Our postman called us with a sighting; (16) make sure your flyers talk about the nature of Basenjis. We should have been insistent that nobody approach Bunny; four people got within a foot of her and she ran off into the woods each time; (17) be careful on your search (more in the final post for tonight)…
Greg, this is all great information. I think you should edit and repost for the BRAT blog (http://basenjirescue.blogspot.com/). Given how often we see lost Basenji ads on Craigslist, and surely elsewhere, and how elusive and slippery these guys can be, I think all your shared experiences and insight can be of use to others.
Be careful when you search for a dog. Today, it is both unusual and scary to see a stranger on your property. We first notified the local police where we would be looking, and then we knocked on every door before searching. We also learned to have flyers at the ready to help explain what we were doing. If something warranted a detailed look (tracks leading up to a barn, for example), we again called the police and told them what we intended to do.
Despite these precautions, an out-of-town and off-duty police officer approached me when I was searching his neighbors' property. After a right-from-the-outset, verbally abusive confrontation during which I told the out0of-town officer (1) what I was doing, (2) that the local police had our names and physical descriptions, and knew what we were up to, and (3) that he would not stop me from searching someone else's property for a possibly dead or dying dog, he threatened me. When that did not sway me, he assaulted me. After he began that assault I told him he should think real hard about whether or not he wanted to continue that assault. This brought him to his senses. It is important to be prepared for this kind of confrontation, and probably the best preparation is to search in teams; you will at the very least have a witness. Also, because we notified the police often, they were on our side when called to the scene. The state police actually apologized for the off-duty officer's behavior and thanked us for the way we handled the incident. KEEP THE LOCAL POLICE INFORMED.
I will follow up with offending man's commanding officer; it is sobering to know he both carries a gun AND has a badge. If I'm not satisfied with the results of an informal complaint, I will file a formal one and pursue criminal charges, and then go to the press as a last resort. This is one anger-challenged, bully-of-a-man who happens to be sworn to protect and serve. It is both shocking and disheartening that a police officer would be the only person who had no empathy or compassion for our situation. BE CAREFUL, BE VIGILANT, AND BE WARY OF EVERYONE UNTIL THEY PROVE YOU CAN BEHAVE OTHERWISE.
That being said, except for the one notable exception, EVERYONE was at least empathetic and at best unbelievably helpful.
Thanks again for all your support, good advice, and positive energy. You all gave Lucienne, Zoey, and I the stamina and will to bring Bunny home.
thank you so much for posting all this information. It would be nice to think that nobody would ever have to use it, but that's not reality.
I'm so glad you found Bunny and are reunited. And I personally doubt Bunny will ever be sleeping in the dog-room again. Once they sleep in the bed they are awfully hard to dislodge.