As told by Esther Maina, Raleigh’s caseworker and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin volunteer
No doubt it was an exhilarating feeling to be able to slip my hand inside his collar. I knew in that moment, he was going home.
For ten days this awesome community kept an eye out for Raleigh the Golden Retriever. Social media, door to door flyers and a community with a big heart are what helped get this dog home. People would message me with sightings, others would call Dave, (Raleigh’s owner) and within a short period of time Dave would arrive on the scene but as we all know, Raleigh would slip into the woods and out of sight. With every sighting, we would flyer to get the word out that he was in the area. We had sighting calls from people in neighborhoods, people passing by, postal carriers, everyone was sending alerts.
Raleigh was in survival mode which is a typical lost dog frame of mind. While in this mode he will view everyone as a predator, even his owner. Catching a dog in this mindset is very tricky. Calling his name or approaching him will cause him to run, this would be similar to trying to catch a deer or a chipmunk. People let us set up food stations in their yards where we would grill hot dogs, bacon and sausage. We would leave the food and set up a trail camera in hopes of getting a glimpse of him. He wasn’t having any of that, he kept us running.
I started to keep a map of his sightings in an effort to try and predict his next move – but he was so unpredictable and boy did this guy put on the miles!
Yesterday he was sighted several times from Hwy 77 then on Nelson Lake Road. Dave headed over right away and began searching and handing out flyers. I showed up a few hours later and also fliered. Together we probably handed out 100 posters. I prayed that Raleigh would stay in that area, it was a perfect place for a lost dog. There was shelter, food and water.
OKAY so on to the ‘capture’ that everyone is wanting to hear about.
This morning I messaged Dave to see if any news. He texted me back saying “I just saw him on Tanning’s Point Road”. Praise GOD he stayed in the area! I told my husband I was skipping church and heading over to help. I told him I thought God was ‘okay’ with my decision. On the drive over to Tanning’s Point Road I had a really REALLY good conversation with God. I can say with all honesty it was probably one of the best I’ve ever had with him. When it was over I had a real sense he was going to answer this prayer.
I met Dave on the road and by then he had seen Raleigh twice but he would run from him as soon as Dave got near. He was close enough to throw a dog treat his way but Raleigh retreated into the woods. Dave had to run into town so I told him I would take his post and stand guard. Right away I set up a grill with bacon, smoked sausage and hot dogs. I parked off in the distance and waited. My phone rang and it was Dave – a lady on Tannings Point Road had him in her sight and gave us the address. “Wish me luck” I said and hung up.
I found the lady in her car, she was staying far enough away to not scare him (good move) but close enough to see him. I saw him from where I was standing and could see he was limping. He would walk a few feet, stop, lay down and walk again.
I drove my car up a little closer to him, grabbed my package of hot dogs and walked to the grassy edge where he was standing. I didn’t walk toward him, I walked away but stayed on the same side. As soon as I got to the grass I laid down flat on my stomach, I held the food out and covered my face. (I kept my fingers spread so I could peak though! lol) He was ‘kind of interested’ as his nose began to sniff the air but he quickly retreated into the woods and thankfully, he stopped after just a few feet.
I got down low and did a backwards duck walk toward him – no go, he didn’t like that. He retreated further into the woods. I ran to my car and drove down a driveway that ran alongside the wooded area he was in. I could see him, he was moving, but slowly.
I got out of the car and with my best “army girl” moves I meandered toward him and then hit the ground on my belly again. I threw him the bacon soaked hot dog. It landed right at his feet – score! He gobbled it up in two seconds flat. But then like an ungracious guest, he ran away from me! Thankfully he stopped about 20 feet away.
I dug my elbows into the ground and dragged myself toward him stopping with every drag to hold out a hot dog. I ripped off pieces and tossed them his way. He ate them gladly. Then with some caution he walked toward me and ate a piece from my hand. My brain was screaming ‘YES!’, but then as soon as he took the hot dog from my fingers he ran from me again! Ack!
I then noticed that a man and woman had gotten out of their car and kind of circled the wooded area. Raleigh was also aware that there were people on all sides (three of us). I got up and started to walk (staying low) toward him, he continued to trot away and it was then I decided to call his name (something you would not normally do). He responded as if it was something he recognized and stopped. I started to speak in low tones saying his name softly and approached slowly getting closer and closer. He gave in, and that is when I was able to slip my hand under his collar and attach my leash.
After telling Raleigh he was finally going home, I looked up toward the sky and said – “thank you God, you did answer my prayer today”.
I slipped both arms under Raleigh and carried him back to my car. The man and woman who circled the woods had already called Dave who was on his way. We put him into my backseat filled with fluffy dog beds and waited.
Raleigh immediately got comfy on the beds and the woman and I worked to pull the ticks off of him. He was calm and relieved! Dave finally arrived and I while I had my arms around Raleigh, Dave peeked into my car and got nose to nose with his dog. Raleigh perked up and his tail wagged. He was exhausted so there wasn’t a lot of butt wiggly stuff we see with reunions but it was obvious Raleigh was happy to see him.
Dave carried him to his Jeep where his other dog eagerly awaited the return of her “brother”. Raleigh began eating the dog food that was on the front seat. Everyone hugged, tears were shed and off we went in our separate directions.
I can’t explain the feeling I had as I drove home but to copy Sponge Bob Square Pants, it was the greatest day ever!