A Doggone MiracleNov 30, 2020 02:16PM ● By Gayle Morrow
Emma Lynch remembers the day she came home to no boyfriend and no dog. “I couldn’t find either one,” she says. It turned out that Kyle Viehmeyer, her boyfriend, was out looking for HoSoon, their dog, and the search was not going well.
Emma, Kyle, and HoSoon live in Arnot. Before HoSoon, who is a jindo (also known as a Japanese or Korean village dog) mix, came to live with the couple, she lived in South Korea, on a meat dog farm. The Humane Society International (hsi.org) rescued her, along with her six puppies and the father of those puppies, several months ago as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate the dog meat trade throughout Asia. HSI had arranged with a number of shelters to take the dozens of dogs they’d rescued; HoSoon wound up at Animal Care Sanctuary in Wellsboro late in the summer, about the time Emma and Kyle were considering becoming dog parents. Emma says she had never had a dog of her own, and that Kyle’s long-time dog friend had died a few years ago. The couple had just bought a house together, and thought they and their cats might be ready to share their lives with a canine companion. In August Emma started seriously looking, and found HoSoon’s profile at ACS. HoSoon had spent the first two years of her life “in horrible conditions,” Emma says, and was not socialized in any positive ways toward humans. But something about her tugged at Emma’s heart, and, within two weeks after first meeting her, Emma and Kyle brought her home.
They knew HoSoon had some special needs—she was afraid of other dogs, she was afraid of men, and she didn’t know her name. Everything about her new life was unfamiliar, and she was anxious. On the plus side, she “essentially housebroke herself,” Emma notes, adding “she never once had an accident in the house.”
On the day HoSoon ran away, Kyle had had her outside. They’d been using a harness to walk her, but, Emma says, she “was still in the mindset of being scared and associating it with Kyle.” She was able to slip her harness, and then she bolted.
The couple searched the neighborhood with no success. Emma says Kyle’s reaction was “kind of heartbreaking to watch”—for him it was like losing his own dog all over again. He even put chicken on the stove to cook and left the door open, hoping the smell would entice her to return. It didn’t.
They continued searching. They did all the right things. They put it out on social media—Lost Pets of Tioga County is one of the local go-to Facebook sites. They printed flyers. They talked to neighbors and co-workers and family members, who in turn passed the word on.
HoSoon, in the meantime, was doing some traveling. “People were seeing her,” Emma says. “I was getting phone calls every day.” She was spotted in Morris, Nauvoo, and Blackwell, more than twenty miles away, then, finally, back again in Arnot. On the magic day, over two weeks after HoSoon went missing, Emma had a call from a neighbor in Arnot telling her HoSoon was in his yard. She drove over and “didn’t even bother turning off my car” before she got out.
“I managed to get a slip leash around her, then started a food trail home [HoSoon is especially fond of hot dogs], as she wouldn’t let me pick her up. You could see her hip bones and her spine.”
That was September 17. In the months since, HoSoon has made wonderful progress.
“She’s taken to following me around the house—she wants to be affectionate and loving,” Emma says. “We do have a long way to go with her, but we just have to keep proving to her that she can trust. I will not give up on her. She’s not even four yet, and she’s been through so much.”
Emma adds that HoSoon does know her name now, but she doesn’t always answer to it.
“She’s spending way too much time with our cats,” she laughs.
Animal lover Lori Ranck says it was COVID-19 that led to her initial finding-lost-dogs foray. Everybody was in lockdown and “there wasn’t anything else to do,” so when she saw on Lost Pets of Tioga County that a dog named BamBam was missing in Wellsboro, in her neighborhood, she got involved.
She wasn’t the only one.
BamBam, a twelve-year-old pit bull who, unbeknownst to everyone, was deaf, wasn’t a local pet—he had come to town from the Bronx with his human, a tractor trailer driver making a delivery—but that didn’t stop the community from getting out in force to look for him.
“I started because I had contact with BamBam,” Lori says. “I actually, physically saw him. I had him by the collar on the sixth day, but I lost him.” By this time, there were dozens of folks, local and otherwise, on BamBam alert (his owners had to return to the city)—everyone from veterinarian Dr. Lenny Kreger to some out-of-town electric workers. There were all kinds of sightings, but almost a week had gone by, and, as Lenny notes, when it comes to dogs on the run, “some just keep going.” Thankfully BamBam was not one of those dogs. Though he travelled over two miles from where he was originally lost on East Avenue, he was successfully trapped, and Lori happened to be first on the scene that morning.
“I was like a little kid on Christmas,” she says. “He started barking and I started bawling.” BamBam has since been reunited with his family.
Entei, however, is waiting for a new family, but he’s waiting in a safe place—Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries on Gee Road in Middlebury Township—where he’s getting lots of love and attention (full disclosure—I got to help give him his first bath!). The Bernese Mountain Dog’s journey began over a year ago—at least that’s when people around the Yellow Basket Shop/Stony Fork School Road in Delmar Township, outside Wellsboro, say they started seeing him. Lori—who with an expanding team of helpers that included her husband, Gary, Lynda Barron (who had helped on the BamBam and HoSoon rescues), Jim Melko, George Slupski, and Gary Gerges—was in on this rescue, too. Entei (Laura Clarson, animal care manager at Second Chance, named him for a Pokémon character who is constantly on the move), AKA The Bernie, travelled between three different properties in that area, and “every single person thought he was somebody else’s dog,” Lori says. It wasn’t until a resident posted a picture of him in mid-September eating a roadkill that it became clear he didn’t belong to anybody.
“Then, everyone became so concerned for him because, lying down, he looked just like a bear,” Lori says. And bear season was coming up. So, the next question became: How are we going to catch him?
Food seemed an obvious enticement.
The team put dog food in the roadkill, but that attracted animals they weren’t trying to catch, and, by then, the dog had eaten most of the deer anyway. Lori laughs when she talks about trying to figure out who to ask to get more roadkill. “Here I am, trying to get someone to drop off a dead deer for me,” she says. They set up trail cams, and then tried baiting their first dog trap. Weis Market’s meat department began donating to the cause, as did Papa the Butcher from Mansfield, so there was a ready supply of fresh meat, but Entei was smarter than the trap. They trapped a bear cub one night, but no dog. They borrowed a bigger trap, but that didn’t work, either. Entei had been spending a lot of time on Jim Melko’s property, and they were able to trap Jim’s cat a few times, but Entei refused to walk on the board that would trip the door and capture him. One trail cam recording showed the cat in the trap, with Entei on the outside—keeping the cat company, maybe.
Del Schriner, who has a commercial fencing business, studied the problem and came up with a bigger kennel that might work; Lori's husband, Gary, figured out a better mechanism to spring it, so the plan then was to continue feeding the dog and let him get comfortable with the new kennel/trap set-up.
“We fed him really well the last six weeks to keep him in the area,” Lori continues.
“I’d see Jimmy going down there at 6:30 in the morning to feed him,” says George Slupski, one of the property owners who was watching Entei. “I just kind of kept tabs on him,” and he’d then report sightings to Lori. “I was close to him several times.”
The team also devised a solar alarm system—one alarm would notify Lori if the dog was approaching or leaving the kennel, and the second would go off if he went inside. They had more than one false alarm, and a few setbacks when the trail cams seemed to be malfunctioning. But they all knew “this dog has a pattern.” Jim (Melko) “knew this dog,” Lori says, and he was telling her to have patience.
It was early November, and, on this particular Sunday, they had set the trap again, baited it, and waited. And waited. Alarms went off; Lori is texting the other volunteers who are around the scene; everyone is “on standby” and nobody is sure if the dog is in the trap or not, but Lori thinks she can hear whining. Then Jim thinks he can hear whining, too. Then they could hear the dog howling, and knew he was in the kennel. They called dog whisperers Krys Knecht, who serves as the county’s Humane Officer, and Laura Clarson; when they arrived, they “walked right in,” put a leash on him, walked him out and down the road, and put him in the back of a vehicle.
“He was never once aggressive toward any of them,” Lori marvels.
When Lassie Doesn’t Come Home
“Where’s the dog?” That’s a scary question no pet parent wants to have to ask. So what happens when our furry friends get lost, and why do they sometimes not come home on their own?
Dogs, according to missinganimalresponse.com, can leave home for several reasons. They may be opportunistic (someone left the door open and what’s a dog to do but walk out?), they are prone to wanderlust (think hound with his nose to the ground), or they’re in a blind panic (a noise or some other frightening event set them off).
“It depends on the dog,” says Laura Clarson. “Dogs can get spooked by things we wouldn’t necessarily consider scary. Some need some guidance to get back to where they need to be.”
Once they’re on the lam, common sense, even by dog standards, does not always prevail. A panicked dog may not come to his owner, indeed may not, for reasons we as humans don’t quite understand, even recognize his owner. A dog who has been on her own for a period of time may revert to a semi-wild state, again for reasons we don’t completely understand, and may, rather than remembering that she is a predator, consider all those humans calling her and chasing after her as the predators and decide it’s in her best interests to keep on going.
That’s one reason you’ll see on the lost dog posters “do not call, chase, or even acknowledge.” The dog in question may not realize you’re just trying to help.
If your dog runs away, Laura suggests that you “don’t panic” and don’t chase or yell. If Fido repeatedly wanders but eventually comes home, give him a reward for returning (yes, that’s counter-intuitive, but what dog is going to return if he gets yelled at or swatted?). If it’s a stray or a dog you’re unfamiliar with that you’re trying to catch, try setting up a feeding station. The idea is to encourage her to stay in one area to make for easier humane trapping, so make it a safe space—you want the dog to feel comfortable hanging around. Luring works better than chasing.
Lori offers a few tips, “learned over the last few months while rescuing dogs.” You need one lead contact person and a phone number someone can call day or night, and you need as much animal identifying information as possible.
Contact all local animal shelters so they can post on their social media. Contact local radio stations, local news outlets/social media, and police departments. Talk to the mail person, along with UPS, Fed Ex, and school bus drivers. You have to get the word out that this dog is missing. Make flyers indicating not to call, yell, whistle, or chase the dog. Talk to the neighbors where the dog was last seen.
Carry dog treats (liver seems to be a favorite), canned and dry dog food, and cooked hotdogs. Carry a slip leash. If he has been out for long, he may have lost weight and his collar, if he still has one, may slip off with a regular leash. Leave clothing with owners’ scent or the dog’s favorite toy at the last spotting, along with food and water. The owners can sit quietly in that location to leave their scent. If you’re using a trap, leave the area but keep checking the trap regularly from a distance. If possible, use trail cams to monitor the animal’s behavior. “BamBam made it 2.5 miles away from where he was lost in six days,” Lori says. “HoSoon traveled forty miles in three weeks. And, the Bernese Mountain Dog traveled thirty miles in a year. Therefore, it’s important to check the surrounding area for any vacant homes. It’s quiet and they feel safe and comfortable. No one is chasing or shooting at them.”
It Takes a Village…
As the experts say, when you’re looking for a missing pet, you’re really looking for people—the people who have either seen your dog or cat, or who have found them.
“I never could have done it alone—there’s no way I would have been able to do it,” Emma says of the help and support she and Kyle received while HoSoon was missing. “I could not have done it without the community.”
“You can’t do this without volunteers and community support,” Lori says. “I couldn’t do it without Laura and Krys’s expertise. It truly takes a team effort.”
“Lori and I—we’re a team now,” says Lynda, who was out looking for another dog on the rainy and chilly Sunday afternoon I got her on the phone. “She’ll call and say ‘Lynda, where are you and what are you doing?’ We’re two crazy ladies that love animals and would do anything to help them.”
Lori reflects on what she told me when I first spoke with her a few weeks ago about the reason she started doing this—helping to find lost dogs and rounding up feral cats to get them spayed/neutered. She said then that during the COVID lockdown in the spring there wasn’t much to do. She’s since had some time to think, and she’s been involved in a few more “lost and founds.” The reason she gives now sounds more like how it really is.
“Somewhere along the line, a human failed these animals,” Lori says. For some of the animals she’s helped to find, “there was nobody,” and for a person who loves animals, that’s just not acceptable.
“It takes a community to get involved,” Lynda adds.
Making miracles is a whole lot easier with help.