Today Mu searched for Batman, a black and white cat with a pattern that looks like Batman’s cowl. Batman went missing from a marina on Lake Union. He had been attacked by a dog and ran off. Batman is well known in the area and has a large fan club. Everywhere we went, people would say, oh, are you looking for Batman? I hope you find him. As we were searching, a cat named Prince kept following us. He is Batman’s friend. Mu was a bit distracted by Prince, but at least he got to find a kitty, several times. We didn’t find Batman, but he came home the next day. He didn’t seem to be too badly injured from the dog attack.
Mu searched for another calico today. There were two other cats missing in the neighborhood. We found coyote scat in five places around the trails around the neighborhood. Although the scat didn’t contain cat fur, it still seemed a bit ominous, that so many coyotes were around. Mu spent a good long minute sniffing one particular spot. He has done this before when a cat was taken by a coyote at a particular point. In this case, I couldn’t see any sign of fur in that area. My guess is that he was smelling blood. About ten minutes later, Mu stopped in the middle of the trail and went and sat by the owners of the cat. He leaned into them and asked to be petted. This was unusual. I got the impression that Mu had decided the cat was probably dead, and that he was comforting the cat’s owners. I didn’t say that to them because this isn’t something we have trained for. Mu is trained to find decomp, but there’s no ethical way to train him to find a spot where a cat has been killed but no evidence was left behind. I just had to base my interpretation on his behavior in previous circumstances where we were able to verify the location a cat was killed using the Luminol test.
I was pretty sure their cat was taken by a coyote, but I wasn’t certain. There have been just a couple of times that I thought the cat had been killed, based on trace evidence and Mu’s behavior, but then the cat was found alive and well. I didn’t want to discourage them from looking. Mu and I continued the search, looking for any cat we could find, or remains that could make us more certain of the outcome. We never did find anything. Mu seemed to be slowing down because he was hot. We took a quick break for him to fetch a stick in the creek and cool off, and he seemed to be invigorated by that. I ask a lot of Mu. He likes his job, but it’s a remarkable thing for a dog to remain focused on a task for four hours.
Today Mu searched for a calico cat who had been missing two weeks. Before the search, I told the owner there was a low chance of success, but she wanted to try anyway, just in case. Mu did find a few kitties, but not the right one. The owner’s friend found a femur that was about the right size for a cat. Mu did not find it, even though we were close. About twelve feet from the femur, we found a couple of tufts of fur in an area of matted grass. The fur was a possible match for the lost cat. It did not come from a wild animal, or a dog. It pretty much had to be cat fur, and since her cat was missing, there was a femur the right size, and the fur was a possible match.... Although I felt the most likely scenario was that her cat had been taken by a predator, I didn’t push the issue. I find that some people want to know, and other people don’t. I gave her the information, and left her to draw her own conclusions. I don’t know if that’s the best way to handle such situations.
Mu and I were basically done, because the weather was warming up. Also, I was pretty certain what had happened to the calico. The cat’s owner wanted to check a particular garage, and a neighbor said she would help her try to rouse the homeowner, who is hard of hearing. While they were checking, Mu and I sat on the lawn, and Mu attracted a bit of a crowd. People had heard about the search dog, and wanted to meet him. I warned people that they could pet him, but that he sometimes would bark without warning and without an apparent cause, at perfectly nice people, so they shouldn’t be alarmed or frightened if he were to suddenly bark right in their faces. The woman who found the femur was very found of Mu, and he leaned into her an licked her face. I was going to say, I don’t let him lick my face because he has been known to eat cat poop, but he had already started licking, so I didn’t say anything. She probably won’t die.
A man came from across the street to see Mu. He said he had lost his Lab mix in November and Mu reminded him of that dog. I also warned him that Mu might bark inappropriately. He took that to mean that I didn’t want him to pet Mu. I told him, he could pet Mu, but just to be forewarned about the inexplicable barking. He was fine with that, and he petted Mu, getting his face pretty close to Mu’s. I thought for sure Mu was going to bark, because intense, direct eye contact can be a trigger, but Mu didn’t bark. I noticed the man was crying, moved to tears about the memory of the dog he’d lost. When he stopped petting, Mu asked for more, and he seemed to understand that the man was sad. Mu comforted him. Mu has done this for many people over the years, comforting them after a search with a sad ending. He doesn’t always. Sometimes he barks, and sometimes he lets people hug him, and he licks their faces. I think Mu understands that these people have suffered a loss, as he lost his Kelsy, the light of his life. Mu has found the remains of cats over a hundred times, so he has been around more than his share of sadness. Some people, who don’t know Mu, have been nervous and frightened by his muscular build and strong jaw. People who get to know Mu realize that he is very tender and sweet. If Mu wasn’t a search dog, he would probably make a good therapy dog, comforting people in hard times.
Today, Tino kept me company as I drove around Burien and SeaTac searching for a lost Husky. The dog had been captured, but no one told us, so we spent an hour driving around for nothing. After we found out, and we were driving home, I saw a medium size dog in the street. I was able to lure him with the hotdogs that we had brought for the Husky. With hotdogs in one hand, I was able to grab his tags with the other. He was nervous, but he let me hold his tags long enough to read them. I called the number and he lived close by. He made it back home quickly.
Mu and Tino had an epic wrestling match today. They wrestle all the time, but lately they seem to be elevating it to an art form. I think Tino is learning to be not so rough with the other dogs, and they actually want to wrestle with him. Sometimes they start it. Tino is still really big and strong, and hard to handle, but they have found a way to wrestle without anyone getting hurt or upset. It’s nice to be working at the computer and have dogs wrestling beside me.
Today Mu searched for a cat named Scoot. He is orange, with long hair. As is sometimes the case, the cat’s owners had not secured permission from all of the properties on the map I sent them ahead of time. We had to ask permission as we went, and we did not receive permission from a few key properties. Scoot had been missing 11 days. I didn’t think we had much of a chance in the first place. The cloud cover didn’t stick around like it had the previous mornings, and Mu started to get too warm. On any given search, there is a chance we could find the cat, if the circumstances work out for us. Although this search was disappointing and we had factors working against us, we did at least give it a try and take the chance it could work.
Later, I was sleeping with the four dogs in the afternoon, trying to get my sleep schedule around for the summer heat, so we can search really early. I was awakened by a sound I couldn’t identify. I thought it could be a heavy rain. I checked the radar on my iPhone, and a storm hit us, and only us, our own private rain storm. It was a nice gift on a difficult day.
Today was moving day for Moose. A kind person volunteered to foster him, in a home with a nice, big yard and a tall, secure fence. I knew Moose wouldn’t be happy about getting in the car again, even if it was to go to a better situation. We tried to see if he would be calm enough to allow us to put leashes on, but he was too anxious. Instead, I just brought in the 48 inch trap, and we gently blocked him into it. He went in without too much distress.
At the new place, Terri brought him out on a leash. He seemed to like the yard just fine, and he was walking with Terri, not pulling too hard or trying to escape. We let him get used to everything, and meet the dog who lives there. Terri was going to walk him around a bit more, and I was reclining near Moose, propped up on one elbow. I was near him but ignoring him, intentionally, to help him relax. Moose got up and came over behind me, and settled down with his head right behind my head, near me but ignoring me. This was the nicest gift Moose could have given me. It meant so much. I have been trying to communicate to Moose how much I love him and want to protect him, but all of my actions so far have ended up putting him in situations that made him uncomfortable. I have been communicating to him with body language and soft vocal tones that I am on his side, even though it may not seem like it sometimes. When he chose to settle in behind me, close, it showed that I was getting through, and that Moose understood, at some level, that I am on his side.
As a test, we let go of the leash to see if Moosie would try to exploit any weaknesses in the fence or try to jump it. He did go to the edges of the yard, but he ended up just finding a place in the trees and lying down in the ivy. We let him take a nap in the ivy, in the shade, and sat with him while he dozed. Later, he let me lead him by the leash right into the house without any struggle. It’s too early to say, but all signs indicate that the new foster home is going to work out very well for Moose. It doesn’t mean all of his problems are solved, but I have much less anxiety about him running off and coming to harm. I can see Moose becoming a really great dog. No, I already know that Moose is a great dog. But now I can envision a pathway to a great life for Moose where he can be the good dog that he is.
I went to see Moose today, to try to work with him and build a bond. He would eat from the foster’s hand, but he wouldn’t stay close and be petted. I wanted him to come to me to have the leash put on, but we weren’t making any progress. Finally, I had to corner him to put the leash on. He allowed me to do it, but it wasn’t his choice.
We got outside, with two leashes on, and he seemed to be doing really well. He looked somewhat relaxed, and he wasn’t pulling on the leashes much. We walked around the yard and enjoyed the sunshine. The foster wanted to try walking him on the leash, so they could get used to each other. Moose stayed calm until they walked around the corner, around the shrubs and out of sight of me. Then Moose started thrashing, yanking on the leashes, trying to get her to let go of him. She called me over for help.
When I took the leashes, Moose was still resisting, trying to get away. He is 84 pounds, and although he definitely does not want to bite anyone, he is still a challenge to control when he is agitated. One of the collars was a martingale style, which tightens up when the dog pulls. It was working, but it wasn’t quite tight enough, and he was almost slipping out of it. The other collar was just a normal buckle collar, which had the GPS tracking unit. I took the leash from that collar and turned it around, looped through the handled to make a slip lead. As I was trying to get the slip lead on, Moose thrashed hard, in the shrubs, trying to knock me down or get me tangled up. He also wouldn’t hold his head still so I could get the slip lead on. I was just on the verge of losing him, and my heart was pounding at the thought of it. I knew it might cost him his life if he ran off into the woods at that point. Of course, we would try to catch him again, but it could be very difficult, and he would be subject to so many risks while running loose. I improvised, and ran the attached leash through the loop of the slip lead, to guide it onto him. Once in place and tightened, the improvised slip lead tightened up more than the martingale collar, and he was secured, although he wasn’t done struggling. He tried biting through the slip lead, and he would have succeeded if I hadn’t moved them around and away from his mouth.
It was like wrestling an alligator, trying to get him back to the house. I could tell the slip lead was too tight, and uncomfortable for him, but I couldn’t ease up on it too much. Halfway back to the house, Moose flopped down in the grass, and the foster was able to loosen the slip lead a little, so Moose could catch his breath and settle down. After resting a bit, I started leading him back to the house again, and he seemed resigned to going back. We got him in the house and the door closed, and took the leashes off. Once the struggle was over, Moose was gentle and sweet again, no trouble at all.
Although it was disappointing, and sad to see Moose so upset and determined to escape, one positive from the experience is that Moose proved he absolutely does not want to bite anyone. A dog might reasonably calculate, during such a struggle, that he could bite his captor, and that would cause most people to let go of the leashes. Moose doesn’t know me that well, though. I have been bitten at least ten times, and I have never let go of a dog.
This is the way it can be with some rescue dogs. We want to help them so much, and it’s hard to communicate our intentions. All Moose sees is that we are preventing him from going into the woods where he would feel at home and safe. About 8 years ago, I helped capture Max, who was very similar in terms of his intelligence and independence. Max also tried to escape from me, while on two leashes, thrashing like a little alligator, and I was very concerned I was going to lose him. A few weeks later, Max was adopted. Max did run away from his new home, but then he came back to them, and he lived with them a long time, no longer trying to escape. I think Moose will accept someone in time. He just needs patience. If we can manage to prevent him from escaping for a couple of weeks, and help him learn to trust people again, then he will probably end up being a great dog for the right family. Of course, I would love to have Moose for my own dog, but five crazy dogs is all I can handle. I wouldn’t be helping Moose by taking him into our family. I know we can find a great home for him, eventually.
Oh, Moosie. We are all trying to help you. I know you are scared.
I went to pick up Moose at the shelter just after 6 PM. It took about twenty minutes for shelter staff to put a leash on him, and then another thirty minutes to get him in the car. He wouldn’t go in, so we pulled the leash into a 48 F trap and then loaded the trap in. I drove him an hour away to a nice home in the woods in Fall City. Once we got there, Moose was still very upset, and he wouldn’t let me put the GPS collar on him for another hour. I wanted to put a harness on him, but that just wasn’t going to happen.
I finally got the GPS collar on him, and got two leashes on. I took him out of the car, and his first thought was to run off into the woods and hide. I walked him around the driveway and the yard, in big loops, and tried to get him closer to his very nice foster lady. Moose drank a little water that she offered, but he wasn’t taking any treats. I couldn’t get him into a crate or into the house. They had a large outdoor kennel, but I couldn’t get him down the narrow path to get in there. Finally, I was able to walk him into the garage and close the door. I spent another 90 minutes trying to calm him down in the garage and get him in the house. After three hours, I really had to get home to my dogs, so we left him in the garage to relax.
After I left, the foster reported that Moose came into the house eventually, and seemed to be settling down. Moose shows all the signs of being a high risk for escaping, and I’m glad we have the GPS tracker on him. Although, if he does break free and run into the woods, he could be very hard to catch. He won’t go into a regular trap again. We would need to bring out the extra large kennel trap, and even then it could be a challenge.
Moose is acting like Viktor did. Moose will let me pet him. He even sat on my foot, which made me feel better, like he was accepting me. He really seems set on running away, like Viktor was at first. Three years later, I think Viktor has accepted his new family and wouldn’t run off if I dropped the leash. I certainly hope it doesn’t take Moose three years to calm down. I hope Moose appreciates that everyone is being very patient with him and doing their best to help him calm down and settle in to a safe place. It makes me wonder if he has spent his whole life outdooors and never been in a house. Moose is going to be a challenge.
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.
We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
― Desmond Tutu
This is a terrible time of year to search for lost pets. The warm weather is not helpful, and the long days make it difficult to get up early enough to beat the heat. Some years, instead of trying to get up early, I stay up later each night until I’m awake around dawn and then go to sleep mid-morning. This is not ideal either because then I’m asleep at a time when I could be making phone calls to people who’ve lost their pets.
At times like these, I think I could help so many more people, and cats and dogs, if I could get people to read my Guide to Finding Your Lost Cat or Guide to Finding Your Lost Dog before their pets go missing. So many times, before people contact me, they have done things to make the search harder, such as waiting too long to call me, or calling the name of the lost cat or dog. If I ask pet owners to read these guides ahead of time, they probably won’t, but it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand. One third of all pets will go missing at some point in their lives. If you own three pets, or if your friends and family have at least three pets collectively, which should include just about everyone, then at some point in the next ten years, you or someone you know is going to lose a cat or a dog. Learning the techniques and concepts in these guides would not be a waste of anyone’s time. People learn first aid, just in case it’s needed. I have taken a first aid course for pets, and haven’t needed to use that information once yet, fortunately. People learn what to do if they get lost in the woods even when they’ve never been lost and needed that information. They make earthquake preparedness kits even though The Big One might not occur in their lifetimes. It does not seem unreasonable to ask people to learn how to find lost pets before they need to, especially when it’s almost a certainty that they will need that information at some point.
I wish we could make it a rule that people who adopt from UBS would be required to read my tips on loss prevention and also the Guide to Finding Your Lost Dog before they get the dog. With every dog adopted from the shelter or from a nonprofit rescue, this information should be mandatory. Dogs who end up at shelters and rescues most likely got there because they were lost, and dogs who run away once are very likely to try to do it again. Before you get your driver’s license, you need to pass a written test and a driving test. It should be the same for adopting a dog or cat. You should have to take a class and pass a test, and only those who graduate get to adopt.
All the stuff I know now, I certainly wish I knew it before I lost my cat, Charlie.