Posts Tagged ‘Lost dogs’

Annie the Labrador


On the fifth of August 2010 we picked up our new foster dog – Annie,  a four-year old Red Fox Labrador who’d been used as a breeding bitch.  A snapped collar saw her disappear into the twilight before we’d even had chance to get her home (Disaster strikes) and so began a two-day roller coaster.

The panic, the despair,  the guilt and worst of all, the agony of wondering what this sweet but terrified girl must be going through to be lost in a strange place but tempered with the humbling kindness of the strangers who helped us find her ( Little (Big) Dog Lost & Breakthrough).

It’s hard to believe that was two years ago. Watching her now, stretched out, paw over nose, twitching in dreamland on the sofa, it’s almost hard to believe that this was the dog so shut down that she refused to even toilet for three days. The dog you could send scuttling under the dining table should you accidentally look her in the eye. The dog so seemingly ‘aggressive’ that she’d erupt at the sight of a dog a football pitch away and who would charge the patio doors on sight of Little Bear or Camden Cat in the garden.

Overcoming fear

Now that the fear isn’t doing quite so much of the talking we’re seeing the real Annie. She loves Little Bear and she and Camden have come to an arrangement based on mutual respect that even extends to polite sniffing. She can still be wary of some people, but will also cheerfully approach complete strangers with a relaxed wag if she likes the look of them.

Her dreams are more peaceful now too. I don’t know what dogs dream of, but I know for sure that they have nightmares. Seeing her run in her sleep, her face contorted as she whimpered and whined was once a regular occurrence.

We’re still working on the on-lead dog to dog reactivity but that’s coming along steadily too. She’ll get there. Just as she learned to let go of the other fears that racked her life, so this, in time will pass too.


I’m not know for my patience, but dogs don’t work to our ridiculous, artificial schedules. Annie will continue to learn and grow in her own time and our job is to help and encourage her along that path. My knees still go a little weak when I see her run because a part of me will never fully get over that fateful first day, but I can’t help wonder whether it didn’t do me a favour.

In losing her I gained a valuable insight – I now know what real fear feels like. We are all so hounded by the imagined fears of our over-active minds that real fear, the type that comes from immediate danger is blessedly rare. Maybe, in order to help her overcome the very real fears she has to face, I just needed to walk a mile in her paws.


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Apparently lost dogs tend to move in a triangular pattern and are likely to return to the place from which they are lost at around dawn and dusk. Searching at night, suggested our local Dog Warden  was usually fruitless as most dogs lost or not would bed down somewhere after sunset.

This insight, although immensely helpful, did nothing to curb our night time rambling though. Sitting at home just didn’t seem to be an option that either of us could contemplate and so we walked off our worry into the early hours.

At 6.30am Little Bear and I set out with our friend from Lab Rescue and her Lab Grace to continue our search. After another fruitless search we headed home. I got the computer out and started emailing the poster to all of the vets within a ten mile radius. Little Bear snuggled up to me and I must have nodded off because the next thing I know my phone is ringing.

I’ll spare you the details but in short, the man on the other end was calling to tell me that he’d seen Annie dead at the side of the road. Apologising profusely for being the bearer of bad news, he said he’d only caught a glimpse as he drove past but he thought I’d rather know.

Other Half was out of bed, dressed and in the car within minutes. LB and I sat on the floor and hoped. The coordinator from Dogs Lost called – she hesitated “A man just called us….’ she said “I know, we’re checking now” was all I could manage.

“IT’S A DEER!” The relief I found in those three words was unbelievable. Poor, poor deer but I was just so thrilled that it wasn’t our Annie. I called Dogs Lost and cried, then I called back the poor man who’d reported it and cried again while he thanked heavens and saints and practically whooped for joy!

There’s a dog in my garden

The real breakthrough came later that day when I got a call from an elderly lady who had spotted Annie in her garden. It was one of the gardens that backed onto the field in which she’d been spotted that first night. OH and I raced over there along with Carole from Dogs Lost. Neighbours came to help with the search, one lady ready for her holidays and waiting for her lift  to the airport braved bramble bushes and muddy fields to help find her!

Returning to the field while OH, Carole and the neighbours checked gardens I spotted her!  My heart in my mouth I followed the advice from the dog warden which is not to chase but to sit quietly and make a yelping sound like a puppy. And so I knelt and then, when my knee complained, sat in a wet field yelping like a puppy, wafting packets of dog food and generally making an arse of myself until I swear I heard one of the horses in the next field snigger. My routine obviously cut no sway with the errant Annie because about half an hour later I got a call from Carole to say that she could see her slumped in one of the gardens.

After blocking holes in wire fencing barely big enough for rabbits but which she was obviously using to evade us, we finally caught up with her. Bedraggled just doesn’t do the scene justice. She looked like she’d given up. Huddled next to a gate she ignored all manner of tempting treats including my friends best pate and cheese. Once we realised that she wasn’t going to go anywhere of her own volition my friends husband scooped her up and carried her to the car. No mean feat as she’s a big girl to say the least! But she was safe and that was all that mattered.

The scene that followed was like a street party. The lady who made the call, a sprightly 92 years young, said it reminded her of the day the war ended. Another batch of complete strangers hugging and crying and breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Annie watched unblinking from the back of the car. I thought about all my grand plans – OH turned to me and said jokingly “I hope the baby gate holds” and we laughed for what felt like the first time in months.

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