Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jack is a Ladies Man on Mount Sunapee

Gentleman Jack on the way to Mt. Sunapee
It was an enjoyable return to the trails on Saturday, April 14, 2012 with summer like weather to keep me warm and foster dog Jack to keep me company.  With the thermometer reading only thirty degrees when I left my house on Saturday morning, I was questioning the accuracy of the day's weather forecast and bringing along a hat and gloves seemed rather reasonable.

Jack giving me his best puppy dog eyes
However, by the time Jack and I arrived at the start of the Andrew Brook Trail, it was already sixty degrees and bright and sunny for our climb to the summit of Mt. Sunapee (2,745 feet).  Jack is a sweet, two-year old Coonhound who recently arrived from an overcrowded animal shelter in West Virginia.  Thanks to the support of Canine Guardians for Life, Inc., he has happily settled into the foster home that he shares with two other large male dogs where he loves getting attention and playing with a variety of toys.

The added security of a safety strap for the leash
As we parked at the trail head, I could sense Jack's excitement to hit the trails and take in all the smells they had to offer a scent driven hound.  I did not think Jack would quickly wander off if I happened to drop the leash, but I am taking extra precautions against any dog getting lost on the trails.  I have purchased a safety strap that secures my wrist to the end of the leash.  So, in the event of a stumble like the one that resulted in Jennie getting lost on the trails, the leash will remain attached.  The freehand safety strap was designed specifically as a backup attachment for retractable leashes, but I found it worked just as well for a regular leash.  I would not recommend that the safety strap be used as a temporary tie out to a tree or a post especially for larger dogs who could break free.  As a wrist strap, however, I highly recommend it.

Jack meets Rada at Lake Solitude
Jack and I took our time hiking along the Andrew Brook, Solitude and Summit Trails with several photo stops along the way.  At Lake Solitude, Jack was thrilled to make the acquaintance of a beautiful Bernese Mountain dog named Rada.  Jack also dipped his feet in the lake but then quickly decided the water was a bit too chilly for a deeper swim.  After a short break, we headed on to the White Ledges overlooking the lake for some more encounters with fellow canine hikers.

Scarlet oversees Jack and Lily's introduction
Atop the White Ledges, Jack and I were met rather boisterously by German shepherd Scarlet who despite her alpha greeting proved to be very interested in Jack and welcomed him to the scenic overlook.  Scarlet then introduced Jack to her owners and her canine sister Lily the Labrador retriever.  After a few more photos, Jack was disappointed to see the ladies leave as they headed down to the lake for a swim.

Taking in the views just below the summit
We eventually made our way along the Summit Trail to the top of Mt. Sunapee for a last look at the remnants of ski season and to take in the views of Lake Sunapee.  Jack enjoyed a short stroll on the snow before we reversed our route and concluded our approximately 6.5 mile adventure in the middle of the afternoon.  Jack was seemed to enjoy the woods and all of the attention and compliments that he received from fellow hikers. 

Now, we hope that all this positive attention will bring Jack one step closer to being adopted into a permanent home.  A full photo album of Jack's journey is available online.

To learn more about Jack and/or to share his adoption profile with others, please visit his page on Petfinder.com.

See you on the trails!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Missing a Foster Dog and Finding Hope

Jennie resting at the scenic lookout on our previous hike
I really hate seeing a dog in a cage.

Homeless dogs living in foster homes provided by volunteer rescue groups such as Almost Home Rescue of Maine and Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. do not live in cages.  They live with families who donate their time, space and resources to providing homeless dogs a temporary living situation while permanent families are found. 

Nearly a year ago, I decided that I could support the rescue groups by hiking with foster dogs in an effort to provide them socialization as well as information, photos and videos to strengthen their adoption profiles.
After dozens of successful outings, including some 4,000 footers and even a few hikes in less than ideal weather conditions, I thankfully have never lost a dog on a hike.  The dogs are always on a leash.  There have been some dogs with beginning leash manners, other dogs with a high prey drive for small creatures they heard and smelled off in the woods, and even one nearly 100-pound Great Dane/Labrador mix who practically towed me up and down Mt. Shaw.  Still, I held on tight.

Then, the unthinkable happened as I was beginning my second hike with foster dog Jennie on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Jennie is a sweetheart who loves other dogs, but she takes a little longer to warm up to new people and is still rather timid of new environments and new sounds.  In an effort to minimize the newness of the situation, I decided that I would use the leash that Jennie was wearing when I picked her up that morning.  Normally, I use my own leash - a style that I use with my own dogs and with all of the foster dog summit hikers.  For some reason, I thought it would benefit Jennie to have her own leash on this time.

As I was taking my first steps with Jennie en route to the start of the Mt. Roberts Trail for our second hike on Saturday, I remember glancing over at her tail and seeing that it was curled upward in a happy, confident position.  That was quite an improvement over the start of our first trip back in February when she hiked for a quite a distance with her tail tucked between her legs.

As I was concluding that happy thought, I managed to stumble loudly over a rock, crunch through a bunch of leaves, and the leash with the unfamiliar grip slid out of my hand and hit the ground.  The unfamiliar sounds startled Jennie, and she tore off into the woods dragging her pink leash behind her.  I ran after her and tried unsuccessfully to call and coax her back to me.  Jennie was gone.  I had lost a dog.

While panic was setting in, I managed to run through the woods in the direction she was heading until I hit the Cold Springs Trail.  I looked up the trail and across into the woods and could not see Jennie.  I decided that she might have headed down, so I started in that direction.  Near the start of the Cold Springs Trail, I encountered a family of hikers and their dog named Star.  I immediately told them what happened, asked if they saw Jennie and then inquired about walking up the Cold Springs Trail with them in the hopes that Star could lure Jennie out of the woods.  They were more than happy to interrupt their plans for a quiet family hike and joined me in the search for a missing foster dog.

After a short while, it was clear that Jennie was not going to be found quickly.  I had no choice but to alert her foster family and to contact her rescue group with the unfortunate news.

Jennie's foster immediately joined the search with another of his dogs.  My husband and his friend abandoned their fantasy baseball draft to the auto-draft setting and brought along my own two dogs to begin combing the nearby trails.  Numerous other hikers we met on the trails re-directed their plans to the area of Mt. Roberts and the surrounding trails in an effort to find Jennie.  A woman named Mariah and her hound dog Marley rounded up another friend and her dog and headed up the Mt. Roberts Trail.  Volunteers with Almost Home Rescue of Maine and Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. began getting the missing dog alert out to the social networks and created missing dog posters.  Granite State Dog Recovery began circulating an online alert to its Facebook followers.

The foster dog who had been hiking in search of a home suddenly had countless people hiking in search of her.

Unfortunately, as darkness fell, our collective efforts had not produced a single sighting of Jennie.  The search intensified throughout the day on Sunday.  Numerous hikers and their dogs who learned about Jennie showed up to help find her.  The hiker's parking area was overflowing with cars, and more hikers already on the trails that day also started looking for Jennie.

Having hiked with Jennie a month prior along the Shannon Brook Trail, I followed my hunch that she might have headed in the direction.  By mid-morning, I spotted Jennie coming up the Shannon Brook Trail near the intersection of the Bald Knob Cutoff.  Unfortunately, she had already been startled by some hikers making their way up the trail.  Before I had a chance to even call her name, Jennie turned and ran.  I encountered the other hikers further down the trail who eagerly began assisting in the search.  As I headed towards the brook, they continued up Bald Knob Cutoff where they spotted Jennie bushwhacking her way down the mountain.

Searchers were alerted to the latest sighting and re-directed their efforts over the next couple days.  Tina, a volunteer from Canine Guardians for Life, Inc., searched with her dogs for several hours each day in the area of the last sighting.  While Tina and many other searchers reported hearing a dog barking, Sunday morning was the last sighting that we had of Jennie.

Our non-stop efforts throughout Sunday, Monday and Tuesday did not locate Jennie.  By Monday afternoon, a humane trap had been placed in the area alongside the Shannon Brook Trail towards the direction of Bald Knob.  Unfortunately, the can of food that was placed in the trap on Monday night was likely taken by a wily coyote.

On Tuesday morning the trap was re-baited with a tasty and strong smelling mix of Bravo raw turkey burgers for pets, Beneful dog food, sliced turkey and provolone cheese.  The pile of food was placed directly onto the bottom of the trap just beyond the step plate that triggers the back gate to close.  Items of clothing from Jennie's foster home were also placed on top of the trap.

We left the trails at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night exhausted yet hopeful that Jennie was still in the area and would find her way to the dinner waiting for her. 

Jennie, still dragging her leash, awaiting release from the trap
This is one dog that I was really happy to see in a cage!

Jennie was happy to be released from the humane trap early in the morning on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 after being on the run for nearly four days.  She is back at her foster home waiting for the perfect forever family.

My sincere thanks to everyone who assisted in finding Jennie.  I know that I had the opportunity to meet and speak with only a small number of the people who joined in the effort.  I am also extremely grateful to everyone who has insisted that it was an accident and not to let this incident deter me from future hikes.  In response, I would still like to offer my sincere apologies for not having a better grip on the leash.  There is still fault to be had in my temporary loss of focus and for that I am deeply sorry.

There will be more hikes, and I am in the process of obtaining a GPS collar for the dogs to wear.  While there is no method that can provide a 100% guarantee against a dog getting lost; a GPS collar can focus and shorten a search effort.

See you on the trails!