It was a pretty normal Wednesday afternoon. My son was sleeping, I was working in the house picking up and doing laundry. After switching the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I look out the window. I don't understand what I'm looking at...how did Lucy get outside? I know I didn't let her out. What is she doing out there? I look closer, and it wasn't Lucy, and it wasn't alone. There in my back yard was a very beautiful black and tan German Shepherd and a small black Lab. I was on the phone with my cousin, so I get off the phone, put some shoes on, and step outside. I talk to the dogs, to get their attention, and the little black lab comes barreling towards me. She's all wiggles and excitement, and I realize she's very young, maybe 6 months or so. She's wearing a collar, but no tags of any kind. So I turn my attention to the German Shepherd. By that time, he had made his way closer to me, but was still hanging back a little bit. He seemed not totally sure about me, but not scared either. So I decide I need to get some leashes, and help these dogs find their owner. When I came back out, they're both right by the door, waiting for me. I quickly snapped the leashes on and took a closer look at German Shepherd's collar and see that he has a green rabies tag. Before I could look at his collar to try to read his tag, my dogs, Kayla and Lucy, realize there are strange dogs in our yard, and they need to sound the alarm. Unfortunately the window they were looking out of is directly outside of my son's bedroom, so at that point I realize he's probably not sleeping anymore, and might be feeling a little afraid. So I hurry up and rush the two dogs to my outdoor kennel, so I can get back into the house. As I'm rushing back in, I try to look around and listen for an owner searching for their lost pets...but sadly, nothing.
My son was pretty upset by the time I made it to him, so after he settled down, I got the phone books out and start calling around. I started with Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, and after calling Huron Valley Humane Society in Ann Arbor, a couple of shelters, animal control, and a local non-breed specific rescue, I move onto the neighbors. I spent an hour on the phone leaving descriptions of the dogs with people, on voicemails, and machines, but no luck. No one knew anything. No one could help me. I walked back outside to check on the dogs, and listen for their owner several times, but nothing. My husband stopped at a few houses on his way home from work...more dead ends...nothing.
Later that evening, when it seemed obvious the dogs were staying the night with me, I took them some water, and try to get a better feel for them. My first impression was that they were both young. Big Boy, (the German Shepherd), had feet a little too big for his body, and no white or grey on his muzzle, but his ears were in proportion to his head. I had noticed he was marking, so that means he had to be at least 10 months. I guessed his age to be close to a year. Little Girl, (the Lab), was full of wiggles. She had very little muscle definition, her feet and ears were too big for her body, and she had all of her adult teeth. She spent most of her time jumping straight up in the air, or jumping on me...so again I had the impression she was very young. I keep my first impression for her...6 months. I was able to get Big Boy to stay still long enough to read his tag, and I got his vet information and a partial number. The last number I couldn't make out because of damage on the tag itself. I knew the vet (YAY!!), but they were closed for the night. They both had very clean coats, and looked well fed. They had an owner out there that loved them very much and was probably worried out of their mind about their dogs; imagining all kinds of horrors, from getting hit by a car, to attacked by coyotes, or shot by a farmer/hunter. Ok sooo maybe my imagination had started to get out of control. These were all things I would imagine if I had lost my dogs.
Now I needed to figure out what to do with them for the night. Other than a few observations about the dogs, I didn't know anything about them. It seemed like they lived indoors, but could I bring them into my house with my own two dogs and a small child? Were they going to be ok with my dogs? Have they been in a crate before, or are they going to bark and whine all night keeping us all up? So I check the weather and it's not supposed to get below freezing, and there's supposed by a high chance of light rain. After a long conversation with my husband, we decide they should stay outside, and hopefully we can find the owners in the morning. The kennel has a roof on it, solid walls on two sides, and a cement floor, so they should stay fairly clean and dry.
I get up early Thursday morning and boil some brown rice and ground chicken; mix it with a small amount of Kayla's dog food in case they end up being with me longer. My husband walks out with me and holds the flash light while I feed them. I set Big Boy's food down first, and then Little Girl's. They are scarfing it down...and I feel terrible I didn't feed them the night before instead. Big Boy moves over to see what Little Girl is eating and I slowly block him with my foot to keep him from stealing it, and he lets out a decent growl, but moves back to his own dish quickly. I felt alarmed but not too worried. I'm not sure how long they've been lost...has it just been a day? Two? Do they normally eat in the morning? Evening? Both? Is he starving and wants to make sure I'm not stealing his food, or is he feeling possessive over Little Girl, or maybe it's a combination of both AND I'm a stranger? More reason to keep them, my dogs, and my son all separated.
As soon as the vet office opened I called and talked to a receptionist. I felt frustrated they couldn't help me more. They didn't recognize the dogs, and couldn't help me with only a partial tag number. Both of these I understood, but felt like I had run into another dead end.
That morning I left to run a couple of errands, picked up some puppy food for Little Girl, and continued the search for their owners. I stopped at a few houses and more nothing! As I drove around I looked for lost dog signs, someone looking, any sign of where these dogs came from....more nothing. We got back in time for lunch, and then my son went down for his nap. I make the decision to move the dogs indoors. I set up two crates in my office, got some towels out, grabbed the leashes, and went out to get the dogs. I walked them around for about 30 minutes, and brought them into the house....
The phone rang...and Amanda is on the phone. She is looking for her dogs. YAYAYAY!!! She finds out where I live and sounds very eager to get them back. She drives over immediately and by just the sound of her truck the dogs get excited. Their whole bodies start wiggling; Little Girl can hardly contain herself. Amanda pulls up and gets out...there's no holding back Big Boy at this point, and he rushes up to her; completely elated to have her back! I can't even describe the joy on her face at seeing her dogs, safely back in her arms.
Finally, I ask..."what are their names??" Bear and Charlie. Bear couldn't be a more fitting name for Big Boy...he was a bear of a dog...and Charlie...another great fit for one so goofy and full of life! I tell Amanda about the last 24 hours her dogs had been with me. I think she was unhappy about them having to sleep outside, but I don't think I would do it any different. I was just really glad they were back where they belonged. She told me a little about them...they happen to like to explore and often wander a little too far from home. From a trainer's perspective, I was disappointed to hear they run away often yet don't have name tags. But she did say they almost always come back, and when they don't usually all she needed to do was drive around and they come running to the sound of her truck. Bear is 5 years old (wow...I'm not usually that far off!!) and Charlie is 6 months. The dogs had traveled almost 2 miles across many fields and farms to end up at my house, and it took Amanda more than 10 minutes to drive it. I didn't mention anything to Amanda about me being a trainer. For some reason it just didn't feel appropriate. While I wanted to pass out some advice...instead I just enjoyed the good deed.