My dog Robbie is officially named Brave Sir Robin after the Monty Python character who features a chicken on his knightly tunic. He’s called this because Brave Sir Robin bravely runs away. Robbie was a stray in our neighborhood an entire winter. He’s good at and loves to be free. He can also jump our 6ft board on board fence, so he has to be tethered to the planet when outdoors. He hasn’t escaped in probably 3 years, so we were lulled into thinking he was over that. Not.I was on a shop hop bus tour as a ‘bus mom’ for Tammy Tadd Designs on Friday and Saturday. We hit 8 shops in 4 states in 2 days. It was action packed. As we left the store in Iowa for Pearl City, Illinois, in the early afternoon on Saturday I received a panicked call from the hubby telling me that I have to get home immediately because he lost Robbie out in Harvard at a forest preserve. I asked him how exactly he expected me to do that, not to mention that I was responsible for the bus along with Mary Lynn, and I couldn’t just leave those responsibilities.
Apparently he had Daisy and Robbie at a Siberian rescue hike event and the leashes got all tangled and as he was untangling them, Robbie pulled and got loose. Robbie had stopped at the edge of the clearing, and I think that if the people trying to help hadn’t lunged and chased him, the hubby might have been able to get him to sit and wait. The good thing was that he had on his collar with all his ID tags, a blue harness and the leash attached to the harness on. He is also microchipped, but unfortunately doesn’t have doggy LoJack. The bad news, it was a very large preserve full of forest and meadowlands w/waist high browning grasses and Robbie would be totally camouflaged in such an area.
As you likely know, my beloved Bug died just over a month ago, and the thought of losing my Robbie too just devastated me. The Tammy and the ladies from TTD and the bus trip ladies were so sweet, their concern and comforting words helped me keep it together long enough to get home and head out in the rain and cold to try and find him. I had fairy tale visions of him hearing my voice and being so excited I had returned, he would run right into my arms.
No such luck. The little wretch hunkered down and hid while we were out in the cold calling him and walking miles of creepy, muddy forest paths in the cold, rain and dark. I called for him until 11:00pm.
We got up early the next morning and made a lost dog poster and were on the road shortly before 8:00am. We were about a half hour out when the minister from the church next to the preserve called and said that he had just seen him laying in the grassy area right next to where we had parked and started out from last night. He ran off when he saw the minister.
This was good news. We know from past experience that Robbie is a creature of habit, and when loose, he tends to stay in one area. My big fear was that he either stepped out onto Route 14 in the dark, where the speed limit is 55mph and got hit by a semi-truck or that his leash got tangled up and he was coyote food.
I called for him all morning, the hubby following out of view at a distance (Robbie would possibly come to me, but not if the hubby were viewable). We saw that he had eaten the pizza the hubby had left out for him the night before. It was left in the spot where the minister had seen him. We knew he had eaten it and not a raccoon because the lid was neatly flipped off and the whole pizza was gone. Not a speck left. As my sister said, if he had had a napkin, it would have been folded neatly next to the box. He apparently thinks the Pizza-Fairy lives in the preserve.
We had contacted all the local authorities, the microchip company and local rescues. I talked to the neighbors who lived behind the preserve. They were all so very nice and helpful. One of the neighbors works at a vet, so I thought she might know where I could get a large animal live trap. That’s one of those traps where it’s a big cage, with a flap on the bottom, that when pressed, it closes the door behind the animal. It’s worked on Robbie before and we felt that since he hadn’t come out for me, he wasn’t likely to and this was our only shot at getting him. The nice lady told me that I should leave a message for animal control, that they have people on call that will get back to me. The McHenry County animal control people were very, very helpful. We set the trap in the spot where the Pizza-Fairy had left the pizza that he ate and covered it w/a comforter to disguise that it's a cage. I then went off in search of a rotisserie chicken to bait the trap with.
I got my chicken and pulled off all the fat and skin and some meat and mixed it in w/the dog food I had brought with. I had positioned my car so that I could sit in it and watch the back of the trap unobtrusively. I walked through the brush to the path and heard a jingle that could only be dog tags. I turned to the left, and who was in the middle of the path? Robbie of course. He saw me and took off like a shot in the other direction. I called to him that I had chicken; he just looked back at me over his shoulder as he ran. What a stinker! I could just picture him yelling a nice Mel Gibson as Braveheart “FRREEEEDDDOOOMM!” as he ran. The good thing was that I knew he was returning to that spot repeatedly and I knew his stomach would eventually get the best of him.
I went back to the car and got out my Halloween Baltimore appliqué and started to stitch figuring I had quite a bit of time to kill. I left the front passenger window open so I could hear the goings on. The hubby had parked in the church parking lot where he was out of site incase the elusive Robbie-bird appeared. Not 15 minutes later, I heard a jingle and I saw Robbie checking out the trap. I sat totally still. He was peeking up around the brush checking out my car. He would duck down; then pop up in another spot, being very watchful. He totally reminded me of that Muppets episode where they sing "Stop Children What's That Sound?"
I had forgotten to throw out the other pizza from the woods that the hubby left out for Robbie when I went to the store and saw it had ants in it, so I had tucked it under the car on the driver’s side. Here’s the thing, Robbie LOVES cheese. He was smelling the pizza. He crept around the back of the car, and I slowly opened my door and peeked out. I talked all soft and happy to him. He was leary. He took two pieces of pizza and ran away down the clearing. He dropped one and started to dig furiously to bury the other. I wondered how much of the other pizza was buried in the forest preserve!
I took the rest of the chicken in its plastic container out of the car and got his attention. I threw him some pieces, trying to reel him in. He refused to get close enough to grab. I decided to try to get him in the car by leaving the back passenger door open and putting the whole chicken on the seat against the other door so he's have to get all the way in to get it. I crept around the car to get behind the door so I could slam it closed when he went in for the chicken. He was on to me though. He would creep around the car and see me, so I would duck down and move. He craned his head around the door and saw me. We went on this way playing hide and seek for quite some time. I notice that he had a pretty good gash in his front leg at that point and was worried about infection if left too long. It looked like it had happened recently.
He finally gave up and scampered away to check out the trap. Unfortunately he bumped the trap just so and sprang it without being in it. He circled it a while trying to figure out how to get at the yummy food inside. I was in my car, and had left the phone connection w/the hubby open the whole time. He suggested that I should lie down in the grass and play like I was hurt. I had actually thought of that earlier in the day, but since I hadn’t seen him at that point, I didn’t think it would work and forgot about it. I thought it might this time though since he was engaging with me.
I took the chicken and went into the brush about half way between the path and my car and laid down, setting the chicken on my stomach. Yes, I was laying in the brush, arms outstretched like a police line drawing with a whole chicken on my belly. I positioned my arm so that it was in line w/the path he would most likely take to the chicken. I was hoping to be able to grab his harness as he passed over my hand. Can you picture this?
I figured that if he didn’t care that I was dying, he’d at least come for the chicken. I made some moaning sounds and he came closer, but not close enough for me to grab the harness or leash. I knew I had to be very quick and twist the harness to tighten it when I caught it because he knows how to pull his leg just so and get out of the harness when someone grabs it.
He started to walk away and I felt I may be losing my best chance to get him before dark, if ever, so I started whimpering like a puppy. He came over and bent into my face and I seized his harness from underneath and twisted. He immediately bucked up and tried to get his leg out, but I had him tight. I swiftly reached around w/my left hand and grabbed his collar and twisted it as well, spilling chicken and chicken juice all down my shirt and pants and into my shoes. I yelled at him to stop and he did.
Boy, did he not look happy at being caught! I fed him some chicken (not that the wretch deserved it) to calm him down, but kept a tight hold on his harness and collar.
The hubby came running over, calling, “get him in the car, quick!” I realized that the front passenger window was still wide open, but the back driver’s window was cracked, so I pulled his leash trough the opening, got him into the car and shut the door, all the while holding his leash through the window. I turned the car on and shut the open window. The hubby was saying “Lock the doors! Roll up the windows! Don’t even leave them cracked!” Of course he also had more to say, but he had told me to roll up the windows, so I couldn’t hear him.
We headed home, the hubby issuing instructions that Robbie was not to be let out of the car until the garage door was completely closed. It took two shampooings to get him clean. Boy, was he dirty for only 36 hours of freedom. I picked at least half a dozen thorns out of his ears and legs. I bandaged his wound. He was all happy that night, like he had never left. Tired too. He kept falling asleep with his head up. I took him to the vet and had his wounds looked at and got anti-biotics, just in case. He has very thin skin and scrapes easily, so he has a bunch of scratches.
We now have strict rules in place for Robbie to be taken out in public, even though the hubby says that he will never take him out of the house or yard again. Robbie is to have a choke chain on, connected to a regular leash (he doesn’t challenge a choker or pull when in one like he does on the harness), he’s also to wear a harness with the 20ft training lead attached to it. I’m heading to the store tonight to get a glow in the dark collar too.