2015-09-04 / Community

Lost dog? First actions are key to recovery

By Molly Lovell-Keely Managing Editor

Biddeford residents Eric and Cassie Grant put fliers up throughout Biddeford and Saco for their lost dog, Blake, with help from volunteer organization Maine Lost Dog Recovery. A volunteer with the organization said she’s seen older, more frail dogs travel great distances. Blake, who is 2, is healthy, but was hit by a car last week when someone tried to approach him. (Courtesy photo) Biddeford residents Eric and Cassie Grant put fliers up throughout Biddeford and Saco for their lost dog, Blake, with help from volunteer organization Maine Lost Dog Recovery. A volunteer with the organization said she’s seen older, more frail dogs travel great distances. Blake, who is 2, is healthy, but was hit by a car last week when someone tried to approach him. (Courtesy photo) BIDDEFORD – Neighbors passing by Eric and Cassandra Grant’s Cottage Street home earlier this week saw laundry, mostly socks and underwear, strewn about the front lawn, but it wasn’t because the couple is untidy.

As of Monday, Aug. 31, their 2-yearold rescue dog, Blake, had been missing for six days, and it was an attempt to lure him home with their scent.

Cassandra said the first few minutes a dog is lost are the most crucial. What she did first, and what she recommends others in similar situations do, is call volunteer group Maine Lost Dog Recovery.

The organization’s mission is to educate and inform families of the best strategies and practices to increase their chances of reuniting with their lost dog. Eighty-five percent of the dogs reported through the organization are reunited with their owners.

Kirstin Mininni, a volunteer who lives in Biddeford, knew the Grants and Blake, who was adopted from Lucky Pup Rescue (about a year ago), with whom Mininni volunteers. Blake was among a litter of puppies from the south that traveled to Maine in winter 2013.

Eric said it was difficult not to panic when Blake first got loose.

“We saturated our world with dogs, everything about dogs – how to properly raise them, like people do when they’re going to have kids. These are our kids,” he said.

The couple and Mininni sprung into action after Blake’s escape, printing the group’s signature yellow and red fliers and posting them throughout the city. As of Monday, more than 2,000 fliers had been distributed throughout Biddeford and Saco, and volunteers planed to expand the radius Tuesday.

“I want to talk about how to help in a situation like this because I think so many people have the best intentions, but they go about helping in the wrong ways,” Cassandra Grant said. “At this point, everybody in Biddeford knows Blake is missing, they just don’t know what to do if they find him.”

For many, she said, a person’s first reaction when they see a loose dog is to move toward it.

“Unfortunately, that’s about the worst thing you can do,” she said.

Blake is in what Cassandra called “flight mode.”

“Even a perfectly stable dog, who all day, every day, is a model citizen, could become a very, very fearful dog in this situation.”

Blake is a dog that already has many fears, which is something the Grants have been working on since his adoption.

Blake was spotted Friday, Aug. 28, on Alfred Street in Biddeford, between the post office and Pizza by Alex. A person tried to approach him, Cassandra said, and spooked him into the road, where he was hit by a car.

“He got up, shook it off and ran, and they continued to chase him, which scared him even more,” she said.

If a loose dog is spotted, Mininni suggests either calling the police department to get in touch with the animal control officer, or to call the phone number on the flier. Cassandra suggests taking a photo of the flier so the information is handy if the dog is encountered.

“Most people overestimate their abilities and connections with animals,” Eric said. “Everybody thinks, ‘I can help – dogs love me,’ or ‘I’m good with dogs.’”

“Don’t follow the dog,” Mininni added. “Don’t even turn toward it.”

Instead, she said, note where the dog was seen, the time, and which direction the dog was headed.

“We didn’t find out Blake was on Alfred Street until two or three hours later,” Cassandra said. “If people aren’t reporting it, connections can’t be made.”

Mininni said when a dog has been seen in one location fairly consistently, volunteers set up a feeding station and a game camera.

Eric said it’s crucial that a feeding station is set up only where the dog has been seen.

“A lot of people have heard about Blake and said they’ll put out food. If they do that, though, he’ll be all over the place,” Eric said.

Enticing meals, including rotisserie chicken, steak and cat food, which has a strong odor, are used to lure the dog in a humane trap at the feeding station.

“The dog has to be really convinced to eat it,” Cassandra said.

The Grants said they’re blown away by how the community has responded to their plight to bring Blake home. Eric said one man took the day off from work to help look for Blake.

“I had never even met the guy,” Eric said. “It restores a little of my faith in humanity.”

Cassandra works at Super Dogs, but has been off since Blake went missing.

“It makes me emotional,” she said of the support not only from her co-workers, but from the community.

Volunteers have handed out fliers at grocery stores and in parking lots. The Grants even set up a flier station at their home on Cottage Street.

“People I’ve never seen in my life have pulled up to grab stacks of fliers,” she said.

Mininni said she wished all dog “parents” were like the Grants.

“One day after a dog went missing, its owners threw the dog’s belongings in the trash,” she said about other owners she worked with.

Others want to help a little too much.

“I’ve literally told owners, if you want us to help, you have to go away,” Mininni said, recalling one man trudging through the snow, screaming his dog’s name.

“When dogs are out of their home environment, they refer back to their natural instincts. They’re in a survival state of mind. They’re not going to remember who their mom and dad are or what their own name is,” Cassandra said. “Someone screaming is going to drive them further away.”

One thing the public can do to help, Mininni said, is take a few minutes to check under porches, decks and sheds, and to ask neighbors to do the same.

“Since we know he is most probably injured, but do not know to what extent, it is possible he has hunkered down, not able to move.”

Once Blake is home and is healthy, Cassandra wants to start a campaign to educate the public about what to do when the encounter a lost dog. She even has a name for the campaign: “Don’t Chase Blake.”

It was a similar experience that drew Mininni to Maine Lost Dog Recovery two years ago.

Her 6-year-old Chihuahua, Raymond, had gone missing and, after posting fliers, placing ads and communicating with the police department, the couple received a call from a woman who said they had Raymond and weren’t giving her back. Mininni never found Raymond, but keeps a photo of her wherever she goes.

“I do it because I love all animals and I know how torturous and excruciating this whole situation is,” said Mininni, who spends hundreds of hours searching for lost dogs. Last winter, volunteers searched up and down riverbanks for an injured dog that had been lost for three weeks. Mininni spent eight hours straight in sub-zero temperatures waiting for a lost German shepherd, which she successfully captured.

The Grants hasn’t slept much since Blake left – his spot on their bed is painfully empty. However, they’ve been reminded by Mininni, as well as friends and family, that they need to take care of themselves so when there’s a break in the rescue, they will be able to take care of the dog when he comes home.

They do know one thing, for sure: they’ll continue to educate the public on how to deal with loose and lost dogs.

Eric said he thinks he’ll break down when Blake comes home.

Cassandra said the first thing she’ll do when Blake is found is take him to the vet.

“And kiss him the entire way there,” she added.

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