I made a new friend today, and her name is Lucy. Here’s the story of her adventure.
I was driving home from the sanctuary, on my way to a confident city cycling class, cruising along GW Parkway. This is a road that is 2 lanes mostly (sometimes 3) in each direction, bordered by a river (and sometimes a steep drop off) on one side, the woods on another, and usually separated by some grassy area or a wooded area. It is curvy, the posted speed limit is 50mph for most of it, but I think most of us drive more like 60-65mph.
In other words, it is a busy, fast road, with enough curves to be dangerous for anyone who is not going right along with traffic, and is also in a car.
Cruising along, the traffic suddenly slowed, and came to a halt. Construction? Accident? We were all, as it happens, in the right lane, and no one was in the left lane. I saw a dog dart from in front of the car in front of me, and realised that the traffic was stopping for the dog. I put on my hazzards, jammed the emergency brake home, and started getting out of my truck just as the giant SUV in back of me started to pull around me to get in the left lane and get around the stopped cars.
They stopped immediately, either seeing me or the dog or both, and once I was sure they weren’t going anywhere, I jogged forward. The dog saw me, and stopped. I could tell she was freaked out, and I was afraid she’d bolt.
I crouched down, making myself small and at her eye level, letting her know that I was a friend. She ran right to me, I grabbed her collar, she got right into the truck, and traffic started moving again.
All that took about 20 seconds.
I don’t know why I was the only one to get out of the car. Maybe it mattered more to me, or I was in the right position to do that quick evaluation – traffic stopped, dog in danger, safe for me to get out in the middle of the road since the entire road was blocked at that point – but whatever it was, I was so relieved that the pup was completely unhurt, that I was able to get her, that she came right to me.
And she was wearing a tag. I called the number. A man answered.
“Lucy is your dog?” I asked, sure that as soon as I mentioned the name on her tag he’d be completely relieved, sure that he was out right now looking for her.
“Yes…” he replied in confusion.
“I picked her up on GW Parkway.”
And then he freaked out. He wasn’t in town, his buddy was watching Lucy, and he was completely thrown that she’d been lost, and wandering on a horribly dangerous road, and he wasn’t even in town! And it is the kind of thing where you feel all the fear of the “oh my gods” and “what ifs” even though he didn’t find out about her danger until she was already safe.
I told him I’d drop her off at my house, and to have his friend call me around 4, after I was done with class.
And that’s what we did. Tempest wasn’t too pleased at having an invader, nor about being locked in the bedroom (just in case), and Lucy was a bundle of nervous energy. I came back from class, and she’d found the basket of cat toys, and I think she played with them all. She about tackled me when I came in the door, frantically happy to see someone. We entertained each other by playing fetch with a few of Tempest’s toys. She is a dog of perpetual motion! An hour later her daddy’s buddy showed up, and I was thanked about a million times. He’d spent 2 hours looking for her and calling for her (his cell phone was in the house, so Lucy’s daddy spent those same 2 hours calling him trying to figure out what was going on), and so his fear and worry had lasted quite a while before he’d found out that Lucy was actually safe.
The disconcerting part of our conversation was the way he continually referred to Lucy as “it.” He never used a different pronoun, even though he clearly had real affection for her, and kept telling me how “it” was a very smart dog.
The morals of Lucy’s adventure:
- Just because your dog has never bolted before doesn’t mean they never will.
- You might want to reconsider letting your dog off leash in an unfenced area, if you’re in the habit of it. You just never know, and it doesn’t need to be an especially dangerous road to be dangerous to a dog that darts into the road.
- Tags with a phone number (cell phone is best) are super important.
- Don’t be afraid to stop traffic to rescue an animal, but be safe about it. Make sure you’re visible, make sure the cars have stopped. Leave your door open if possible, since your hands (and maybe arms) could be full when you head back to your car if you successfully rescue the animal.
- Travel with an emergency kit that includes a collar and a leash. (I need to do this!)
- And as a reminder: in this type of situation, crouching (not bending) down to be at their eye level is one of the best ways to get them to come to you. They can run faster than you, so don’t chase them. They’re likely feeling nervous and freaked out, and if they’re a dog like Lucy, they might be just afraid enough to not recognize that you’re a friend if you’re standing straight. Crouching down is non-threatening, and it is a welcoming posture that most dogs will recognize as such. It is not foolproof, but it should be one of the first things you try.
There are probably other tips out there that are helpful for people to keep in mind. This list is just what Lucy’s adventure highlighted for me.