Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Lucy’s adventure


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.

lucy in motion

21 responses to “Lucy’s adventure

  1. Kelvin Kao June 29, 2008 at 12:14 am

    You are awesome, Deb. The last thing I rescued was some little kid’s balloon!

  2. Deb June 29, 2008 at 7:41 am

    thanks Kelvin! It is weird, until recently I was almost never in a situation where there was a dog needing rescue, but it has happened a few times in the past year. So your chance to be a dog’s hero might be coming! πŸ˜‰

  3. Lenn June 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing that story! I wish there were a lot more stories like this circulating to help people be prepared for what to do. Even though I have been in many similar situations, I didn’t think to use the kneeling technique, probably because I wanted to keep myself as visible as possible to avoid getting run over. Kneeling may be just the thing that helps me catch the next animal in trouble. Thanks for that tip! And how fantastic that Lucy’s dad had tags with his phone number!

    I’m actually surprised anybody stopped for Lucy at all. I fully expect people, especially speeding people, to run over the dog rather than slow down. That’s why I never, ever speed. I don’t care what the speed limit is–I imagine that any second, an animal is going to appear in the road and I drive a speed that lets me be in control of my vehicle as soon as I see it–and that speed is ALWAYS under the max speed. It makes me a safe driver and definitely makes me better able to avoid hitting an animal. Often, all the animal needs (especially wild animals at night) is an extra second or two to get off the road. And my slow speed may force someone else to slow down who would otherwise be speeding–meaning the difference between an animal’s life or death.

    The “logic” that says safe, slower drivers are a hazard because they disrupt the speeding, reckless driving of others is like saying, “You vegans are going to cause meat-industry business owners to lose their businesses–that proves vegans are bad.” In both cases, the “bad” people (safe driver / vegans) are simply doing the right thing and the unethical people are the ones doing wrong in the first place, so disrupting their unethical behavior is a good thing. And to blame those acting responsibly is a classic tactic of people behavior irresponsibly.

    My basic emergency kit for roadside animal rescues:

    –Self-looping leash (for dogs that don’t have collars)
    –Cans of cat food (dogs & cats are very attracted to it)
    –Stiff board or similar contraption to serve as a gurney to move a large, injured dog
    –Rescue Remedy–I’ve heard interesting things about this calming animals down, but haven’t used it in an emergency situation

    Bravo, Deb, for being Lucy’s hero & helping others learn from your actions!

  4. Deb June 29, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve used rescue remedy to calm a nervous dog on a long car trip, but I’m not sure how well it worked, or how well it is suited to an emergency situation because I think it works best when given consistently for a while. (like if we were to take st. john’s wort or something) But it might be different for different animals, and it certainly can’t hurt to try it!

    I can see how crouching down might not be the best way to make sure you’re visible. In this particular situation, I was lucky to have the traffic blocked temporarily, so I didn’t have to worry about whether anyone could see me. It can be hard to make sure we’re safe while focusing on a rescue, but being prepared can help make sure we can help if a situation arises, and hopefully can do it quickly enough that no one is endangered.

    The situation yesterday really was ideal in many ways for a rescue, despite the insanity of the road that Lucy was trying to cross.

    I guess I’d be surprised if people didn’t stop for a dog. Maybe I’m not cynical enough on that particular topic, but I’ve had people stop to thank me for moving turtles or at least smile as we stopped them so we could move the turtle. I haven’t been in that many situations with animals needing rescue, but I did sort of assume that most would at least passively support a rescue effort!

    It is good to keep in mind that there are those who wouldn’t stop, though, so we shouldn’t necessarily expect people to stop if we’re trying to stop traffic. There is a fine line to be walked in these situations, and we can only use our best instincts on the fly.

  5. Lenn June 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    The one really personal story I’ve heard about Rescue Remedy is from a lady that was bringing some cats to be fixed and she said she put just a dab of RR on their ears and it calmed them right down (from a previous state of acting crazy with fear in the crate).

    I’m glad your rescue experiences have produced some positive results from bystanders. My expectations of others are less from cynicism (although I have plenty of that), but from lots of experience. With more than 300,000 miles driven in my life so far, that’s a lot of opportunities to come across rescue situations. And maybe people are kinder in your neck of the woods–that would be great!

    About 6 years ago, I was approaching a pretty busy intersection in a major city. Two dogs were milling around in the street. The main lanes of traffic were stopped by a red light. I got the dogs off to the side of the road, into a parking lot, but absolutely could not get them to come to me. I saw they were heading away from the road, so all I could do was go get back in my truck. The light still hadn’t turned green. As I was getting into my truck, a man yelled out his car window, “You’re a saint”. I didn’t have time to respond, but thinking about it shortly after, all I could think was, “Don’t tell me how *&#@ wonderful I am, get your butt out and HELP me!” And I really felt genuine anger. This surprised me. I should have been glad that he wasn’t yelling, “Get the hell out of the road!” or something similar. And he thought helping an animal was a worthy endeavor–that’s great. It did give me insight into my own motives–that they are not based on what others think of me. I was happy about that. Have you ever felt this way? Is this common?

  6. Deb June 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    When I have given RR it was drops in the water, or by mouth (for my dog) so drops on the ear might very well have a more immediate effect! I’ll have to keep that in mind.

    I don’t think people are kinder in my neck of the woods, mostly because I don’t have a neck of the woods! My experiences have ranged from CO, OR and AZ to FL, VA, and MD. But I don’t really have much experience with rescue of any kind. It could be that if it had taken me longer than half a minute to get Lucy into the truck that I’d have gotten negative attention – the SUV that stopped in the lane next to me possibly stopped only for me, since running over a human would be horrible for insurance rates. πŸ˜‰

    Though there was another vehicle up ahead who had pulled off the road – I think to try to do something for Lucy.

    I wasn’t thinking of anything but Lucy when I stopped, with maybe a thought of “I don’t care if I piss anyone off, I’m stopping the damn traffic.” So if anything, I was doing it despite what others might think of me. But the sort of positive passiveness of the guy who called you a saint is what I’d expect, I guess. They’ll be happy *someone* is doing something, and fully support it by giving verbal encouragement, even if they won’t take action themselves.

    As for the anger, I think it must be common. I know I feel it in general when I hear about various situations or things that happen where people just don’t do anything to prevent things or save lives.

    With Lucy, I didn’t really have a chance to feel anger – the rescue was quick and successful, and then I had a nervous Lucy with me, and was working on the details of getting her back to her people. I think if you’d been able to get the dogs to your truck, you’d have been more annoyed than angry with the guy. Even if only because you’d be focused on the details of what next.

  7. Mo June 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Deb,

    As you know, I usually don’t make it to the rest of your blog because I run out of time after obsessing over pet insurance…. πŸ˜‰ But I recently figured out how to subscribe to your blog (duh!) and I saw this story today. ME LOVES LUCY!! What an adorable sight! You captured some amazing spirit there with your camera lens, and because of your heroism, she is here in all her glory, brightening up all of our days.

    YOU GO GIRL, and keep on doing that wonderful work you do for any lucky animal who may enter your sphere. Someday I’ll tell you a story of the response of a “friend” of mine, to a very little dog running along the side of a very busy road in my area. Today is not the day to tell that story, though. (I think the dog was okay, it’s just a frustrating “stupid human” story.)

  8. Mary Martin June 30, 2008 at 6:36 am

    She’s so gorgeous and you’re so wonderful. I use rescue remedy–particularly on the 4th of July, as Violet’s blood sugar plunges and she has seizures when she’s very upset or has low blood sugar. 5 drops directly on the top gums and she’s mellow within one minute. Not sleepy-just not tense.

    I have a large box with holes in it, a leash (to catch by neck, which has worked with ducks, believe it or not), and a towel. I also have the numbers of various wildlife rehabbers and emergency vets throughout the area taped to the box. I also have a shoe box with holes for smaller creatures.

    I think PeTA sells ready-made kits, though it’s very easy to make one yourself.

  9. Mo June 30, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    This may sound stupid to those of you accustomed to it, but how do you get 5 drops of rescue remedy onto the top gums? Do you put drops on your finger and rub onto the gums?

    Has anyone ever heard of RR causing problems for cats, especially those with autoimmune problems (like severe allergies)? There have been times I’d have loved to use something for calming, but have always wondered about possible negative effects.

    Another potentially stupid question – how do you keep control of mid-size and larger dogs with a leash? I’ve never had a dog (obviously), and a neighborhood dog used to get loose near my old workplace and end up in our parking lot. The first time I found him, he was a puppy but 40+ lbs, and I had hold of his collar as I was going to walk him into the building and call his humans. Someone opened the door and he bolted towards them, trailing me behind him nearly horizontal and airborne(!). I was shocked at my inability to hold him once he decided to bolt. Fortunately, he was bolting to a still-safe place, but how would one handle that in general? Does a leash provide a lot more balance/stability for the person holding the dog?

    thanks. πŸ™‚

  10. Deb June 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    @Mary, that’s great that you’ve had success with the RR as well. I’ll have to give it a try again. Tempest doesn’t like thunder, and the 4th is essentially a night of thunder. I’ll try it and see if it helps her. This time I’ll try putting it on her gums or ears.

    The box is a good idea, and a towel. I’m going to look at peta’s kit and other suggestions and put something together, finally!

    @Mo, thanks! Lucy was a special girl. I remain grateful that she made it so easy to rescue her!

    For a cat, I’d definitely use a finger to rub the drops on the gums. Lenn mentioned putting drops on the cats ears, and I know that some essences also will work being absorbed through the skin at the back of the neck. You will want to contact Bach’s directly with regards to the allergies.

    They do RR as well as other flower essences, so it is possible that a different combination would work best for you. You can mix your own, and I also know a pet supply store in Denver that does a lot of flower essences, and they’ll mix things special for you based on what you describe as your cat’s behavior, adjusting things if needed. They don’t have a website, but I can get you their phone number and they can do things via the phone. You might be able to find a homeopath in your area like them that will do the same though. If you want to try some specialty flower essences. Definitely talk to someone first who is in a position to know with regards to the allergies though!

    As for controlling large or medium sized dogs with a leash, while the leash does give more control (leverage basically) it mostly has to do with how well they’re leash-trained when they’re young. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t go flying when a strong dog lunges with them attached to the other end! Leashes do make it much much easier than just holding onto the collar.

    A good trick with most dogs is to have something yummy that makes them want to stick close to your pockets! πŸ™‚

  11. Ari Moore June 30, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Awesome post – what a rescue story! I see dogs off-leash all the time in NYC and ever since I saw one of them run into traffic, I’ve been very scared for them all. Why risk your dog friend’s life if you can wait for safer opportunities like parks and dog-runs to let him or her run around?

  12. Deb June 30, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Ari, thanks! And I agree – I get nervous thinking about the dogs off leash. Unfortunately there are a lot of communities with people who resist the idea of dog parks, and feel it is too limiting, apparently ignoring the public tennis courts and basketball courts and baseball fields, which are also limited to specific activities, despite being “public” parks! And there are dogs who need to run, I think for their sanity. I do hope that Lucy’s dad is more cautious and makes sure to find a fenced in off-leash dog park from now on. I know they have their own limitations (dog personality conflicts can happen) but that still seems like a safer risk to me than letting her run in a park that doesn’t have fences!

  13. Mo July 1, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks, Deb, for lots of great info! (and your support in regard to my ‘flying incident’…heh heh…I hope to not repeat that)

    Speaking of dogs off-leash, one of my coworkers has trained his dog very well (medium-sized, appearance is part lab, part german shepherd), and when they leave the building he will let her run like mad in the parking lot which scares me half to death because cars go flying through it. He says he’s ‘watching’ and is confident the two of them are able to handle parking lot situations. I tend to trust his judgment and their relationship, but things do happen. (He will keep her off-leash when her brings her in and out of the building, too, which scares some people who fear dogs.) She does need to run for her sanity, and it’s only for a few minutes so she can blow off steam between the building and the car to go home, but I wish he’d take her closer to the woods for that (about a 30-second walk from the building)!

  14. Deb July 1, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Training is great, and it is a definite help, but shit can still happen. The dog could get spooked, or that rabbit she’s sure she can catch might wander through and have her take off, or she could get out of the way of one speeding car only to be hit by someone backing up. There are so many variables in parking lots, they’re dangerous for everyone, no matter if you’re in a car, on a bike, on foot, and especially I think if you’re not human, and thus have no idea what to expect of the drivers.

    Personally I wouldn’t do what he does, but there is only so much advice we can share with people on how to care for those in their charge.

    But, if your company is dog friendly (which it must be if he brings his dog to work), they might be willing to at least rope off a car free area specifically so that she can run. I know parking is often at a premium, but it certainly can’t hurt to ask, and to see if people can come up with creative solutions!

  15. Mo July 2, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    I know just what you mean…and I’m always trying to call her back to us, but he insists she’s fine. gulp…. We work on a 3-story building with dozens of other tenants, so I’m not sure if the roped off area would work, but I’ll mention it (he’ll probably love that idea!). Quite a few people bring their dogs to work, but most of them are little dogs who are either held by their human or on a leash. I sometimes bring one of my cats, but of course they’re in a carrier, and I lock my office door if they’re loose in my office.

  16. Deb July 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Well, if the roping off of a parking lot area wouldn’t work, maybe someone can come up with a more creative idea! It can’t hurt to try, and if the other tenants need to buy into this, it would be another reason for him to leash his dog going in and out of the building and on elevators, so he doesn’t piss off the people he’s trying to get to agree to something like that!

    I hope it works, or another idea is thought of. That’s so cool that your office is pet friendly!

  17. Mo July 2, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    You are so good – always looking at a picture bigger than the one immediately in front of you, which keeps doors open! I will pass along your suggestions – thank you! We all love this dog, so it would not be only her ‘master’ who would feel the consequences of any incident deeply.

    Yes, I think we’re really lucky. One woman has a little dachsund (miniature, I think), who starts barking at me madly if I’m outside when they walk out. And then she walks right up to me calmly, and very calmly accepts my pets and lover-talk until I’ve had my fill. She is wondeful!

    And there is a creek with woods and a path just behind our building, so there are other people often going though our parking lot with their dogs, too (so nice for me to oooh and aaah over).

  18. Deb July 3, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Mo, it is actually something I’ve been learning, to take a step back from a problem and look for ways around obstacles rather than trying to go over them or even move them! It is easier, naturally, when I’m not personally involved in the situation. πŸ™‚

    I’d love to have people bringing their dogs and cats in to work. Of course I work in a cube farm, so I can’t imagine how it would work, even if our employers had any thought in their mind of being animal friendly! And Tempest herself would be freaked out by the situation…but if others brought their sweeties in, it would still make work so much more pleasant!

  19. Mo July 7, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Deb, I hear ya…I’m really good at looking at things from the outside and understanding intracacies/dynamics, etc., and figuring out how to work around, or with, them. But when it directly involves me, it can take 10 years or more to figure it out! πŸ˜‰ I’d like to start thinking more like what you described, though – “…RATHER than trying to go over them or move them”. What a novel idea!! πŸ™‚

    When I worked in a cube I’d bring my laid-back cats in on vet-appt days and they’d hang out in the carrier, enjoying the attention they got now and then, and just watching or sleeping the rest of the time. We only had about 7 or 8 cubes in a large room, though, so not many people were affected. You’d have to also be aware of the (seemingly) ever-present cat-allergic person getting upset, too, in a cube farm environ. Years ago when I had my diabetic cat my boss used to tell me to just bring him in to work (rather than me running home every day at lunch to check on him). I thought that was the strangest, and coolest forward-thinking, thing! That kitty would not have enjoyed it one bit, though….

  20. Gary August 20, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    That is so wonderful that you compassionately and smartly intervened. “What if” indeed. I wish everyone was as concerned, aware, and willing to take action.

    The cloaest thing like that which ever happened to me was when I saw an unidentified dog on my block wandering around. He had a tag. I gave him some water, and called the number, and his person who lived less than a mile away picked him up.

    Great tips. I always have some RR, a collapsible cardboard carrier, gloves, and a towel in the car. You never know… Also some milk replacer for kittens. I wonder how long that stays good?

  21. Deb August 20, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Mo, I guess I forgot to respond to this earlier! I’ll have to email you to ask if anything has changed with the parkinglot since July. πŸ™‚

    Gary, I’ve never even seen the packaging for milk replacer, so I’m not sure how long it would last. Does it have an expiration date on the package? You might be able to google for more info on that. It probably isn’t the most important thing in your emergency kit, in any case. I figure we need things that will let us transport and/or contain the animal we’re trying to rescue, as well as things that assist with emergency first aid.

    Which reminds me – Lenn, if you happen to see this, could you tell me more about the stiff board you have in case of needing to use as a gurney for a large dog? I was thinking about it, and trying to figure out what would work well – strong enough, but light enough, etc, and I just never did come up with something that seemed like it would be suitable!

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