On Wednesday, March 1st, a very pregnant Sunshine escaped from her foster home. She had been having trouble adjusting to living indoors after living her life as roaming outdoor dog prior to coming into care. When inside she would scratch at windows and doors trying to get out. A member of her foster’s family brought her outside on the afternoon of March 1st for a bathroom break. Sunshine pulled against the leash, which was attached to a harness she was wearing, and slipped out of it. The foster’s yard was not fenced and so she was immediately loose in the community of Stonewall.
Thursday. There were sightings all around Stonewall. We had lots of volunteers out and driving around the community following up with sightings and trying to find her. All our volunteers had smelly treats and canned dog and cat food to hopefully gain her trust and allow us near her if we managed to get eyes on her. A live, humane trap was set up in the foster’s yard, with lots of smelly food. In those first few days, a number of people were able to get close, but then Sunshine started keeping her distance when the attempts to grab her, failed.
Friday. A sighting was reported in the morning, but then nothing after. Search teams were still out, but there were no leads to follow anymore. Feeding stations were set up at places she had been frequenting, and although some of the food was being eaten, volunteers were unsure if it was Sunshine, or loose cats or coyotes eating the food.
Saturday. We were able to get a lot more volunteers out. Whereas the three days previous only about 4-6 volunteers had been able to go out at a time (in addition to her foster dad, John, and the director of the rescue, Jessica, who spent much of their days looking), Saturday the number of volunteers at least doubled. The search team had a plan and spread out over the town, some sitting still in cars to watch for her, others going through the town street by street. After hours of waiting, the team was starting to think they may never see Sunshine again.Then, Jessica got a phone call. A woman said she had a dog that belonged to the rescue, she had gotten the phone number off of the dog’s tag. It took a second for it to click that this was Sunshine, as the woman was calling from north of Selkirk! A few volunteers raced to the area, hoping to get there and get Sunshine back, finally, after 3 very long days. When we arrived, there was no Sunshine. She had slipped the collar after being spooked. She had taken off through into bush with nothing but farmer’s fields on the other side. Two volunteers took off on foot into the bush after her while the others raced in vehicles to the other side of the bush where they thought she might come out, but there was too much ground to cover, too many places she could have gone, and we knew we would need hundreds of people searching the area to even spot her, not to mention what we would do if we did, since she had grown wary of people trying to grab her. Our team was absolutely devastated. We had come so close to having her, and now she was gone again. Even worse this time because she had headed in the direction of very sparse population. We felt our chances of getting sightings now was slim to none. A volunteer drove out with two quads from the city and a bunch more volunteers drove out to help. While some volunteers created and printed posters, everyone else drove around talking to people and combing the area. We then spanned out and handed out posters, got the word out as best as we could in the area. We went home that evening hopeful but also very defeated.
Sunday. We decided to take a break from searching. A second trap was set up at the foster home. The search area was much bigger than they thought previously as she had traveled from Stonewall to Selkirk. And all we could do was hope for sightings or hope she came back to the trap for food. She was very pregnant, had been running a long way. We knew she knew her way back to her foster’s as we saw that food had been eaten from the traps. Vets and local animal control officers were called and notified, various local papers wrote articles, the missing poster was shared in Selkirk community Facebook groups and from the MUR main Facebook page hundreds of times. We hoped that the more people who saw it and heard about her, the more likely we would have reported sightings. We did ask that people kept a distance, and stayed in their vehicles, as at this point, Sunshine had become easily spooked by strangers.
Monday. There had been a few sightings of her, late the night before so a few volunteers set out to Stonewall again. It was foggy and rainy and cold. We hoped she had somewhere warm and dry to hide so that she didn’t get too cold or have her babies in an exposed place. There were sightings throughout the day, and around lunch time our volunteers had spotted her! They followed her for about 2.5 hours before they lost her through a tree line. She was not seen at all for the rest of the day after about 1pm.
Tuesday there were sightings again throughout the day on the east edge of Stonewall. She came back to her foster’s home but took off when a vehicle drove by slowly. She managed to steal food out of one of the traps without triggering it to shut because of snow that was blowing and kept building up around the trap, keeping the mechanism from working properly. It was very frustrating to be so close again. At this point, we knew that she was comfortable coming back to the house if she didn’t feel watched. The local butcher had donated scraps to help bait her and the traps were full with various smelly meats. Sunshine had also come into the breezeway of the home but, nervous of scaring her off for good if she wasn’t caught, the volunteers didn’t attempt to grab her. Tuesday evening, the foster family and a couple of snowed-in volunteers discussed where she’d been seen and strategized about what to try next. Later they saw tracks in the yard – Sunshine had been looking in the window at them!
Wednesday, March 8th . Now the team was more determined than ever. This was one full week since she got away. In the morning, two volunteers stayed at the house to watch the traps and keep them clear of snow and stocked with bait. While they were in the living room, they saw Sunshine come into the breezeway! She came in, grabbed an empty can of food, and left! They decided to set a trap in that room as soon as she left and rigged the door to be able to shut after she came in. They got it ready and baited, and they waited. They had seen her go around the side of the house that unfortunately had very few windows. After a while they decided to go out and look, and they saw her under the porch, on that side of the house! They went back in to try to decide what to do next as they watched her through a basement window. A plan was devised and a few more volunteers drove out to help. The deck wasn’t closed in around the bottom along the long side opposite the house, and each side had a large gap. It was decided that two people would clock the gaps, one would go in, and the others would spread out with snow fencing to block the long side. The group went for it, going quickly but quietly. When the volunteer went under, Sunshine didn’t try to run, but she moved her head away from the slip lead when the volunteer tried to put it around her. Eventually they got that slip lead on, and then a second. And they were able to get her out from under the deck! One of the volunteers scooped her up and carried her inside, where she immediately ran downstairs and into the bathroom that was mid-renovation.
We couldn’t believe it. She was back in her foster’s home. Finally. There was a huge amount of relief, but also some worry about her health, the health of the babies, and whether it would happen again. An hour after getting her, she was at the vet. It was determined that although she had lost weight, she was otherwise in good health, as were the babies. She also calmed down considerably and now no longer scratches at doors or windows. She had finally settled. A little over a week later, her babies came. Thankfully they were born indoors, warm and dry. She had 11 puppies, sadly the runt passed away but otherwise all are healthy & growing.