For 53 days this spring, Roger the rescue dog braved coyotes, extreme temperatures, storms, and traveled over 50 miles in the foothills near Boise, Idaho. The 2-year-old collie-hound mix had just been adopted by Ava Anderson from a Utah shelter back in October. She tells Daily Paws that while Roger is “the sweetest guy ever,” he’s very skittish. “Any noise, any person, he’s terrified.”
When she adopted him from the shelter, she says that all the other dogs were barking excitedly, but Roger was just shaking in the back of his crate. The nervous little guy just needed a little extra love, and Anderson knew she was just the right person to give him the attention and affection he deserved.
But during a trip to Boise to visit her mom over Mother’s Day weekend, Anderson says that Roger’s fears got the best of him while she and her partner were away for a lunch date. Poor Roger had panicked without his familiar people around and bolted through a gate. Anderson says the pooch is “super, super fast. So, you can’t run at his speed.”
Her mom jumped in the car and took off in pursuit of the runaway pup. While she was able to chase Roger into the foothills in order to get him away from the cars, she lost track of him after Anderson says he went over a hill and disappeared.
That first night was particularly hard for Anderson, who couldn’t sleep as she worried whether Roger would be able to survive the near freezing temps in the foothills. In the following days, friends, family and neighbors all pitched in to hang missing posters and hike the foothills where Roger had disappeared.
Anderson says that while they heard of Roger sightings within the first couple of days, any time someone would approach him, the terrified pooch would run. “If anyone comes near him, he just bolts,” she says.
On the suggestion of a social media comment, Anderson’s mom reached out to Ladies and the Trap, a local rescue group that was started by Jamie Lough, Debbie Johnson, and Nicole Jenkins. Lough tells Daily Paws that the donation-funded organization got its start when the trio realized there was a need for people who could dedicate more time than local animal control to finding stray animals. They use a humane trap to capture animals who are fearful of strangers and likely to run away when approached.
Ladies and the Trap got to work quickly, helping Anderson raise awareness by putting up posters and getting the message out about Roger on social media. They also set up food drops, cameras, and a trap that could help safely catch the skittish dog without scaring him away. All the while, Anderson continued to spend hours each morning and evening searching for her beloved pup.
The lost dog didn’t make it easy on Anderson or the search party trying to help find him. Jenkins says this case was unique in that “Roger ran a lot of Boise”—crisscrossing at least 50 miles of the area’s foothills.
Typically, she says, once a lost dog finds basic necessities like shelter, food and water, they settle into an area. But even with freshly cooked bacon food drops, Roger wouldn’t settle. Eventually the sightings tapered off, then stopped altogether. After no sightings for nearly a month, Anderson made the agonizing decision to return to Salt Lake City.
She says it was “so horrible” thinking that he might still be in Boise when she wasn’t there to find him. Only a few days after returning to Utah, she got a message from someone about a dog that looked like Roger. Finally, some hope.
“Someone texted me a photo and said, ‘Is this your dog?'” And while Anderson didn’t think it was Roger—the collar wasn’t the same color and the image was blurry—she sent it to Ladies and the Trap anyway.
Lough lives just eight minutes from the person who texted Anderson. She went over and set up a trap and a camera, baited the trap with tasty-smelling liquid smoke, and waited. It wasn’t long before a dog tripped the trap, but they weren’t certain if it was Roger.
Anderson says she knew it was him when she saw an image of the pup curled up the wrong way around, with his head and butt pressed against the side of the crate like he didn’t have enough room even though there was plenty. It was just like he would curl up at home. “I’m like ‘OK, that is definitely … my weird dog right there.'”
The ID tags on the dog’s collar confirmed it—the group’s efforts had finally paid off. Roger was found after 53 agonizing days on the run.
“[His tag] said, ‘Roger,’ and we just couldn’t get on the phone with the team and with Ava fast enough to say we actually have him, he’s here and he’s safe” Lough says.
The next day, Anderson and Johnson met up about halfway between Salt Lake and Boise. Anderson says that when they were reunited, Roger walked over, sniffed her, and plopped down in her lap. It was a good sign to Anderson, who says that was exactly what he did when she adopted him from the shelter—sit in her lap.
Now that he’s back home, Anderson says Roger is “doing really, really well.” Despite being missing for nearly two months, he didn’t even lose any weight through the ordeal. Roger left and returned at 51 pounds. What exactly did he eat out there in the wilderness? We can only assume it was all those freshly cooked bacon drops from the Ladies and the Trap team that helped keep him well-fed!
While it’s every pet parent’s worst nightmare to think about losing their pet, Jenkins says Roger’s story demonstrates why owners should never give up on a lost dog. “Roger, he’s just a beacon of hope for owners out there. … If he can do it, your dog can do it.” And just as an extra note of precaution, always be sure to microchip your pet (and keep it up-to-date) in case they ever decide to make a break for it.
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