Lizard Brain – Why Lost Dogs Run




When the Retrievers take a new case, we always counsel owners not to expect that their dog will come when they call. Many find this perplexing. “But she loves me!” “Oh, he’ll come–I know he’ll come!”

I hope he does. Sometimes lost dogs will come when called. But often, they run from everyone, including their own owner. Why?

He’s Not in his Right Mind

So far, I know of no scientific research to confirm what a lost dog is thinking, but those of us deeply involved in lost dog searches have our own theories. Here’s mine:

A lost dog is out of his comfort zone. He has lost the security of familiar surroundings and a sense of control. Instead, he’s dealing with a barrage of new sights and scents and sounds. He’s overstimulated and anxious, unsure of what to do with all this new information.

It’s overwhelming and stressful, especially for dogs that are timid by nature.

A dog in this mental state is using what is informally known as the “lizard brain,” the parts of the brain governing the most primitive reactions of flight, flight, freeze, feed and other behaviors needed just to survive. In the parlance of lost dog searches, this is known as “survival mode.” When confronted with a threat, our mild-mannered domesticated companion animals will usually choose to flee.

Switching Off the Lizard Brain

What a lost dog needs most is security–knowing where to find shelter, food, water and safety. When these needs are met, the dog can begin to calm down and be driven less by his lizard brain and more by his normal thought processes.

We have heard accounts of lost dogs initially running from their owners, but when the owner behaved in a nonthreatening way (sitting or lying quietly, not calling out or making eye contact), the dog calmed down from a distance and stopped reacting reflexively. Lowering the stress level gave the dog a chance to use his “thinking” part of the brain, to remember the owner’s scent, appearance and sound of his voice. Owners describe it as if “a light bulb went off,” and suddenly the dog was in their lap.

Gimme Shelter

Lost dogs in survival mode often stay on the move. The first step in switching off his lizard brain is to slow him down by providing food, water and shelter in a quiet place where he can feel safe. Even if he never feels secure enough to come to his owner or anyone else, he’ll be habituated to a specific location where he can be caught in a humane trap.


©2015 The Retrievers Inc. May be freely shared with attribution to

Photo ©2012 Devon Thomas Treadwell. All rights reserved.

Start Your Search Right

You’ve Just Lost Your Dog

Take a deep breath. What you do next can have a significant impact on your success in bringing your dog home. Here’s how to get your search off on the right foot.

Get Organized with our Action Plan

First, download our action plan. As you’ll see, we’ve prioritized the recommended steps in a timeline to help you stay focused and on plan. Use this as your blueprint for your managing your search.

Consider an Alternate Phone Number

Before you make any flyers or signs, consider the benefits of using a Google Voice number instead of your own. Google Voice is a free service that gives you a phone number that you can forward to up to six alternate phones. You can set it up so that your caller ID will show your Google Voice number when someone calls, letting you know it’s someone calling about your lost dog. It will ring all your alternate phones simultaneously. If you’re not available to answer the phone, one of your helpers can.

Plus, if you miss a call, you can go on your Google Voice account and see the number in the call history, so you can call it back.

It’s an unfortunate reality that prank and scam calls are common with lost dog searches. With Google Voice, you can block their number or send anonymous calls directly to voicemail, so at least you don’t have to talk to them.

Put a Sign in Your Yard

The first sign you deploy should go in your front yard (or at the point where your dog went missing). Because if someone caught your dog right away, they may be walking around looking for his owner. Use anything—a cardboard box, piece of plywood, even an old sheet—and write or paint in big letters, “DID YOU FIND MY DOG?” and your phone number.

Make a Facebook Group

Facebook is a great help in lost dog cases, as it allows you to not only spread the word about your missing dog, but also to build a network of supportive friends and strangers. Many people will volunteer to help with flyering and other awareness efforts, so be sure to take advantage of this free resource.

Generally, we recommend creating a Facebook Group (not a Page or Event) as a “home base” for public communications. You’ll want to introduce yourself as the owner of the lost dog and invite people to share the Group with their friends. Do not share exact sighting locations. And never publicly reveal the location of a trap or feeding station.


What Not to Do

Waiting: Don’t wait for your dog to return on his own. If you have lost sight of your dog, don’t spend much time driving around looking for him. Instead, get going on the steps in our Action Plan.

Chasing: Lost dogs should never be chased. For shy and skittish dogs, the act of chasing him places him in the role of prey, with you as the predator. The experience will cause him to be even more fearful of humans, making him that much more difficult to catch. Even if the dog is friendly and playful, chasing him becomes a game—one that you can’t win because dogs are so much faster than humans. And whatever you do, don’t even think about chasing down a lost dog with an ATV.

Trapping: We don’t recommend commercially available traps, especially if you have never used one. If your dog has a bad experience in a trap, it makes trapping him much more difficult in the future. If your dog is returning to a specific place, that’s a great situation for trapping, but call us first. If you’re in our service area, we can bring one of our traps. If not, we have instructions for how to build an effective one of your own or we can suggest other ways you can contain your dog.

Grabbing: If you see your dog, it may be tempting to grab him if he’s within reach, but if he is anxious or scared, chances are high that he will bite. And you’ve just scared the crap out of him. You’ve confirmed his perception of all humans (even his owner!) as dangerous and to be avoided. If you do manage to catch him, he will be traumatized by the experience and may now have a bite history. Don’t grab. Rather, earn his trust slowly and patiently by offering food. Eldad Hagar of Hope For Paws is a master at hand-catching dogs. Watch his many videos to learn his technique.

Netting: We don’t recommend throwing a net or blanket over a dog. You could miss, traumatizing the dog, or he could get injured trying to escape the net. Net guns (which propel the net at the dog at high speeds) should be avoided altogether.

Trial by Fire


Lost: March 7, 2015

Retrieved: March 8, 2015

Outcome: Returned to owner

Case Manager: Devon Thomas Treadwell


The family’s home burned while their dogs were still inside. (Photo by David Brakke, St. Cloud Times. Used by permission.)

On March 7, 2015, a family in Big Lake, MN suffered a devastating fire. When the blaze broke out, the only adult at home was in the basement shower. When she got out, she heard her two dogs barking, also in the basement, and neighbors pounding on the windows. She and the dogs came upstairs, but Charlie and Bella were too scared by the flames to exit, and they bolted downstairs again.

Charlie and Tasha

Charlie and Tasha

The owner tried to get to them, but could no longer see through the smoke. Neighbors broke through the basement windows and attempted to save the dogs, but they couldn’t find them.

For two agonizing hours, the family watched their home burn with their dogs inside.

Once the fire was out, though, firefighters found the dogs huddled in the basement tub. They had suffered smoke inhalation but were alive and unburned. Unfortunately, when the dogs were brought outside, Charlie—a 10-month-old Golden Retriever mix—panicked and ran off.

It was a nightmare within a nightmare.

Firemen and neighbors tracked him through the snow to the nearby Mississippi River, but never actually saw him. Meanwhile, friends put Charlie on Lost Dogs – MN. That night and through the next day, about 40 people in the neighborhood were out looking for him.

With Labrador mix, Bella, Charlie's bonded companion.

With Labrador mix, Bella, Charlie’s bonded companion.

A family friend told the owner about the Retrievers, and we received a call at about 5 p.m. on Sunday. On hotline duty that day, I learned that Charlie was running up and down the wooded shoreline of the river and nobody could catch him. They would see him and call out or offer treats, but he ran from them every time.

I advised Tasha, the owner, to ask everyone to leave the area except for her. She should wait by the river with her other dog, Bella, and sit quietly until Charlie appeared. The wind was blowing along the river that afternoon, and I hoped that it would carry Tasha and Bella’s familiar scents to Charlie. I also hoped that clearing the woods of all strangers would help him be less anxious and stop running.

Charlie and Tasha, moments after being reunited.

Moments after being reunited.

Tasha waited about two hours. As it was getting dark, she received a call. Turns out Charlie had wandered out of the woods and over to a residential area. where he allowed a couple of teenagers and kids to put a leash on him. (He loves kids!) Minutes later, Tasha and Charlie were reunited.

Sometimes the only way the Retrievers can help on a lost dog case is through consultation, but often, that’s what an owner needs most—a single, experienced voice to guide them. “You made us stop what we were doing,” Tasha told me later. “It got everyone to calm down.”

Including Charlie, it would seem. Without all those strangers pursuing him in the woods, he was able to come out of his panicked state and stop reacting so reflexively.

Though the family lost their home, all four of their pets (Charlie, Bella and two cats) survived. I’m very grateful that the Retrievers were able to play a small part in that success.

Read the story in the St. Cloud Times

Missing Trixie


Lost: January 12, 2015

Retrieved: January 19, 2015

Outcome: Returned to Owners

Case Manager: Niki Taylor

Trixie copyOn Monday, January 12, Trixie went missing from her parents’ house near Lake Minnetonka. Her parents immediately placed lost dog notices on Lost Dogs MN and Craigslist. That Wednesday, the Retrievers were engaged and I was assigned as case manager to bring Trixie home.

Immediately, we activated our social media network including our Facebook page to alert followers of Trixie’s plight. Trixie’s parents quickly posted Trixie’s lost dog flyers throughout the neighborhood and surrounding area with her picture and contact information.

Those first few days, Trixie traveled from her house across the frozen lake at least a mile and was seen by her Good Samaritan, Amy. Trixie visited Amy’s house twice a day for two days straight. Concerned about Trixie’s well being, Amy was kind enough to leave out food and even left a food trail to attract Trixie to the garage. Amy’s house had become Trixie’s safe area.

Over the next few days, sightings of Trixie were reported to us. On Thursday, I set up our Missy Trap equipped with a magnetic door closure controlled by an electromagnetic light beam and a separate trail camera to alert us if Trixie roamed near the trap. Scent trails were left in four separate directions, all leading to the trap and camera. Inside the trap was a bowl full of enticing food and Trixie’s favorite blanket from home.

Unfortunately, Trixie failed to visit the site that evening but was spotted by others in the neighborhood. Sightings continued on Friday and her parents visited each of the sighting locations but couldn’t find her. We had her pup sister Lucy walk around Trixie’s safe area and trap in hopes that she would recognize her scent.

On Saturday, I received a call saying Trixie was seen on a local walking trail. Trixie’s parents joined me at the trail but found nothing until Trixie’s dad spotted her at the top of a hill near the trail. He left the car, walked slowly toward Trixie, only to see her bolt the other way. As is common with lost dogs, Trixie was clearly in survival mode and cautious of everything and everyone, even her own parents.

Trixie was spotted again the next day on a nearby lake but was chased by concerned searchers into a wooded park reserve. It confirms what we know well: never chase a lost dog. Simply sit down, wait and call the owner with the sighting information. For Trixie, there were no further sightings for several hours and I thought we were back to square one.

Hope returned early on Monday morning when Trixie was seen sitting on her Good Samaritan Amy’s front porch, howling loudly as if to say she was ready to go home. Amy’s husband opened the front door and gently encouraged her to enter the house but without surprise she refused and trotted away. Amy immediately called me and I rushed to the house.

When I arrived, I saw Trixie myself under some pine trees, she stood and looked at me, I sat down, didn’t say a word, I tried without success to lure Trixie with bacon treats. Again, she just trotted away. I let a short bit of time pass so Trixie wouldn’t be scared away from the area, then Amy and I decided to check the food inside the trap, only to find Trixie lying inside the open trap on her favorite blanket. This posed a challenge – the trap is only set to close when under constant surveillance to protect the safety of a trapped dog and was locked open the previous night. Without the trap set, Trixie was safe in the trap but could also leave at any time.

I decided that we had Trixie in her safe area and now was the time to try to get the trap set to close, which required me to drive her out of the trap…As I slowly approached gently shaking a bowl of smelly turkey sausage and quietly saying “It’s breakfast time, time to eat”, Trixie left the cage and hid near a boat house about 40 feet away, allowing me to quickly set the food by her blanket, set the trap, and return to the house to monitor. Not long thereafter, Trixie returned, smelled around the inside of the cage and tripped the electromagnetic beam, closing the trap’s door. At 8:56 a.m. that Monday morning, Trixie was finally captured.


She appeared in good health and seemed frightened, relieved and exhausted all at the same time. I called Trixie’s parents with the good news.

While we were waiting for Trixie’s parents, Amy and I sat with her; Trixie proceeded to give us both kisses as if to say “Thank you”. We wrapped her in warm blankets and talked to her letting her know she was now safe. Trixie’s parents arrived a short time later, she was thrilled to see them, her tail was wagging the minute she saw them.


Trixie’s dad told me later in the day that Trixie was so happy to see her pup sister Lucy that they were both jumping around kissing each other and Trixie also gave her kitty brother kisses. A very happy homecoming!

I had the opportunity to see Trixie few days after her rescue, she was in good spirits and her dad said she was doing very well.

The Retrievers would like to thank Trixie’s parents for all of their hard work searching, the many concerned spotters who called with sightings, the volunteers who distributed many flyers, searched and helped spread the word about Trixie and I would especially like to thank Amy and her husband Joe for the vital role they played in bringing Trixie home safe.

The Disappearing Magician


Lost: January 2, 2015

Retrieved: January 7, 2015

Outcome: Returned to Owner

Case Manager: Greg James


Little miss Hocus was adopted from a local rescue.  Her brother, Pocus, is still in foster at thetime of this writing.  So now you know the reason for the title of this write up… Shortly

Sweet Little peanut Hocus

Sweet Little peanut Hocus

after being adopted, Hocus took flight from her new family’s yard when her harness slipped off.  She did not dart away, but rather lingered around the yard and immediate area, but her family was not able to contain her again.  They left food out and some clothing and immediately  contacted the authorities once night fell and she was no longer seen.

Hocus’ family and her former foster mom began an intense round of awareness of Hocus and her flight.  Facebook was the number one tool used, along with flyers and intersection signs.  It was not long before many people knew Hocus’ story and that she was missing.  The day after leaving she did return to her yard, but again they were not able to get their hands on her or contain her.

With the awareness, many calls with sightings started coming in.  She was still remaining in the area and the hope was that she would return again to her yard.  This is when they contacted The Retrievers and we set out one of our traps.  Most of our traps were already out on different cases, but we were able to get one together that was a converted Xpen using our sensor and magnet set up.  Hocus took flight on a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, the trap and our cellular trail camera were in place in her new back yard.

Hocus did not return.

Over the next few days, there were many more calls with sightings.  Some near.  Some upto a mile away near a busy intersection where she was seen crossing several times a day.  The awareness was increased and a local TV station even did a news story on Hocus because of all the awareness of her story (You can never have to much awareness).

It was now Wednesday afternoon and there had been no action at the trap, and no photos of Hocus from our camera.  By all accounts she had moved her safe area about a mile east where most of the sightings were coming from.  I spoke with the owners and moving the trap the next day was decided to be the plan, along with setting out a second trap.  Both traps would be near her new safe area.

It was about an hour after talking to the owner on the phone, and a photo of Hocus came through from our camera.  She was back in her yard!  Her owner was home and was watching her and hoping she would enter the trap.  She cautiously looked into the trap, then circled it and ate all the food around it.  She did not go in, but this was a great sign that she was back in the area and she knew there was a big pile of fresh rotisserie chicken in the trap…

Our First Pic of Hocus Back at Her Yard

Our First Pic of Hocus Back at Her Yard

Darkness fell and it was about 90 minutes after she first reappeared at the trap.  Our camera once again sent some photos of her approaching the trap.  I was on the phone with her foster mom, who was inside the owner’s home with them watching out the window (they had all their lights turned off).  It was at that moment , at 6:15pm on Wednesday, that Hocus went into the trap and was captured.

Approaching the Trap

Approaching the Trap

First Photo of Her in the Trap

First Photo of Her in the Trap

Saying Hi to Her Foster Mom

Saying Hi to Her Foster Mom

They quickly got out to the trap and Hocus was scared at first, but she was not panicking or putting up a fight.  She was shivering and once she recognized her foster, she wanted out to greet her.  They safely removed Hocus from the trap and got her inside to warm up and get some more food and to decompress a bit.  Considering she had been gone for 5 days and in very cold conditions, she was in good shape and had only lost a few pounds.

This story is a great one to write and read.  They key to capturing Hocus was all of the awareness out there.  So many people came together and were calling in the sightings and doing the right thing (not chasing her).  It was truly a team effort and that effort paid off in the end.  The interesting fact is that Hocus was captured in the trap literally minutes after her story was played on the local TV station news….  Happy ending for Hocus and her new family.  She is doing well and is all rested up again.

Signs of Sierra


Lost: November 3, 2014

Retrieved: November 9, 2014

Outcome: Reunited with family

Case Manager: Devon Thomas Treadwell



Sierra, a friendly 13-year-old Golden Retriever, went missing from her home in Long Lake, Minnesota. The family reported that she had been acting oddly after supper, running at the front door and hiding under the table. When let out for a potty break, she bolted from the yard—this from a dog who never wanted to be away from her people and could barely finish a walk around the block.

Normally, the Retrievers don’t put “boots on the ground” until a lost dog’s whereabouts are known and trapping is required. But this case had me worried.

Did Sierra experience some kind of adverse food-related event? Gastric torsion? Obstruction? A toxin? Did she have a behavioral seizure?

By the time we learned about her on the Lost Dogs – MN Facebook page, Sierra had been gone for more than a day. Was she dying under some shrub? Was she already dead?

Like many of my teammates, I own a Golden Retriever and have a soft spot for the breed. I couldn’t not respond to the news of a missing white-faced senior.

When I asked if any teammates wanted to help me with a ground search, Retrievers Karie Daudt and Niki Taylor volunteered. We met up with Sierra’s owner, Maggie, who told us she had flyered the block, talked with the neighbors and searched the family’s acreage. The four of us searched again, looking under every low-hanging tree, between fallen logs, in the neighbors’ outbuildings and any place we could imagine a dog might wander off to die.

After finding no sign of Sierra, we had to call it quits. Sierra wasn’t in the immediate area, so perhaps she wasn’t sick at all. Perhaps she was just further away, in which case the most pressing need was awareness. Karie happened to have four “Lost Golden Retriever” signs in her car from a previous search. They displayed the Retrievers’ phone number, so we figured why not use them?

As Karie was placing one of the signs, a car stopped and a man told her he’d seen Sierra the morning before. She was moseying around his front lawn, as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

What a relief!

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

Now that we knew Sierra was alive and well, the strategy shifted from ground searching to awareness-building. We advised the family to put out more intersection signs—bright green ones to match the four that we had already placed. Soon came more sighting reports. Apparently a lot of people had seen Sierra—sometimes ambling down the middle of a street.

On the sixth day after Sierra went missing, she was easily caught by Good Samaritans about a mile south of her home.

Here’s Sierra, happy to be back at home with her family. It’s now believed that her odd behavior the night she bolted was due to dementia. She was the canine equivalent of an Alzheimers walkaway.

Ironically, the Good Samaritans who captured Sierra had spotted her the day before. But they didn’t know she was a lost dog until they saw one of the bright “Missing Golden Retriever” signs.

As an organization, we’re a big believer in intersection signs. They are the fastest way to raise awareness. And the beauty of these signs is that they don’t have to be anything special. All you need is brightly colored poster board from the Dollar Store, some stakes, a stapler and a broad-tipped waterproof marker. (Next election season, ask people to donate their campaign signs so you can use the wire stands.)

Use the same color for all your signs, and place them at major intersections in your search area. As you get confirmed sightings, you can move them closer to the dog’s location. Mark the sign locations on a map so you can remove them after the search.

If you volunteer for a breed rescue, we highly recommend you purchase 15-20 custom yard signs to have on hand in case one of your dogs goes missing. No photo necessary—just a simple description:  “Lost Great Dane” and your phone number. There are many online vendors competing with low-cost Coroplast yard signs. Get the biggest size you can afford.

If you foster many different breeds of dogs, then just have poster board, stakes and markers ready. Use the simplest words possible to describe the dog, for example: “Lost Small Black Dog.” The fewer words, the better. Make sure the text is big enough for someone to read as they’re driving by. And save the used signs for next time.

The Scrappy Papillon

Lost: Unknown

Retrieved: October 19, 2014

Outcome: Adopted by Good Samaritan homeowners

Case Manager: Devon Thomas Treadwell

Little Man

This pint-sized parti-pup was loose in South Minneapolis for several weeks. After scanning Craigslist ads, notices on and posts on Lost Dogs – MN, a Good Samaritan named Sandra counted 16 different reports of a stray black-and-white dog roaming between Minnehaha Parkway and the Keewaydin neighborhood. Concerned for his safety, she contacted the Retrievers and began flyering and listing the sightings online.

Sandra received a report that the dog had been sleeping next to a resident’s garage, so we monitored the area for a couple of days, but “Little Man” failed to show.

Then we heard from another resident further south, who said that the dog liked to hang out in her backyard with her yellow lab, Frank. As luck would have it, Little Man was there when Sandra and I went to follow up on the tip. I tried to get a slip lead on him, but unfortunately, he was able to squeeze through a hole in the fence that the homeowner didn’t realize was there.

Not to worry. The scrappy little dog returned a short while after we left. We set up a Sammy trap that evening, baited it with bacon and chicken, and locked it open. After confirming through trailcam photos that Little Man was not afraid to enter it, we armed it to trigger with our sensor beam/magnet system. Little Man was captured that evening.

Sandra was eventually able to locate Little Man’s owner. Sadly, they did not want him back.

But Little Man got a storybook ending anyway. He was adopted by the people whose yard he had been visiting, and now he gets to kick back with his buddy Frank every day.

Tater Tot Hotdish

Tater Tot

Lost: September 1, 2014

Retrieved: September 6, 2014

Outcome: Returned to His Family

Case Manager: Greg James

The Retrievers were recommended to, and contacted by, the owners of a 4 month old German Wirehair Pointer named Tater Tot.  Tater Tot had darted from their home after only a few days being there.  The family had done a great job of flyering their neighborhood and getting the awareness out there that he was missing and they were getting calls with sightings.  It appeared Tater Tot was staying safe in a wooded park area not too far from home.  But if he saw anyone he would run away, which is pretty common for a skittish dog that is in survival mode.  As is common, Tater Tot even ran away a couple times when his dad saw him and called to him.

Being that he was staying in the same area and considering his size we decided to use our Cash Trap to captureHappy Pup Tater Tot.  The trap was set up in the wooded area where his family had been leaving food and water, and for the first 24 hours we locked the gate open to allow him to get used to going into it for food and not having any hesitancy to do so.  His family kept the food stocked and we observed him several times in and near the trap on our Cellular Trail Camera.  We now knew he was happy to enter for some food so it was time to arm the trap with the sensor and magnet for capture.

Because of the remote location, our deep cycle marine battery was set up near the trap and used to power the sensor and magnet for the gate.  Once the trap was armed it was a matter of waiting for him to return.  I sat in my jeep about 150 yards away and could not see the trap through the forest. We would rely on pictures sent from the camera to tell us he had returned.  It was well after dark that the email we were all waiting for came in.  Tater Tot was approaching the trap.

As I got out of my jeep to get ready once we had a picture of him in the trap, I heard the noise of the gate closing and Tater Tot soon started barking out of fear of what just happened.  We had him.

Back Home and HappyI ran to the trap and the poor little guy was shaking from the cool evening temps and the unknown of what was happening.  His owners soon arrived at the trap along with Curt, a kind neighbor who kept me company  and allowed me to park in his driveway, during the 6 hours of waiting.

I entered the trap after a few minutes of letting Tater Tot calm down and realize 2 of the 4 people there were his mom and dad.  I put a Martingale collar and a leash on him and we got him out to get home to safety.  His family took him right away.

After Curt and I took down the trap, I stopped by to visit Tater Tot and he seemed to have no injuries and was doing well.

His family did a fantastic job of helping him get home by getting the awareness out there right away so more people were watching for him.  Without that, the search for Tater Tot would have been much longer that the 5 days he was on the run.

Best Wishes for Tater Tot and his family…

Northwoods Mastiff


Lost: August 7, 2014

Retrieved: August 23, 2014

Outcome: Returned to Owners

Case Manager: Bobbi Jo Hemphill

The Retrievers were first contacted by one of our Facebook fans about a dog, wondering if we could help.  Molly the Mastiff had been vacationing in Northern MN with her family at a cabin and had gotten loose from her tie out.  She was a former puppy mill girl who was skittish and was hesitant to approach anyone.  Per our request, Molly’s owners contacted us directly and we agreed to do our best to help her and them.  Bobbi Jo from our team lives near the area and became the case manager.

Molly’s owners who lived 4 hours away in the Twin Cities returned the following weekend to assist in getting awareness in the area.  This was very important because soon after flyers were distributed to residents in the area of the point of flight and signs posted, the calls started coming in.  Many had seen Molly and she appeared to be remaining in the area of the resort and golf course she took flight from.  During the distribution of flyers to the area, Bobbi Jo (BJ) met a wonderful couple named Kathy and Tom, who lived nearby.  They offered to help however they could in the mission to bring Molly home.

Based on reported sightings, BJ and Kathy set up a feeding/water station and a Missy Trap in a secluded area nearby.  It was their hope that Missy would catch scent of the food and grow accustom to feeding there.  BJ also set up a trail camera to confirm that it was Molly that would be visiting and eating from the feeding station.  The Trap was set up, but the gate was locked open.  This would allow Molly to gain comfort in entering and leaving the trap at will for food and water, so when the time came to catch her, she would not hesitate to go into the trap.

BJ and Kathy diligently kept the food and water stocked and after two nights, they finally had a sign.

First Picture of Molly

First Picture of Molly

A picture of Molly standing right in front of the camera.  She had found the food and trap.  For the next few days and nights Molly visited at all hours and would often linger around for up to 90 minutes.  Her owner’s clothing with their scent was hanging on the trap and Molly’s blanket was also in the trap.  We feel she felt comfort in the scents and that is why she lingered for long periods.  The time was right for capture.

That Friday I drove up from the Twin Cities.  I brought our Sensor/Magnet set up and our deep cell marine battery.  The location of the trap was in the remote forested area and the battery could be used to power the sensor/magnet if a vehicle to power them was not available.

We set up the sensor/magnet/battery and armed the trap ready for capture.  We also set up our two Cellular Trail Cameras.  If we did not capture Molly in the daylight hours, there was no way we would see if she was near the trap because it was pitch black with zero light out there after dark.  We set up camera 1 about 40-50 feet from the trap, on the trail she had been using to get to the trap.  A picture sent from this camera would alert us that she was on her way and approaching the trap.  The other Cellular camera was aimed right at the trap so we could watch her in almost real time while she lingered around the trap.  We also had two regular trail cameras set up near the trap just to capture as many photos of the capture as we could.

We waited for a few hours.  Some rain showers hit us off and on and there was no sign of Molly before it got dark.  At that point we were blind and relying on the cameras and listening for the noise of the gate to close….

At approximately 9:45pm, Camera 1 sent us a photo.  It was Molly and she was approaching the trap!

Molly on Camera 1 Approaching the Trap

Molly on Camera 1 Approaching the Trap

Shortly there after, Camera 2 starting sending photos and we could see the red lights of one of the regular cameras turning on and off.  Molly was at the trap and was lingering and taking her time to go in.  BJ, Kathy and I were sitting in my jeep about 50 feet from the trap and we suspect she saw my jeep and was weary of the new element near the trap.

As we sat on pins and needles in the jeep whispering and waiting, at 10:30 we heard it.  The gate had closed!  I turned on the headlights and Molly was captured in the trap!

We calmly approached the trap and she was anxiously trying to find a way out.  There wasn’t one.  After a few moments, she calmed down and I got in the trap with her.  She shut down and seemed to take comfort in the pets she was getting from all of us.  At this point, it was obvious she was relieved and knew we meant her no harm.  We put a martingale collar on her and used a leash and a slip lead to move her into my jeep for transport back to the Twin Cities and home.   It was now midnight by the time I hit the road for the 3 1/2 hour drive.  Shortly after we got on the highway, I heard a loud sigh of relief come from Molly.  She slept the whole way home…

Ready To Go Home

Ready To Go Home

Molly stayed with me until the following afternoon when she was reunited with her dad.  Molly the Mastiff is now safely back home with her loving family.

Once again, Bobbi Jo as the Case Manager for Molly executed a plan perfectly.  Her guidance and the overwhelming support and help from Kathy and Tom made Molly’s safe capture possible.  They worked the plan and the plan worked for them and Molly…

Welcome home and be safe Molly…

Leave the Pam in the Pantry


Pig-Pen’s got nothing on us. We all shed about 40,000 raft every minute.

Hey, Retrievers fans! I wanted to take a moment to correct some misinformation that’s been going around the interwebs–sometimes shared by very credible sites, but it’s wrong nonetheless. It has to do with lost dogs and human scent. Here’s what you should know.

The “scent” that a dog detects is carried in the dead skin cells (known as “raft”) that are shed by the human body at a rate of 40,000 per minute. We are constantly surrounded by a cloud of raft. Think Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon strip. Raft falls off the body and is carried by the wind or drops to the ground. (That’s why some search and rescue [SAR] dogs are trained to track scent on the ground, while others lift their nose for scent still in the air.)

So unless you’re dressed in a haz mat suit while setting up a trap or feeding station, you WILL leave your scent there. You’ll leave your scent when you walk away. It does no good to spray Pam on a trap. In fact, that would just make the metal sticky and cause MORE raft to collect on it.

Experienced handlers of tracking dogs also say there’s no product that will effectively mask human scent (and you can bet plenty of fugitives have tried!).

So, what does this mean for lost dog searches? Simply understand that that skittish dogs will weigh their fear of humans with their need for food. They may detect that a human being has been at a feeding station or trap, but then, there’s a hank of roast beef there NOW. Would a dog rather starve than approach an area that has “was-there-but-not-there-now” human scent? Not likely, IMO.

There’s no need for Pam, and scent blocker is a waste of money. Just trust in a lost dog’s survival instincts. Put good-smelling food in front of them and let nature take its course.