Lost: Unknown

Retrieved: April 12, 2014

Outcome: Fostered in private home

Case Manager: Devon Thomas Treadwell

On our Facebook page we learned of a Good Samaritan who was trying to help a stray dog in Owen, Wisconsin. For two months she had appealed to local authorities, to no avail. In desperation, she turned to the Retrievers.

As her job required driving between local communities, Tammy had frequently seen the dog in a field next to Hwy 29. Neighbors estimated that the dog, which she called “Owen,” had been in the area for up to two years. There was no photo—he would not allow anyone close enough to get decent shot. Neighbors described him as a setter or retriever mix.

Although that part of Wisconsin is outside of our normal operations area, I offered to take the case because I have personal connections to the town. I arrived early afternoon on a Saturday, set up the Missy Trap to trigger manually by cutting power to an electromagnet, then waited in my car a short distance away.

But Owen never showed. At 10:30 p.m., I reluctantly locked the trap gate open, turned on the cellular trail cam, instructed Tammy to stock the trap nightly with high-value food, then made the two-and-a-half-hour drive back to the Twin Cities.

For two days, we received no photos from the camera and assumed that it had malfunctioned. But then we discovered that our hosting service’s spam filter had intercepted the shots, and suddenly 80 timestamped images poured into our email boxes.

We learned that Owen had visited the trap only a few minutes after we had packed up and left. And he came again every night that week—multiple times a night, and usually around the same hours. In one shot, he was close enough to the camera for us to see that “he” was really a “she.” From that point, we began to call her “Rowan.”

Monitoring her activities by trail cam for a week enabled us to predict when she would visit the trap. The following Friday, I returned to Owen, this time with a colleague—M.J. Brookes—our newly developed photoelectric sensor system, and a catchpole specially designed and constructed by teammate Jen Eidbo.

The trail cam images had shown that a neighbor’s cat often visited the trap, so we set the sensor at a height too high for it to inadvertently break the beam and cause the gate to drop. And because we suspected Rowan had avoided the trap when we were present the previous weekend, we waited in a car parked 100 yards away as we monitored the trap via a video surveillance system comprised of Skype and two smartphones.

Rowan came by right on time at 9:45 p.m., but shocked us by skittering beneath the sensor beam. In less than 30 seconds, she ate much of her food and exited the trap without triggering the gate. Thankfully, because we’d observed her patterns, we knew she would be back. We lowered the sensor and waited again.

Rowan returned at 11:20 p.m., and this time walked through the beam and triggered the gate. As we approached the trap, she started climbing up the meshed panels and was halfway out when I was able to get the catchpole on her. She jumped down to the ground and went into a full-scale panic, writhing and growling and snarling and gnawing on the lead on the catchpole.

Luckily, we were able to get her into a crate before she could chew completely through and escape. Once she was in the crate and the tension was off the lead, she quickly calmed down.

Rowan turned out to be a much smaller dog than we had expected—likely a beagle/shepherd mix. Her later vet visit revealed her weight at only 33 pounds. No wonder she was able to duck under the beam! The vet estimated her age at 1 1/2 years. Though she was not spayed, she shows no evidence of having had a litter. She is heartworm-free, basically healthy, and not microchipped.

Rowan’s return to a home environment has been more successful than anyone could have predicted. Tammy reports that within the first few days, she was playing with the family’s other dogs and even enjoyed being brushed and petted by Tammy and her husband.

You can follow Rowan’s story on her Facebook page, Hope for Owen.

See also:

Woman Committed to Helping Stray Dog — Marshfield News Herald, April 21, 2014

Stray dog captured and given a home — Leader Telegram, May 5, 2014