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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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A foster mom’s dog tale
Family spends days searching for runaway Chihuahua
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Courtesy Photo: After four days of searching for the Sara, Pat Grisetti found the 2-year-old Chihuahua. Above, Sara was happy to be home after her adventure, especially after a bath.

Monday, October 28, 2013

By PAT GRISETTI - Special to the News-Post

This past June, I had finally gathered up the nerve to volunteer at the Franklin County Humane Society in Rocky Mount, after having filled out my volunteer application four months prior.

The reason for my procrastination was my fear that I would end up with several more siblings for our little 4-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. All my friends had been warning me that this was a dangerous job for me because I just can't say "no" when it comes to animals. (My husband, John, had implored me to volunteer at a nursing home because at least I wouldn't be bringing home any people.)

The first several weeks of volunteering I stood strong, helping where needed and assisting with walking dogs in the afternoon (actually some of them walked me). But after much thought and several "discussions" with John, I turned in my foster application.

A short time later, I was shown an extremely nervous little black and tan Chihuahua who was backed into the corner of a crate shaking like a leaf. "This is Sara, she needs a foster home," said Anita Scott, director of the adoption center. "Okay", I said.

I took little 2-year old Sara home with me, and within the hour, she ceased with her nervousness and was no longer shaking. When I would leave and walk back into the room, she actually leapt nearly two feet in the air with excitement. She would jump onto my lap and stay there until I had to get up. She had indeed made herself at home.

The next morning, I introduced her to our backyard deck. She absolutely loved it. She would run in and out of the house through the doggie door to run around and play or just lie down to bask in the sun. I took several photos and emailed them to the Humane Society so they could see how well she was doing and how happy she was. I let Sara out on the deck several times that morning, all the while keeping an eye on her to make sure she was okay. Oh, I was going to be such a good foster mommy.

About 2 p.m. that day, I had changed clothes and done the hair and makeup thing as we were preparing to leave for a Sunday school class picnic. I let Sara out one more time to run and get some exercise before I put her in her crate while we were gone. As I opened the screen door to bring her back inside, I did not anticipate nor dream what I was about to witness. Half of her body was standing outside of the deck railing, the other half inside! Surely she wouldn't jump. A cat might jump off the deck, but dogs don't jump off decks.

Not wanting to scare her and possibly make her fall, I calmly and quietly said, "Sara ... no, no, Sara ... Come, come...." And then, she leapt -- took a nose dive right off the deck falling 6 feet to the ground. I looked over the edge anticipating to see her lifeless body, at least a broken leg, or hear a howl of pain. Instead, she was standing up, turned around and looked up at me, almost smiling. And then she darted off. That began the four and a half-day chase.

I immediately ran out of the house in a frantic attempt to see in which direction she was headed. I didn't realize that John was already out in the yard. He had heard me screaming for him to help and had begun to chase her. John said it was as if it was a game to her. He would get close and she would leap in the air and dart away. However, she wouldn't come to anyone, even when we called her name. And calling her name is just what I did ... for what would end up being several miles and several days.

The search began with John walking one way around the 12-acre corn field next to our home where he had last seen her, and me walking around the other way. We walked in and out of the woods surrounding the corn field and our home and then walked back around the corn field. About an hour had passed when I realized we weren't going to be able to do this with just the two of us.

I called my sister, Debbie, and her husband, Gregg, in hopes that they were at home. They came over about 30 minutes later, and after strategizing, we all took off in different directions with the hopes of at least spotting Sara. It had been nearly two hours now, and John said she could be miles away with the rate of speed she was running.

I then came to the horrid conclusion that I needed to inform the Humane Society of what had happened. I knew that they would want to know and that they would post a missing notice for Sara on the Humane Society's Facebook page. What a great first-time foster mom I was turning out to be. I hadn't even had this little rescue dog for 24 hours and I had lost her. It wasn't so much that I was embarrassed to let them know what had happened, I was beginning to feel physically ill at the thought of not finding this little girl. She was my responsibility. She had been placed under my care, and I had failed.

Our search continued for days. Then Wednesday evening, a neighbor whom I had not seen since my children were little, stopped by the house to ask if I was the person who had set a trap near the church parsonage to catch the missing Chihuahua. My heart jumped. And he said, "Well, she's in there." I thought I was dreaming. You know those moments in life when you don't think you heard something quite right? "Are you kidding me?" I exclaimed.

He assured me that she was indeed in the trap. I believe I was in shock, but I thanked him for letting me know. I'm still not quite sure how he knew it was our missing dog, but the word had spread and this community certainly does come together to help when needed, that was proven to me.

I immediately left the house and drove to the gravel road next to the parsonage. I cautiously approached the trap so as not to startle Sara. I anticipated her growling and thrashing around violently in anger and fear, but when she saw me, she cowered down, began whining and wagging her tail. She was thrilled that I had found her!

I took her home and let her out of the trap inside my house. She couldn't give me enough kisses. She leapt and whined and ran around in circles. I have no idea what her four and a half-day adventure entailed, but it was obvious she was glad it was over.

I believe it's a small miracle that we found this tiny little dog in such a vast area. I thanked God.

The Franklin County Humane Society works endless hours to find good homes for strays and pets who have been left behind or given up by their owners for whatever reason. (Some people move out of their homes and have actually left their pets behind to fend for themselves. That is beyond my imagination.) They take in dogs and cats who have been severely mistreated and sometimes traumatized.

I will never be able to comprehend how any human being can neglect or inflict harm to an innocent creature of any kind - God's creatures who give us years of endless joy and unconditional love.

After finding Sara on Wednesday evening, I took her back to the Humane Society on Friday morning before I began my day of volunteering. Debbie and Gregg officially adopted her that evening. At that point we all felt a bit vested in this little dog. A wonderful and glorious ending to a situation that could have easily been a tragic one.

That very same Friday, Anita came up to me with a frightened, adorable little Dachshund mix who had just been brought in.

"This is Roscoe, he needs a foster home," Anita said with a smile and a plea in her eye.

"Okay," I said.

Robert Deatherage - Asst. Commonwealth Atty - Click for Website
Angie McGhee-Quality Realty - Click for Website
Alpine Photography Studios - Click for Website
Weichert - Click for Website
Harvester Center - Town of Rocky Mount - Click for Website
Adam Lynch - Click for Website
Billy and Julie Kingery - Click for Website
PHOEBE NEEDLES - Click for Website
Penny Hodges - Click for Website