2010-08-25 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Lassie came home, but that was a book and a movie. Teddy Bear is the real deal. After surviving nearly four years in a North Carolina swamp, Teddy Bear, an Irish Wolfhound mix was reunited this month with her jubilant owners. Somehow, she endured four winters and three summers of wilderness, 44 months there to be precise. Her happy ending is thanks to the amazing dog detective skills of the Outer Banks SPCA.

Back in November 2006 at the end of a canoe trip a playful Teddy Bear jumped out of her owners’ SUV hatchback and disappeared into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. She had done this before but this time she didn’t come back. Her owners, the Wilkinsons, who live in New Bern three hours away, began an exhaustive search, extending their stay, posting over 200 flyers, listing a lost report with the local SPCA, and ultimately returning to the area 20 times to continue looking for Teddy Bear. They kept contact with folks in the area and responded to possible sighting, but all were false hope.

Teddy Bear reunited with her family after almost 4 years in a North Carolina swamp. Teddy Bear reunited with her family after almost 4 years in a North Carolina swamp. Red wolves, alligators and bears! Oh, my! The refuge is 152,000 acres of bog in a remote part of the Outer Banks. Alligator River is a reintroduction site for the endangered red wolf. The closest town called East Lake has only about 35 homes. At first there were sketchy reports of one elderly man feeding a stray from afar. In 2007 a humane trap was set up but nothing entered. After that, news dried up. The Wilkinsons were so worried that their shy dog wearing a collar with ID would never approach humans. In time they feared she had succumbed to the elements, predators or starvation.

[Before we get to the nitty gritty of how Teddy Bear got home safely, let’s stop for intermission. To those involved in the massive search for Vivi the Westminster Whippet lost at JFK Airport, also in 2006, this long lost dog’s recovery is more than an incredible journey - it’s an inspiration. Dare County in NC where this took place received some area coverage but the news never reached NY television or internet spots like AOL’s homepage. We heard about Teddy Bear when the Virginian-Pilot newspaper story was forwarded to Bonnie Folz, coordinator of Team Vivi. Her subject line read: “You have to read this one- A reason to keep the faith.”]

Lights flashed; intermission’s over. Josie Alford, an animal control officer at Outer Banks SPCA made Teddy’s astounding canine connection. Josie said recently another resident was throwing scraps to a stray. At first he thought it was a straggly bear cub. Once he saw that a ragged dog needed medical attention he asked for a humane trap. The SPCA brought the trap but it was his responsibility to monitor it. Two days later on July 21st-Gotcha! Thescruffy dog inside, though now thin, collarless and fly-bitten, seemed familiar to Josie. The SPCA took her to their vet the next day where she was started on antibiotics for her inflamed skin.

Josie recalled a similar dog, and the devoted owners she spoke to years ago, but she wasn’t sure how many years ago. She remembered a distinct flyer about a dog lost in the refuge. She could picture the poster- dark photo, several phone numbers, no microchip, reward.

She remarked: “Imbedded in my brain was a lost report in a binder for a year. We organize our lost dogs by color in separate male/female books. A few months later we call to update the status. After a year, open case lost flyers are pulled out and kept in dated boxes. We have about 30 boxes labeled, and stored with various case number notes stapled to them.” She said this data wasn’t computerized yet but hoped it would be soon. I listened as Josie described this efficient method, shaking my head in disbelief because I see how little attention the lost posters get at L.I. shelters.

First lead: Josie’s supervisor came across the box with the 2007 trap request. In all it took 13 days of box shuffling before Josie found the tattered flyer she was looking for. Her supervisor let her do the honors of notifying the Wilkinsons. They got the joyous call followed by emailed photo confirmation. Within a few short hours, they were at the shelter to reclaim their precious gal. The same dog hiding at the back of her kennel walked right up to her owners and began nuzzling their faces. Look at the OBX shelter photo of Teddy Bear’s Grand Reunion. “Everything bad I have to deal with at the shelter just disappears when I think about Teddy Bear. It takes the cake,” remarked Josie.

Teddy, now six years old, is back resting on her favorite couch. She has skin and ear infections and, not surprisingly, will undergo heartworm treatment because of the swamp mosquitoes. Teddy has already gone canoeing again. From now on she’ll wear a tracking collar.

Outer Banks SPCA (www. obxspaca.org) went above and beyond for Teddy Bear, but I get the feeling they do so each day. Presently, a small staff tends to about 30 dogs and 70 cats. Right as Teddy’s identity was revealed, “Onyx” a Pit mix was adopted a day short of his year anniversary. For Teddy’s remarkable recovery, OBX SPCA deserves the Nobel Pets Prize, yet I bet they would be content with less. Like many rural shelters they could use monetary donations plus pet food or dog/cat toys.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631- 643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Another “Bear” is waiting for a happily ever after. For a year his loving family tried hard to re-home him when faced with a child’s respiratory problems. All prospects fizzled. “Bear” #93501 is a six year old Shepherd combo - half German; half Australian. He is great with kids, housebroken but does not like cats.

Meanwhile a sweet, purebred female Bull Terrier pup #93492 was found as a stray.

Males: “Blue” Shep mix #93487; “Junior” beige Shep mix #93434; older Maltese #93484; a yellow Lab; a chocolate Lab; “Spook” black cat C-4.

Female: “Queenie” shy Rottie #93453; “Jinni” carries bowl #93155; “Star” her shelter stay has surpassed “Onyx” by 5 months #92319; “Truffle” petite tortie C-1; “Miss Kitty”- tuxedo C-6.

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