Tag Archives: senior dogs

“People Told Us She Had Gone Off to Die”


Nala resting at home!

When Nala went missing from her Schaumburg, Ill., home in late November 2015, well-meaning people told her family that the 13-year-old Golden Retriever had likely just “gone off to die.”

“We had had her from the time she was eight weeks old, and I didn’t want to hear that,” said Jean Cullen, the family matriarch.

The Cullens had installed an invisible fence around their property so Nala could have the run of the yard. However, the fence had deteriorated over the years, and Nala eventually figured out where the gaps were.

“We would let her out, and she would visit our next-door neighbor and our neighbor two doors down, looking for treats,” Jean said. “She would always come back within 15 or 20 minutes, when she heard us call her name.”

On November 30, though, Nala didn’t come back when called. The neighbors said they hadn’t seen her.

The family put up posters and looked for Nala under bushes and in neighbors’ sheds and garages, all to no avail. Jean also posted a lost-dog alert on Lost Dogs Illinois, on the recommendation of a co-worker.

Although she and her husband both had to leave town on business trips, the Cullens’ teenage son continued to search while they were gone.

He called them Dec. 6 to say Nala had been found – alive – in a basement window well of their neighbors’ house, two doors down.

A window well is a semi-circular area, several feet deep, dug out around an underground basement window that allows light to come in. The family that owned the house said they never heard Nala bark or make any other noise the entire time she was in the well, despite the fact they are in the basement quite often.

It wasn’t until they moved their boxes of Christmas decorations piled in front of the window that they saw her, staring back at them.

“Her groomer said Nala is such a mild-mannered dog, she probably thought she had done something wrong and didn’t want to call attention to it by barking,” Jean said.

It had rained during the week Nala was gone, and she likely drank the inch or two of rainwater that accumulated in the well. Still, “She lost eight pounds and couldn’t stand,” Jean said.

“She had no broken bones, just some scratches and was really weak.”

Nala was back to her usual weight (52 lbs.) within a week of her homecoming. The Cullens now have a long tie-out post in the backyard for her, wanting to take no more chances.

“Her wandering days are over,” Jean said. “It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through, and I am so grateful to the Lost Dogs Illinois volunteers for contacting us several times to give us support and hope.

“I was afraid that, after a week, she had been stolen or was dead,” Jean continued. “The volunteers eased our pain; they were so concerned for us and for her.”

Jean says she has learned an important lesson from this experience.

“Never give up, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone to find your pet,” she said.

“Who would have thought we’d find Nala at the bottom of a window well?”

Losing Their Way

Thank you Lydia Rypcinski, free lance writer.


-Good Ol’ Mugsy

-From the day he was born, Mugsy, a Golden Retriever mix, was a special dog. Nine years ago Elizabeth and Kevin Gerrard adopted his mom only to find out the next day that she was pregnant. Several weeks later Sandy gave birth to seven puppies and all but one were given to good homes. Little Mugsy suffered grand mal seizures and required special care, so Elizabeth and Kevin kept him. Now that Mugsy is a senior, he is taking medications for epilepsy and hypothyroidism and requires frequent visits to his vet.

Mugsy, taking it easy

This is one of the reasons that the Gerrards were so scared when, in April, Mugsy escaped through their storm door. Besides being on medications, they live in an area of  Bloomington, IL near several busy roads and his inability to move quickly would put him in added danger. They immediately searched their neighborhood’s streets and alleys on foot and by car. To their surprise, they realized he must have gotten further than they thought possible. There’s a chance he was hiding really well, as dogs who are frightened often do.

Next, they called Animal Control to give a description of Mugsy; should anyone have found him and turned him in, they would have the Gerrard’s phone number.  They listed his photo and information online, using sites like Craigslist, WJBC’s Pet Hotline , neighborhood association Facebook pages and Lost Dogs Illinois. On our site, they found our Lost Dog Search Action Plan and found the fan interaction very helpful. Our fans are so supportive!

Per a thorough search plan, the Gerrards contacted the Humane Society of Central Illinois as well as all of the vets and animal hospitals in their area. They made posters and hung them everywhere they could think of: stores, gas stations, golf clubhouses, restaurants, apartment complexes, and office buildings. Elizabeth and Kevin drove around for five-to-seven hours every single day searching for their beloved Mugsy.

It wasn’t until a very long 22 days later that they received the call they’d been waiting for. It could have been very good or very bad news. (Sometimes senior dogs and those with health problems can’t make it on the streets for such a long period. Finding food is difficult, being off of medications is dangerous, and a lack of agility navigating busy intersections and highways can unfortunately be fatal.) The caller was an animal control officer who told them he received a report of a dog wandering around near Laesch Dairy, located in a rural area about 20 miles from their home. The officer drove to pick up the dog and  he matched Mugsy’s description!

When Elizabeth picked Mugsy up from the animal control facility, they say he was “very happy to see her,” but, he didn’t look very good; it was clear he’d had a rough time in the wild. He had burrs in his hair, one of his eyes was red and swollen, and he was visibly skinnier. Elizabeth immediately took Mugsy to the vet- which they say he didn’t mind at all as he was accustomed to going there- where they removed his burrs, gave him prescription eye drops, and weighed him. He lost 10 pounds total, which wasn’t actually the worst thing in the world; he had been slightly overweight.

Once home, the Gerrards describe his behavior as “very clingy.” He obviously missed his family while gone and was afraid to leave their side.  He couldn’t seem to get enough water, but they kept him on his medication regimen and they say he’s “starting to be his old self again.” Now Mugsy is well on his way to rehabilitation and the Gerrards have put safeguards in place such as installing a gate at the end of their front porch as an extra layer of security in case he makes his way out again. Also, they’ve ordered a GPS device which will allow the couple to track him on their computer and phone if he somehow gets lost again. It seems the Gerrards are doing everything in their power to ensure Mugsy spends the rest of his years by their side, right where he belongs.