Tag Archives: Trapping

Mitch – A True Survivor’s Tale

Mitch Collage

This is a true survivor’s tale – a story about a dog named Mitch, a Border Collie Mix who slipped out of his collar and went missing  on 1/20/14 just two weeks after being adopted by a new family.  Immediately after he got loose on that cold winter’s day, his family posted him on Lost Dogs Illinois.  As the weeks went by, they responded to each sighting, started a Facebook page dedicated to finding him, and never gave up hope.  Little did they know that Mitch had  been traveling from Burr Ridge to Countryside, surviving on his own for 6 months. During that time, neighbors were feeding him, the vet clinic was trying to lure him in, and the police were trying to catch him, but Mitch was in survival mode and evaded everyone.  And then, out of the blue, over a year since he’d been lost, a jogger contacted the staff at the Barker Shop in La Grange about this dog he kept seeing.  The shop posted the sighting on their Facebook page, and other people started posting that they too had seen this dog!  The Barker Shop Rescue Team went into action; set up a feeding station and then a humane trap, which they placed in the snow.  Mitch entered the trap right away but the door got caught in the snow and wouldn’t close.  They then moved the trap to an intersection, as Mitch watched their every move.  Once the rescue team returned to their cars, Mitch started sniffing around and got into the trap.  Success!  He was taken, inside the trap, to the vet clinic, where he was scanned for a microchip.  Once the chip information came up on the scanner, Mitch’s owners were called and there was a very, very happy reunion. Smart, brave, resourceful Mitch had survived the Polar Vortex and the Blizzard of 2015.  He did not starve, nor was he killed by coyotes.  Missing 1/20/14,  Reunited 2/08/15.  Welcome Home…at last, Mitch!

Hoss’s Story – How One Lost German Shepherd Brought Home Another German Shepherd

On May 31, 2013, Dawn and Roger from Michigan received a phone call saying Hoss,  who just had been adopted out,  had gone missing and had been missing for a week. Immediately Dawn submitted a Lost Dogs Illinois lost dog report. Days, weeks and months passed but they never gave up hope.

Now fast forward to two weeks ago to the North Shore Posse Team (dedicated to finding Holly, 10735790_10205304818369014_191045168_nthe German Shepherd from Wilmette, who went missing in July 2013), which received a sighting of a German Shepherd fitting Holly’s description. They sprung into action; flyered the area and got more sightings. They then set up a trail camera in the area where she has been known to frequent.   The camera did show a German shepherd but it was not Holly.

Lea, one of the volunteers, decided to check the Lost Dogs Illinois dog database to see if there were any GSDs fitting the dog on the camera. She found Hoss and posted the picture to the group. Also Hoss had gone missing only 5.5 miles where he was now found. They were pretty sure it was Hoss so they contacted Dawn and Roger who confirmed this was their dog.

Hoss Nick

Trail camera picture that was used to identify Hoss. 10/24/14

Roger and Dawn then came down the next weekend and camped out with their other dog. Hoss would not approach but the trail camera would catch him after they left. Disappointed Roger and Dawn left for Michigan. The North Shore Posse group continued to keep the feeding station going and distributed the following letter to explain what was needed to be done by the neighborhood.


Cakes and Katie said they would continue to monitor the feeding station and set up the humane trap. They bungeed cord both doors up so Hoss could just walk through the trap to get use to it. Then proceeded to put one door down and leave one door bungeed cord up.


Hoss entering the trap. 10/29/14

Hoss trap 2

Hoss did not like what was on the floor of his trap and removed it. 10/29/14


Hoss almost all the way in the trap. 10/30/14

Within a couple days going back to Michigan, Roger came back down to watch the trap. During those nights, Roger witnessed Hoss dragging the blanket out of trap. He was stealing food from the trap. He was just not ready to be trapped.

During this time, Roger was improvising his own trap. Watching the you tube video of Misty’s trap, he put together his own trap for Hoss.   So that night, the humane trap was set and so was Roger’s trap. Early the next morning, Hoss was trapped in Roger’s trap. Roger called Cakes and Katie to have them help him remove Hoss from the trap.

Hoss had only lost 10 lbs thanks to a neighborhood where individuals were throwing out food to him which in turn became his own safe turf.

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Hoss at home!

So what are the lessons learned:

– Dogs are survivors! Hoss had been living in this neighborhood even during the polar vortex. He was mostly a nocturnal dog so most people thought he was a coydog. Hoss’s feeding station and trap was setup at a spot he frequented because he would eat the bread a woman threw out for the raccoons.

– Remember not all lost dogs are homeless! If you see a “lost” dog, be sure to check LDI’s website and search their dog database, call your local animal control or shelter to see if anyone has filed a lost dog report.

– Once this dog was sighted, a plan was made and it was followed. Hoss has established his turf and the team worked with him. They didn’t push him; they just let him be. Simply fed him the same time in the same place every single day.

– AND Never Give Up!

Roger wants to thank the neighborhood where Hoss had settled in. The neighborhood rallied around Hoss and Roger. They fed Roger knowing he was monitoring the trap at night. They also let him borrow their tools to build Hoss’s second trap.

Thank you to the North Shore Posse team for not giving up on Holly and making this a team effort to capture Hoss. Thank you, Katie, for leading the team!

Holly’s Facebook Page



Harnessing the Energy – Part 5 (Common Pitfalls)

Lindsay, a shy beagle was successfully captured by the well-coordinated team of volunteers at Midwest BREW.

Lindsay, a shy beagle was successfully captured by the well-coordinated team of volunteers at Midwest BREW.

In this final segment of our series for shelters and rescues, we will focus on some of the common mistakes that can lead to a prolonged search or unfortunately even the death of the missing dog.  Most of these mistakes can be attributed to a lack of leadership or the absence of a strong point person on the case. We covered this in detail in Part 3 of the series. Without strong leadership, the volunteer base will become frustrated and frayed. Some may become disinterested, some may give up, and some may go off on their own, using methods that we would never recommend.  These include:

  • Pitfall #1 – Volunteers physically searching for a dog. Most missing rescue dogs are shy. Foot searches are never recommended unless the dog is a very young puppy (barely walking) or has been severely injured, such as being hit by a car.  In these situations a “grid search” might be warranted. But this must be well-coordinated with a good plan and strong leadership.  Foot searches almost always result in driving the dog further away. He will sense that he is being pursued.  If he keeps getting driven out of the flyering area – there will be a lack of sightings and the volunteers will lose the motivation to flyer larger and larger areas.  You may also drive the dog into hiding, causing a lack of sightings which also causes frustration and makes volunteers lose hope. Worst of all, your volunteers may pressure the dog and cause him to bolt into traffic and be injured or killed.
  • Pitfall #2 – Using a psychic, animal communicator or douser. These are almost always a scam. Or well-meaning people who think they have a  connection with animals but know very little about lost dog behavior. They will appear to be “psychic” but they are usually studying google maps and satellite photos to talk about landmarks, even though they live far away.  Some may do the first reading for free, but then ask for a credit card number for subsequent “readings”.  They advertise on Craigslist and they may contact you offering their services.  The readings will be vague. “I see your dog with an older couple.” “I see your dog in a yellow house.” Getting the word out through the use of flyers and signs brings lost dogs home. Psychics can send you in the wrong direction or worst of all tell you that your dog has “passed”.  Don’t give up unless you find the remains of the missing dog. He is out there somewhere and perseverance, common sense and logic will bring him home.
  • Pitfall #3 – Tracking dogs. There are some legitimate tracking dog services. They are few and far between. Screen them carefully. What is their success rate at tracking a shy lost dog? If their success rate sounds too good to be true, it is. They are a scam.  Remember that good tracking dogs may be able to locate a scent, but lost dogs can move quickly.  There are dozens of “pet detectives” that are currently preying on unsuspecting, distraught lost dog owners. They are using Craigslist and Facebook to advertise for free and will tell you that they can find your dog. Remember, you will still have to flyer, establish a feeding routine and trap the dogs.  Instead, use your rescue’s valuable resources for flyering, signs and advertising.
  • Pitfall #4 – Giving out exact sighting or trap locations – You will need to communicate with your volunteers, preferably through some sort of closed email or Facebook group. But make sure that they understand that what you share is confidential.  You NEVER want to disclose a sighting or trap location publicly – on a Facebook page, in a blog, or to the media. Keep the location confidential because wanna-be heroes, reward seekers, and curious people can derail your plans very fast. Then you will be picking up and starting all over again and you will risk volunteer burnout.
  • Pitfall #5 – Allowing too many volunteers to man a feeding station or trap.  Remember, your lost dog is probably very shy and doesn’t trust many people.  You need him to relax and feel comfortable coming to a feeding station so that you can eventually trap him. If everytime he goes to the location, there are different scents from different people, he may abandon that location completely and move on. Ideally, the person most bonded with the dog should be the one that is refreshing the feeding station and manning the trap. One or two helpers may need to be involved, but a revolving schedule of volunteers is counter-productive.

We hope this series has given you some guidance and ideas if one of your rescue or shelter’s foster or adopted dogs go missing. Searching for a shy lost dog is expensive and time-consuming. Pre-planning, volunteer training and avoiding common pitfalls will save you the time, money and resources that could be better spent on saving more lives.

Previous article – https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/

Successful Trapping: Go Slow to Go Fast Part 13 of a Series

We can see that this dog, Shabby, is very comfortable with the trap. Time to move the food inside! When we can see her going in and out comfortably, THEN we will set the trap. Note that the date/time stamp on this camera is set wrong. Take the time to set it correctly before you begin. This is invaluable information.

You’re all ready to set up your trap and catch your dog. This should be fast and easy, right?   You’ve done all of the careful preparation and set up an inviting little “dog cave”. Your dog should appreciate that and jump right in, right? Sorry – wrong. This is the number one place that people are too impatient and then give up on the trapping process, claiming it “doesn’t work” or “my dog is too smart for the trap”.

Throwing a trap on the ground and hoping that your dog happens to jump in is like an outfielder closing his eyes and holding his ball glove open up in the air. Is there a chance that the ball will fall in it? Yes, I guess so. But there is a lot better chance of him catching the ball if he strategically uses all of his physical and mental powers to position himself to catch the ball.  Remember, you have ONE chance to get this right. Make it count.

This is where “going slow will be faster than going fast”.

You already have your shy, lost dog coming to the feeding station. You are already seeing pictures of him eating on your trail camera. (if not, please go back and read those installments in the series) You have now added the trap to the “landscape” and it may take a few days for your dog to get accustomed to it. He will sense that something is different and strange. Your goal is to make that transition as easy as possible. Keep the feeding station at least 20 – 30 feet away from the trap at first. Use bungee cords or electrical ties to keep the trap open – so the door can’t come crashing down and scare him.

If you have a trap with two doors, you may want to remove the rear door so the dog can go all the way through at first. This helps with very claustrophobic dogs and encourages them to use the trap as a shelter and sleeping spot.

Watch your pictures. When he is eating at the feeding station comfortably, move the bowl closer to the trap. When he is comfortable with that – move it closer again. Within a few days, you should be able to put the food under the door of the trap. (that is the scary part for a lot of dogs). When he appears comfortable, move the bowl into the trap – just inside the entrance. But you still have it bungeed open. It can’t scare him. Finally move it to the back of the trap behind the trip plate. When you see that he is going all the way in the trap, eating and looking relaxed, you can set the trap. You should know what time he is coming to eat and you can set it just for that time period.

The above method called “luring the dog into the trap” will save you a lot of grief and frustration because:

  • you won’t be catching and endangering wildlife, cats and other dogs
  • you won’t be spending all your time cleaning the trap and washing and replacing the bedding after catching other animals (who will usually urinate and defecate in the trap)
  • you won’t be having to check the trap every couple of hours (possibly causing your shy, lost dog to abandon the feeding station)
  • you will encourage your lost dog to use the trap as a shelter, so when he is finally trapped he will be comfortable and not panic
  • you will be able to continue during extreme hot or cold weather because you won’t be worried that you will endanger the life of an animal that is caught

Okay, we’re almost done. The last section will talk about baiting the trap, what works and what doesn’t work. Stay tuned, you’re almost done!  Part 14

Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from over thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.

Checking the Trap – Part 15 in a Series

Have enough leather gloves for everyone that is helping you with checking the trap. This protects them AND your dog.

If all goes well and you have prepared carefully by following the steps in the previous articles, you may catch your dog very quickly! Or not.

Regardless, make sure that you are prepared when you head out to check a trap. Always carry these items and if somebody is helping you, make sure they have them also.

  • Leather Gloves
  • Cell phone
  • Bungee cords
  • Fresh bait
  • Fresh scent items
  • Fresh bedding
  • Pam cooking spray to block scent
  • Binoculars
  • Flashlight
  • Key to unlock the trap from the secure object it is affixed to
  • Plywood, large enough to slide under the trap.

Approach the trap quietly with your leather gloves on. If you have used the white washcloth on the door of the trap, you should be able to see from a distance if it has been tripped. Or you can use your binoculars. If you get closer and see your dog inside, speak quietly to him and make what ever phone calls are necessary to get the help you need to lift the entire trap and dog into your vehicle to transport him to a secure location, preferably a vet clinic. You may want to slide a piece of plywood under the trap to make sure the wire floor doesn’t give way or bend when you lift it.  Remember, you will be responsible for any damage to the trap when you return it.

Bungee the doors tightly closed (both front and back if the trap is a two door model). You don’t want a door to pop open when you are lifting the trap into a truck. Remember, this is very scary for your dog and he may struggle in an attempt to escape.

NEVER attempt to take your dog out of the trap. If he slips by you and escapes, you may never trap him again. Remember, your dog has been in survival mode. He may not recognize you or be happy to see you. He may do everything in his power to flee the area, including biting you.

When your help arrives, give them leather gloves to protect their hands and YOUR dog while you lift the trap. If your dog bites someone and they require medical attention, your dog may have to go into quarantine. Don’t put him through this stress – he is already dealing with enough! If the dog is a foster dog, he may lose all chances for adoption if he bites someone; and he may lose his life. Don’t take this chance! You can avoid a bite that breaks skin by wearing gloves.

Take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible! Many lost dogs will have internal parasites (worms) and ticks. They may have been exposed to tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease or Ehrlichiosis and your vet may recommend putting them on a course of antibiotics as a preventative measure. Also, your dog may be  dehydrated. Your vet will give you good advice on how to rehabilitate him and get him back on a regular schedule of food and water.

If there is an animal other than your dog in the the trap, don’t despair! This is very common and has absolutely no bearing on whether you will trap your dog. Again, with your gloves on, unlatch the door and pull it open. Slip a bungee on it to prop it open and walk away. Go sit in your car and drink your coffee or check your emails. When you come back, whatever was in the trap will be gone. You will have to clean out the trap and refresh everything. Also, give it a light coating of Pam. This will block the scent of the animal and make it more enticing to your dog.

If you have caught your dog, congratulations! You have worked hard to successfully capture a shy, lost dog and we now ask that you pay it forward and share what you have learned with others that are going through this frustrating process. If you have not caught your dog, stay tuned, because in the next set of articles we will cover what can go wrong and recommendations that may help.

Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from over thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.

Finding Finn, an Interview With Susan Hennis

On March 31, 2012 Finn, a two-year-old Brittany, escaped from a vehicle in a parking lot in Joliet while being transported to a foster home in Canada by the group National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN). Finn quickly became somewhat of a celebrity as hundreds of volunteers across several counties in Illinois followed his story and eventually assisted in his rescue. After two-and-a half months on on the loose, they captured him in a trap set at the home of a woman in Romeoville who had been feeding him.

NBRAN Coordinators Cathy and Susan, both of whom have been fostering for about 11 years, created a Facebook book page dedicated to his rescue and heavily utilized Lost Dogs Illinois’ tips and networks to eventually bring him to safety. They had a stealth plan of setting up cameras and relying on sightings across several towns. Volunteers were told not to call or chase him and instead call them with tips and photos. They set up video cameras which helped them track his feeding and traveling patterns.

I caught up with Susan Hennis to talk about her journey finding Finn.

Was it hard to resist the urge to call for him or chase him?

It was extremely difficult not to call and chase Finn — in fact, we did at the beginning. We were calling him all the time and trying to find him. It was at the advice of Lost Dogs that we stopped trying to call him as well as encouraging others to not call him and chase him.

How did it feel when you saw videos and photos of him while he was lost?

It was so amazing to see photos and video of Finn while he was lost. The first actual photograph was from a Forest Preserve Officer in the middle of May- we had sent them a flyer probably a month or more before that time and he had kept it. He called me right after he saw Finn and had taken a few photos with his phone.  It was reassuring to see that 1) it was him and 2) he looked okay. Anytime you rely on sightings you have to hope that the people are truly seeing the dog you are looking for. The video was shot shortly before he was caught and it was also so appreciated…it was crazy to see him looking so confident and on his mission. And to see that he moved like we remembered and it was really Finn that was in that area.

How does it feel knowing so many community members, most of them strangers, I assume, helped in the rescue?

It was very touching and also crazy that so many community members- in multiple communities- got involved with “Help Find Finn.” It started from the very beginning…Finn got loose on a Saturday and a woman (who heard about Finn through a few other people) emailed me to ask if it was okay if she went to look for Finn. Finn got loose in Joliet- I live in Normal and the other coordinator lives in Earlville. I was so completely thankful that a stranger who did not know Finn, me or NBRAN was willing to spend time looking for Finn. That woman looked for him four times that week…she hung flyers, searched and left dog food. As we went from community to community we met so many more wonderful people who offered to help. People hung signs, told their neighbors, called newspapers, arranged radio interviews, actively searched, ran out at the drop of a hat when we got a sighting. I was continually amazed that we were so blessed to have so many people interested in Finn’s story and willing to help.

How quickly did you get over 400 likes on the “Help Find Finn” Facebook page?

We got likes on our FaceBook page a number of ways…initially it was really word of mouth. As more signs and flyers were hung and newspaper articles were written people became really interested in Finn’s story. He spent a considerable amount of time in Channahon and Minooka and then a long time in Romeoville and I think we really gained a lot of likes during that time…but there were also others that were “Finn Fans” that lived a distance away.

What kind of support did you get from Lost Dogs IL fans on our page? How did having Lost Dogs IL as a resource help you feel supported?

We received a lot of wonderful support from Lost Dogs of IL.  As I  mentioned, we really knew very little about finding and catching a lost dog…in addition, Finn was a different story since he was a rescue dog lost on a transport — he didn’t know where “home” was.  LDI gave us a lot of welcome advice from the very beginning. They provided advice on how to get the word out, how to post signs, how to use a live trap, how to get a dog used to an area…LDI also kept us hopeful when we were down by being extremely supportive. It was hard when we wouldn’t get sightings for a while and LDI would give us stories of other dogs found after a long time. LDI also really stressed that most dogs won’t starve to death, die in a storm or get attacked by an animal…most dogs get hurt when pursued (running into traffic etc.).  I don’t think we would have gotten Finn back without the advice of LDI.

Have you thought of any steps to prevent a dog from running away that you can share with other dog owners?

Cathy and I have both talked about making sure all dogs on a transport have two very snug collars that are linked to separate leashes. We have also obtained large tags with phone numbers and “rescue dogs” on them. If we learned anything from this is that ANY dog could run — Finn was not a runner and was a “model” foster dog. After being found he quickly adapted to being in the home and is as adjusted as any dog. What I would share is never assume your dog won’t run. Treat all of your dogs as potential flight risks and take all opportunities to keep them safe. Aside from teaching them commands, make sure anyone in your home is aware of the dogs and not opening doors around them or giving them the opportunity to escape.