SIDNEY — Community members avidly followed a stray German Shepherd as it wandered around Sidney, eluding capture, for months. Social media posts and comments abounded as residents reported spotting the dog, and expressed concern for its well-being, particularly through the recent harsh winter storm.
“We were made aware that that dog was on the loose in the first week in December 2021,” said Rachel Minniear, director of the Shelby County Ohio Humane Society. “People were sending in tips where they had spotted the dog, and we started tracking him early on. He had found a dead deer and ate that for about two weeks. Eventually when the dead deer was no longer a food source for him, because it was taken away, he eventually wandered into a neighborhood. There he found shelter in a vacant house. The area was calm and quiet, and a security light on the house turned on every night around 5 p.m., so he could see anyone trying to approach him, and if they did, he would run.”
Essentially the animal was surviving on scavenged food and sleeping in an unheated, abandoned area it used as shelter during the unseasonably warm December nights.
Minniear tried to trap the dog, but he was smart enough to recognize it was a trap and not go into it even though it contained food. She also tried approach him to lure him close enough to catch him with a slip lead or catch pole, but that did not work either — he never came within more than five feet.
“He would just bolt and run. And when he’d run, he was like a ghost. You’d see him, but then he’d be gone. He was physically just that quick,” Minniear said.
As the winter weather began to get colder, the dog’s situation became more precarious. That’s when Minniear began collaborating and sharing information with Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye about the dog, as well as with the Shelby County Animal Shelter.
Overall, the German Shepherd is a breed of dog known for its intelligence.
“These very intelligent dogs are often used in law enforcement and narcotics because they are easily trainable,” said Deputy Kelli Ward, dog warden at the Shelby County Animal Shelter. “This was a smart dog and stayed in the area because it was near a water source, there were over five different Sidney residents feeding it, and it found shelter in several different spots.”
Numerous people in the community called the animal shelter “to report that the dog had gotten loose and was running, and they weren’t able to catch it,” Ward said.
During in the attempted capture and rescue of this dog, social media acted like a double-edged sword. It helped the organizations keep tabs on his location, but the more people tried to approach him the more skittish he became. If they tried to approach him where he was bedding down for the night, it would force him to keep running and not rest.
“One comment on social media was to use hot dogs and antifreeze to catch him. That comment really stuck with me and bothered me, even if they were joking,” said Minniear.
Eventually the sheriff asked the public to stop feeding him, trying to catch him, and posting his location on social media. The best thing to do was to simply call the Animal Shelter or the Humane Society and report his location.
To make matters worse, the security light stopped working, so the dog moved to another location to spend its nights.
“It took us a good day or two to figure out where he was,” Minniear said. He had found a spot in an enclosed patio area of a local home.
Then the February winter storm blew through Sidney. The dog still had not been captured.
“We had eyes on him on Wednesday when the storm rolled in and it was raining,” said Minniear. “He had been running around trying to find food and shelter to stay dry. Once the snow started falling and all day Thursday, we only spotted him once or twice, and we don’t know where he hunkered down to ride out the storm.”
The German Shepherd had taken a liking to a female dog in heat, explained Minniear.
On the Saturday evening after the storm, the owner put her on a leash inside the doorway, and her feminine wiles lured the German Shepherd indoors. Once inside, he laid on the carpet in the warm home, and was finally secured.
At that point, the Shelby County Ohio Humane Society was contacted, and they filed a police report that the dog was captured and no longer on the run. A volunteer fostered the dog for the weekend.
On Monday, Ward arrived and took the dog to a veterinarian to get checked out.
“Despite being on the run for two months,” Minniear said, “he checked out fine.”
“Resilient,” is how Ward described the dog, after his return to his owner, who lives in another Ohio county.
When following up, Ward said, “The dog had decompressed. It was doing fine, recognized the owner, and acted as if nothing ever happened.”