2018-03-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your St. Bernard puppy is?” Not if she jumps out your Jeep window as you are driving on the Seaford/Oyster Bay Expressway. The great escape: This is how Nancy’s nightmare began the evening of March 16 when she was bringing three of her St. Bernards to PA to drop off at their godmother’s so she could continue to Virginia in time for her sister’s brain surgery. Her sister suffers from multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia.

Carbon dioxide from multi-mammals steamed up the windshield. “I usually keep my windows locked because I am afraid this exact thing would happen. The windows started the trip locked but I unlocked them when dog breath started fogging up the windows so I could give them about two inches of an opening. I was so stressed to get there that I forgot to relock the windows. When I realized the window was open, I tried to get it up, but my puppy Echo jumped on the switch and forced the window down as I fumbled with the button,” Nancy said.

Echo the St. Bernard puppy is reunited with her owners. Echo the St. Bernard puppy is reunited with her owners. Driving at 55 mph, Nancy and her husband Bob weren’t sure exactly where Echo made her exit. They surmised it was somewhere near Exits 9-10 on Rte. 135 South, between Northern State and Powell Avenue in Bethpage. Echo is 10 months old and 100 pounds, but it was dark and they didn’t have a flashlight. (Bob went home to Smithtown to get one.) Echo was wearing her collar and “easy walk” harness with a rhinestone leather leash attached.

Nancy called the police who helped them look, and then warned they’d get a ticket if they stayed on the highway. Nancy’s second call was to the dogs’ godmother in PA-Jennifer from Saving the Saints- NE & Beyond. Jennifer and her husband took over the internet campaign, manned the computer search and made the online flyer that went viral.

After her rescue Echo tells her sister Willow about her escapade on Rte. 135. After her rescue Echo tells her sister Willow about her escapade on Rte. 135. By Saturday morning the online flyer and subsequent “Missing St. Bernard-ECHO” Facebook page attracted a team of wonderful helpers including experienced lost dog volunteers like flyer expert Debbie from Team Vivi (Westminster Whippet lost by Delta Airlines in 2007) and trapper extraordinaire Eddie the Dog Man. Echo’s vet and trainer searched too. About 15 people made copies and hung flyers while at least 50 were searching the surrounding area. There were no sightings on St. Patrick’s Day which was disconcerting.

Rescue resumé: Let’s leave the search a moment to detail Nancy’s rescue background. She’s been doing every aspect of St. Bernard rescue since 1979. Her current Saints include Echo and her sister Willow, puppies born from parents seized in a cruelty case; Vinnie surrendered to the Brooklyn shelter and Lollipop, now 10 years old. Her Seattle mom rolled over on her as a puppy and broke her leg, leaving her permanently disabled. Amputations are not viable options on huge breeds.

Nancy was rescue director at the Brooklyn shelter years ago. She’s well versed in triage needed to save pets when intake is constant, and recalls filming a TV program after 9/11 because the shelter took in a cat and her kittens rescued from a restaurant near Ground Zero. “This cat family is safe. We have a hundred people who want them. Please adopt another homeless cat in their honor,” she said when interviewed for Animal Planet.

Back to the search for a saint: Echo and Willow are littermates but Echo is the free spirit. Both have STAR Puppy certificates and are working on their CGC (Canine Good Citizen title). With clicker training, Willow is learning to play a toy piano with her nose; while Echo is less interested in the clicker and is going through a “bark back” stage. Doubt if we’ll see Echo at Juilliard.

On Saturday, Jennifer and Nancy had a conference call with a psychic in Maryland who “heard” certain details which came to fruition. She said at the time Echo was fine, described nearby landmarks, said Echo was lying down as if she was sunbathing and that 4 p.m. on Sunday would be significant.

Sunday afternoon Bobby, a retired 9/11 fireman, drove along Rte. 135 on the lookout. His wife sighted a dog that-yes- looked as if she was sunbathing in a ravine just north of Exit 8. Bobby went to investigate, and saw the pup had gone through a hole in a cyclone fence.

“Bobby grabbed the dragging leash and, in total fear, she bit him badly in the hand. He, nevertheless, refused to let go, as he was willing to experience personal injury to save this puppy! The rest of the group, including my husband, came. My husband was nipped because she was so worked up and terrified. But she quickly calmed down, licked him and started friendly, vigorous wagging, “Nancy recounted.

Eddie was able to secure Echo with a grab pole and put her in his truck. Muddy, yet unharmed, Echo arrived in the family’s driveway at 3:58 p.m. (the psychic was close) for a grand, face-washing reunion with her mom Nancy.

Lessons learned: Nancy is overwhelmed by the response by complete strangers and the positive energy generated by social media. One post had 11,000 shares. She wishes she could thank each person and realizes there were many people looking for her dog who didn’t identify themselves online. She remarked she’s a transplanted Virginian living on LI for 21 years. This Echo experience made her feel more “at home” here than ever before.

Of course, the important safety lesson when driving dogs (and kids) is door and window locks should always be on. Animal rescue situations on social media attract “armchair critics.” Ironically, on one page dedicated to prayer, posters were extremely judgmental. They wrote Nancy did this on purpose, was a moron and didn’t deserve to get her dog back.

Truth is you don’t have to be a bad pet owner for something to go wrong -- deadly wrong. Landscapers leave gates open; pampered dogs disappear. Years ago Bill Clinton’s Lab Buddy was killed by a car as was the Nassau County bomb dog when he took off after a squirrel in Eisenhower Park.

Nancy feels truly blessed. She believes she must embrace gratitude. Not only was Echo recovered and safe because of the intervention of many caring people, but her dog was found in time so she could catch a 5 a.m. flight Monday toVirginiato be there for her sister’s surgery.

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