The phone went quiet again but late on day 11 and early on day 12 there were two sightings close to each other in an area that made sense. The day 11 sighting sounded very reliable and upon checking it with Eibe it was very easy to confirm. When Eibe crossed the exact spot the dog was reportedly seen the night before she whipped her head and took off like a rocket. With that sighting confirmed I directed Penny’s family to concentrate their search and public notification efforts in that area, which paid off with two more sightings on day 14 and 15 less than ½ mile away.
The day 14 sighting witness called in right away, and my wife and I were on site within 45 minutes. We actually saw Penny along the side of the road on the way there. My wife got out of the car and followed her and got within 15 feet of Penny but then she just took off. After Penny ran off I put Eibe down on the trail just 10 minutes behind her. But two hours later after 3 ½ miles of tracking in the pouring rain without ever seeing her again it was obvious we were not going to run her down.
The next day, on day 18, I went out and confirmed the previous evening’s sighting. This was a really good sighting with very reliable witnesses. Penny was seen casually walking up a grass strip along a school football field she wandered into. The witness was aware of the missing dog from a Facebook posting and the Neon Posters we had blanketed the area with. As the witness was slowly approaching the dog, it wandered into a neighbors unfenced yard. The neighbor really hates dogs, and he came out and angrily chased the dog. Penny ran up an alley and into a college campus. I mention all this because the accurate information about the dog’s course and behavior allowed me to confirm for myself my tracking dog’s actions. As I worked Eibe to confirm the sighting, it was crystal clear that my suspicion that scenting on these lost dogs changes according to their emotional state was correct. When Eibe engaged the line where Penny was casually walking the night before, Eibe began tracking at a normal speed but when she hit the place where the dog was chased by the neighbor, she became excited and much more animated. I thought I was seeing this in the previous tracks where she crossed busy streets and likely was chased but this confirmed it.Penny was spotted again the next day about 200 yards from where my wife originally saw her so at that point I set up a feeding station in the area with a game camera in hopes of eventually trapping her in a live trap. Unfortunately, she left the area after that and the next place she was spotted was two days later on day 17, 2 ½ miles away on the other side of town just before dark.
I first learned of a tracking dogs ability to interpret its quarry’s emotions and physical state while accompanying professional blood trackers in Germany several years ago. My dog Eibe began to develop this ability this past fall in her 4th season tracking wounded deer. There were some deer that we tracked that she began to realize were not gettable due to the minimal nature of their wounds and I believe the nature of their stress levels as we pursued them. The deer being minimally wounded could easily stay in front of us and Eibe would notice this lack of fear scent and actually stop pursuing them. From previous experience she could tell that they were not injured enough for us to catch up to. Now I was seeing this same behavior in tracking lost dogs.
With the day 17 sighting so reliable and confirmed I directed the family to re-center their efforts in that area and after hours of searching and re-searching the neighborhood the next day, the owner’s son spotted Penny on the last pass of the day. He chased her several blocks but this time she went to ground under a porch in a crawl space instead of just keeping on running. Most likely tired and getting run down from 19 days on the lamb. He got bit by the now 4 ½ lb. Chihuahua when he crawled in and tried to grab her but he eventually scooped her up in his coat and the saga was over.
Final map of the Penny case. Red flags are neon posters. Green flags are sightings. Yellow dotted lines are places we tracked Penny or confirmed sightings. As you can see there is a lot more to tracking lost pets than tracking wounded deer, but if you are a tracking addict like I am I highly recommend you give it a try. The satisfaction you get will equal that which you get in the deer woods and the joy of the reunited dog owners is unsurpassed.
A week after Penny was back home I was invited to a welcome home party for family and friends who assisted in Penny’s recovery. When tracking deer for hunters I have been invited back to do some hunting but I have never before been invited to a party where the dogs wore hats!