Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tale of The Big Yellow Elephant (Or Not)

I've had a few requests to share some of our Lost Dogs of Wisconsin stories. This new group aims to reduce shelter intake by keeping lost dogs out of shelters and reuniting them with their owners. We are growing by leaps and bounds with many success stories, some sad endings and a whole new appreciation for the intelligence and survival skills of Canis lupus familiaris.
Jasper. missing since February 28, 2010
If you see her please call 414-759-9730
I learned a valuable lesson last week on one of my jaunts to Saukville to look for the ever elusive Jasper, the 13 year old Carolina dog that has been missing since late February. There have been several sightings recently and I was scouting out a Saukville neigbourhood looking for access to a wooded area that skirts the railroad tracks that we think she has been travelling on.

I stopped to talk to an older couple doing yardwork - showed them Jasper's flyer and asked if they had seen her. The man said "No, he hadn't but the funny thing was - his daughter who lives in Port Washington about 5 miles away had thought she had seen her about 3 weeks previously in a park which runs close to the bike trails near her home". The wife then chimed in - "You know, the park with the big yellow elephant?" I nodded my head, stored this information for later and proceeded on my way. My focus was on the "latest" sighting which had been just last week and I really wanted to determine which way Jasper had gone on that day.

Well, after all my Saukville leads had fizzled for the day, and I needed a coffee break anyways, I grabbed a McD's drivethru and headed for Port Washington, thinking this would be a quick, easy lead to check out. Frustration set in quickly. I had been to Port Washington a couple of times previously, but it was much bigger than I remembered, I had "assumed" that this park would be easy to find - a downtown park, near the bike trails with a massive yellow elephant. How hard could it be? After 20 minutes of driving around with nothing - I swallowed my pride and asked a man in his yard. He scratched his head and said "Maybe by the lakefront?" Back in my car and 10 minutes later - No go. It was a big orange fish. But two ladies there sent me to Possibility Playground - another deadend. No elephants or fish. Bike trails yes.

Several false leads, puzzled looks, outright denials of yellow elephants, and now I'm out of coffee. I was seriously starting to doubt my abilities to find a lost dog. If I couldn't find a yellow elephant that was standing still, how could I find a moving dog? I was just about to make flyers to generate sightings when I got a tip which took me to the other end of town and another junction of the bike trails. No elephant. But a lady mowing her lawn - smiled and said -  "I know exactly what you mean. It's a dumpy little park about two blocks away as the crow flies" and  she steered me right to it.

So here is the picture of the big yellow elephant.

Well, the whole thing washed out - the dog was probably a neighborhood dog that looks just like Jasper, but I realized that I made several mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.

1) The man's wife and myself's perceptions of "big yellow elephants" are very different. Just as people's perceptions of dogs are different. What is big to one person is small to another.

2) I trusted my memory of Port Washington thinking it was a small town of about 1500 when in fact it is a small city of about 10,000. This assumption cost me valuable time and energy.

3) I didn't get detailed information about the sighting - also wasting time and energy.

4) I had assumed that the bike trails were the first ones that I came across when in fact the bike trails cross Port Washington in more than one location. I didn't take the time to have a good look at my map before I set out.

Just some things to remember - things are not always as they appear and I made some major mistakes. If that elephant were a dog he would have been long gone by the time I got there!

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