Monday, February 21, 2011

Mazi's Story

This is Mazi. If Mazi were brought into a shelter I would like to be a fly on the wall to hear the reaction from the staff, the volunteers and any public that happened to be there.

My guess is that it might sound something like this:

"OMG- How could somebody do that? How could somebody treat a dog like that." "If I knew who did that I would kill the SOB with my bare hands." "People are horrible. People don't deserve animals. They should never be allowed a pet again."

But that is not Mazi's story. Mazi is a boxer that was lost for eight days in frigid temperatures in northern Wisconsin. She escaped her yard and headed off down a snowmobile trail. There were no sightings for the entire time. She was found by a neighbor lying in the woods, very thin with abraded hocks. She spent several nights at both the emergency vet and the regular vet.

(On a side note - we are finding that some dogs have better "survival" skills than others; some lost dogs do well scavenging and living out for weeks, months and even years on their own.)

Here are some excerpts from notes that Mazi's owner posted on our Lost Dogs of Wisconsin Facebook page. The owner took all of our advice, flyering, signs, leaving food and bed outside, everything. It was heartbreaking to hear the despair in her tone as the days passed.

"Our boxer, Mazi, is still missing! If you have seen her or found her, please call day or night!"

"it's so hard to concentrate on school when i keep on thinking about my baby girl somewhere out there...."

"if you have a pet, be sure to hug them extra tight because you don't know just HOW much they mean to you until they are gone... "

"Our brown boxer, Mazi, is still missing. PLEASE keep your eyes open for her and check out your surroundings just in case she could be nearby you. She has a black rhinestone and studded collar. Call  day or night, with any information. We are heartbroken and miss her dearly..."

"does anybody or do you know anybody that has one of those hunting motion detector camera things? if you do, i would very much appreciate it if i could borrow it. there is a possibility that mazi came to the house during the night last night, but the only way to be sure is it we caught her on camera. i will pay you. please let me know!!"

Mazi is safe and warm at home now, recovering from her ordeal. I always like to debrief in my brain after each case and think about the lessons learned. I look at the pictures and realize how easy it would be for somebody to make false assumptions about her condition or care.

She could have been picked up by a stranger, taken to a shelter and assumed to be a neglected,  dumped  or abused dog, with hateful thoughts aimed towards the owner before all the facts were known. Very little effort might have been made to reunite her if Mazi had ended up in a shelter outside of her jurisdiction.

I was speaking with a board member of a northern Wisconsin shelter one day - telling her about our mission at Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and asking if they posted pictures of their lost pets online. She said "No - they didn't need to. Everybody in their county knew where to come and look for their pet. Besides they didn't have many lost dogs. They only had dumped dogs. Those were her exact words.  "We don't have lost dogs. We only have dumped dogs."  I guess I should move to that county and my job would be done.

I said "That's funny, because we have three lost dogs from your county posted on our Facebook page right now with owners that are desperately looking for them."  When she stuttered and stammered I continued -   "Did you ever think that maybe dogs walk across the county line and end up in a different shelter? And what about posting those pictures for the convenience of the people that work two jobs, or don't have a car, or the single moms that have difficulty getting to the shelter during viewing hours."

As the steam was coming out of my ears, I realized - we've come so far, but we still have a long way to go. Here was a seemingly intelligent board member of a respectable shelter without a clue that strays are lost pets. Or that the pets are sometimes not recovered in a day or two, and that coming to a shelter every day becomes an incredibly time-consuming, financial drain (not to mention a big waste of gas!).

Besides, we would much rather that the lost dog owner spend their valuable free time flyering and generating sightings rather than driving to and from the shelter. If there is the hint of a possible match from the on line photos - then a trip to the shelter would, of course, be required.

So, please remember Mazi's story and when you see a skinny, unkempt  dog ask first - "Is this a lost pet?" Don't just assume it is an abused, dumped dog.

Also, please ask your local shelter to post the pictures of lost pets on their website. Remind them that this is now the law in Delaware because it has been proven to save lives. Animal control is YOUR tax money and/or privately funded animal shelters are run with YOUR donations.

Shelter directors - please make sure your board members are staying educated on progressive, lifesaving methods of animal welfare. They should be part of the solution, instead of  part of  the problem.  They should be more than fund-raising, do-gooders in the community wanting a feather in their cap.

Welcome home, Mazi! Your family really, really loves you.

Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom. ~Merry Browne


  1. Great article and great work! Thank you for all you do!

  2. Thank you!

    Something very much like your scenarios happened to me. I lived in Denver, and my dog went missing while I was inside getting his dinner ready. (He ate outside so the cats wouldn't bother him.)

    I papered the area with flyers, I went door to door asking if anyone had seen him, I followed leads (some people had seen him and another dog out walking around exploring together--turns out another loose dog had come to the yard and somehow managed to get through the fence.) I called and visited all the local shelters. Finally, a telephone lineman saw one of my flyers and called me and said that he'd seen my dog picked up by animal control a couple of blocks away and had asked some questions. For some reason I cannot fathom, they'd transported my dog past several local shelters to a neighboring city.

    I called and asked them if they had my dog (he was a very big, very distinct looking greyhound), and nobody would even talk to me.

    So I, a single mother with two jobs, packed up my son and drove about twenty miles to find him. Happily, he was there and overjoyed to see us. Unhappily, they wouldn't even let me take him because they said they needed some proof of ownership, which they hadn't mentioned on the phone. I had to drive back home, under threat of them closing for the night, find some proof that he was my dog, and drive back. That was sixty miles on my fifteen year old car, with my tired, hungry, worried child.

    And here's the kicker: He had our phone number on his tags. They told me they didn't call because his rabies tag was expired. (My bad, his shots were up to date, but I'd forgotten to replace the tag.) They didn't even bother to call, even with our number right there.

    And, if it weren't for that lineman, a dog lover who went out of his way to ask questions, I probably never would have found my dog.

    It's also worth noting that my dog was rescued from an actual abusive situation. He was always a little frightened and slow to trust people, and I still sometimes get worked up thinking of him in that little concrete cell, separated from the only family he'd ever known. I can't even imagine what he must have felt after we found him and then had to leave again to go home and look for 'proof.'

    Denouement: The rest of his life was, happily, relatively uneventful. He lived a very long, secure, happy life (he was almost 17 years old when he died), relatively free from traumatic events.

  3. Amazing article, and very true. As human beings, sometimes we are so quick to jump to the worst conclusion.

    This has definitely been bookmarked as a favorite.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. It made me cry - both for the injury of Mazi, but also for the re-unification of the family.

  5. Great story, and good to open the public eye on other possibilities and not to be quick to judge. I'm at fault for that, as my love for animals don't allow me to see beyond "what if possibilities" and to conceive other notions of the true facts. Thanks for sharing such great story!

  6. I managed the "lost animal" list at a shelter as a volunteer for about a year, and was always amazed at owners who refused to microchip their pets. The most frequent excuse I heard was, "But Buffy/Duke/Queenie never gets out on his/her own." But pets go missing all the time. If you love your pet, microchip it and get it an ID tag with a phone number. It's your best chance to get your pet back quickly and safely.

  7. Oh, this really hit home for me. My champion American Foxhound girl was missing for eight days in downtown Dayton OH at the end of November, 2008. Her name is Macy. Even though she is a hunting breed, she was absolutely emaciated when we got her back. Congratulations to Mazi and her family . . . I know both the agony you felt and the elation your are feeling now. If you're interested in Macy's story, it is here:

  8. Anima1s can turn up a 1ong way from where they are 1ost. Last year, someone from Ba1timore contacted our group because a cat on our website 1ooked 1ike one he had 1ost when he was 1iving in Howard County the previous year. This cat had showed up at my fera1 co1ony in DC. She's a 1ong-haired ca1ico, quite distinctive 1ooking, and when I took her up to visit the person who contacted us, she acted 1ike she knew him. He said a former neighbor had turned her in to the county she1ter, but she had been adopted out by the time he cou1d get to the she1ter. Perhaps the adopter had moved to DC and the cat had gotten away...I did report her to DC Anima1 Management, but no one c1aimed her. The poor kitty apparent1y broke a 1eg somewhere in her trave1s; she had a crooked hind 1eg that had not been 1ike that when she had 1ived with the origina1 owner.

  9. My German Shepherd became emaciated due to thyroid cancer, despite being fed double the recommended food amount (double was all he could handle). Therefore, I ask people not to judge so quickly. Even though thyroid cancer (the kind that excretes thyroid hormone) is very rare in dogs, it CAN happen, so it might not be what you think.

  10. Yes, I'm crying too. I have rescued many dogs, just because I care. I once walked a mile into the woods with my own dog because I had heard non-stop barking for hours. A dog had a long chain wrapped around trees and was stuck. I had to take him somewhere since i could find no one to contact from his tags. Turns out he got away from a dog sitter and the dog was from a far away area. The dog sitter found me a week later with a thank you. Another time I stopped at the roadside and found a huge black dog hit and killed. Luckily his tag was easily visible. I called and found the owner who sadly arrived while I waited. I hugged a stranger in the middle of the highway. The next day there was a blizzard with snow cover for the rest of the winter. I couldn't imagine the agony of not knowing. Great story, great work and I will watch for any dogs in my area. Thank you.

    1. God Bless you for being willing to stop and check the guy by the road and to go look for the guy in the woods. My Ike was missing 32 days when someone called and said they thought they saw him in a trap. It was a kill trap (a conibear)so he didn't lay there suffering - but the trapper broke the law by not checking his traps or having them tagged for ownership.

      I now have closure and have been able to give Ike a respectful burial. To me that is as important as returning the remains of a MIA soldier to his family for closure and burial.

      Our pets are family and not knowing is agony. We still have our Starskey out there somewhere and no idea if he is alive or dead or rescued or taken in or what. He has been missing since December of 2010.

  11. It is sad that people judge so quickly. I might add that some dogs have trouble keeping weight on. Look at the total picture. A dog owner who is out several times a day with an active dog with a shiny coat who obviously adores her owner but is extremely thin is not the dog you need to call SPCA about. Her owner is probably more worried about her weight than you are. (Happened to my brother. SPCA finally told the neighbor to mind her own darn business!)