As a former vet tech with eight years of experience, I have a rule about rescuing strays on the road. If they’re injured, sick, or in immediate danger, I stop. Simple as that. However, if an animal is free-ranging and wary of people, usually it won’t come to me--but sometimes I get lucky.
A few years ago, when my husband and I were returning from a weeklong camping trip in the Shenandoah Mountains, we found ourselves driving north on I-81 through Virginia. A light rain had been falling all morning, and the trucks were kicking up tails of mist along the roadway.
We were cresting a hill along a curved sweep of road when I saw a flash of black and white in the center median. It was a dog, clearly lost and confused by all the traffic. So we pulled over along the shoulder, and when I saw a break in traffic I grabbed the extra leash from our pit-mastiff-mix, Hammer, and ran across to the median.
Through the traffic noise I shouted, “Come here, buddy!” To my surprise, the dog—a mid-sized collie mix—bounded happily over to me. I checked him for an ID tag and he had one. His name, if you haven’t already guessed, was Buddy.
Once I got him back to the car, I gave him a quick once-over. He seemed in good shape physically—he was hydrated and at a healthy weight, and his pads weren’t sore or calloused from ranging. He had a sweet disposition and took to Hammer like they were best friends, so they shared the back seat.
While Buddy’s tag had a phone number, neither my husband nor I could get a signal. (Cellphone service wasn’t what it is today.) So we took the next exit off the interstate and drove into a small town, where we quickly found a general store with a phone. We called the number on Buddy’s tag, and a man answered. We told him we’d found Buddy on the highway and he thanked us. He explained that he’d recently moved Buddy to his farm in Virginia from his home in Delaware, and that sometimes Buddy ran off. The owner told us he wasn’t at the farm at the moment, but would be there soon—so we jotted down some directions and got back in the car.
The rain gave way to a cool overcast sky as we drove. Buddy and Hammer sat curled up in the back seat. When we got to the farm, Buddy perked up. So we knew we had the right place. The buildings and grounds were well kept, but nobody was home. We quickly located Buddy’s food and water bowls, as well as the tether he’d slipped to escape, tied to a tree. Using one of Hammer’s leashes, we rigged up a more secure system, re-filled the water bowl from the pump, and said our goodbyes to Buddy.
Three months later, during Christmas dinner, the phone rang. It was Buddy’s owner. He’d been going through his wallet and had found our phone number. He said he wanted to thank us for saving Buddy, who’d since grown accustomed to farm life and had stopped running off. It was the best present we could have received.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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