Sam’s Big Adventure
(From Olga & Steve)
I would like to say thank to everyone helping us to find Sam and recount ordeal of 84 hours (most of which were in sub-zero) of getting him home safe.
Sam slipped his collar and bolted off at 11pm on Friday. He is adult greyhound that was recently adopted (less than 2 weeks) from Greyhound Rescue Wales and is ex racing dog. He was a kennel dog all his life and many simple things that surround us everyday were something he never seen or experienced. Sam is also very timid and uneasy in male presence. So when he bolted off in below zero temperature late at night in area he is not familiar with while he doesn’t even respond to his name and capable of running at 40 miles per hour, we knew our chances of finding him safe are very slim.
The surrounding, he was lost in, were really against us. Tiny village in rural West Wales surrounded by farms, fields, ditches and woodland with endless pathways and lanes in between.
The first thing we did when Sam bolted off is what no one should do if they are in similar circumstances. We frantically drove and walked calling his name for hours! We now know better: after short run dog will stop and he will be as frightened as you are if not more. With Sam background circumstances, when dog doesn’t know surroundings, didn’t ever have life experience of stray dog and didn’t have much off-leash outside of enclosed space, most often than not dog will stay close by where he is lost as that is the only thing that is familiar to him.
By calling his name in panic while logically knowing even if he hears me he won’t come forward, we were wasting precious time. By frantically driving around with bright lights on, we were scaring him even more, when more likely he was hiding in shadows close by and being scared to come forward. If you ever in such circumstances stay calm; if you have anything with infrared night vision that is the best (if you don’t, start thinking how you can get hold of one straight away); if night vision isn’t possible use torch but with red or green filter as bright light will scare them off. If you don’t have filters for torch, simple coloured transparent sweet wrapper tapped over light will achieve same effect. We learned those little things through last few days but if we had that knowledge prior, Sam would have been home safe way sooner.
From that night unfolded ordeal of 84 hours search through days and nights with temperatures dropping to -6 ° C.
Early on we sought help of DogLost Wales and Greyhound Rescue Wales. I would never be able to put into words the extends Lily Trueman, Abbie Conway and rest of both teams gone to support and advice us, engage right people with expertise and access to the equipment of finding lost dogs. They are amazing, they are the best. Please support them, please donate to them, without them Sam unlikely would have returned home safe.
On Sunday night fallen snow. On one hand it helped us to track Sam as we started to search for and follow footprints tracks on another hand weather conditions became more brutal, access by car become limited and chances for Sam’s survival started to significantly decline. We were pursuing two plausible options to find Sam: making everyone aware Sam is lost and specifically locally to the area that if anyone comes across him, they report sighting of him allowing us to narrow down what area to search in and keep searching around place he was lost in the hope Sam stayed close by.
I won’t bore you with all the details and struggles, lack of sleep, exhaustion, countless miles and tracks, falls, injuries and glass like sharp ice but I tell you how we found him. We were following last known confirmed sighting. We found prints across field leading into bridle path. Snow mostly melted on path and prints we were finding were too few and too undefined to be sure about anything but we carried on as at that point we had almost nothing to go on. One side of the path was fenced with thick woodland behind it and on another side was overgrown hedgerow with 3ft barbed wire fencing running through it on 5ft raised steep bank. We could see end of the path… Once again dead end, time to turn around and to try find new lead, when our eyes caught perfect circle with distinctive shine in between hedgerow on the top of the bank. It was surreal moment of staring at a hedge while our brains distinguish hidden greyhound silhouette, almost like one of those find-a-picture-in-a-picture tests many post on Facebook. Camouflage coat was hiding him well but there he was, our Sam alive and within reaching distance. A blue anodised dog tag was catching sun and giving extraordinary for the surroundings gleam.
I have never used before anodised dog tags, just basic silver tags and if Sam was wearing one of those (which I ordered but it didnt arrive before ordeal), we wouldn’t have spotted him as we were just about to turn around.
In normal circumstances most of us don’t pay attention to such tiny detail is tag anodised or not but for us it was everything, we found him, we found our Sam!
Before we could even grasp Sam is alive, he jumped over barbed wire through hedge and there he was in 10 acres field ready to take off at incredible speed while we stood there in dismay. It was like watching in slow motion gazelle slotting, from still position that is not just close to hedgerow but entangled in hedgerow Sam slotted so effortlessly through small opening between branches over barbed wire. Throughout our search we endlessly questioned would greyhounds jump over or crawl through hedges, fences and all sorts of other obstacles as that would help us define perimeter were to search for Sam. Don’t know about crawling but jumping for sure! What we learned from experts in our search that greyhound would choose an easy route and in our circumstances where there was big network of entangled roads and paths with either hedging, fencing or woodland on both sides of them, Sam should have stayed on those roads and paths trying to find easy access to shelter. And we believe it was a case with Sam till there were circumstances when he felt threatened. Not only he was jumping through hurdles (and not just the one we witnessed but the ones he had to overcome to get to that bridle path in first place), he jumped through small opening between branches, he managed somehow to get on that steep almost vertical raised bank (I had a job of getting on it as it was like 5ft at 80°) and we know he was seen running through ford which is at least one foot deep. Conclusion we came through our experience is that greyhounds would choose easy path till they are presented with unexpected circumstances which could prompt them to do extraordinary things!
Another interesting tip we learned and believe everyone who has ex-racing dog should know is that when they are on a run and facing junction, in most cases they will take left turn as on a racing track.
On Sunday someone called me (Gill Reynolds) giving advice on what we could try or what we should be aware of. Apologies I haven’t written your name at a time but you was so right! You told me that when we find Sam get down to the ground and make myself smaller than him, talk calmly to him and with treats try to lure him to come closer and also be prepared to stay on the ground for several hours if required. Gill,thank you so much! I followed your advice and Sam came to me. When he jumped over other side of hedgerow I started gently call his name and phrases such as ‘Good Boy’ I use to tell him in short time he was with us. Sam recognised my voice. He was moving back and forth on another side of hedge. We dropped to the ground and slowly I got closer and closer to bank and hedge while talking to Sam. I managed get over hedge (that was an experience in its own) and sat on the ground. Sam was hoovering around me from the distance of 15-20m at first. Ground was soaking and I got wet straight away but I kept talking and started throwing towards Sam dog biscuits I carried in the pocket in case we find him. He was getting closer and closer but still prepared to bolt at any wrong movement. I was out of biscuits and Sam was still keeping distance of 1-3m. Better half managed to throw me can of wet dog food without spooking Sam. Sam was hungry, he wanted food but he was not prepared to come too close, even for food. He was constantly keeping eye on better half behind hedgerow. Although Steve was several meters away, down on the ground in what seemed like a very deep ditch from field on raised bank, behind bushes and trees, any movement Steve did made Sam to retreat. I was running out of dog food once again. We decided Steve would go home pick up more food, water bowl, Sam’s favourite blanket and Pixy (our springer spaniel that may encourage Sam to come closer). Couple of minutes after Steve left, Sam stepped closer to me enough to get hold of him. Another lesson: if dog is uneasy in male presence, male presence won’t help to convince scared dog he is safe.
When Sam was lost he was wearing renown camouflage fleece coat. This coat as many others made and donated to Greyhound Rescue Wales by Jacky Embury. As greyhounds susceptible to cold weather, sub zero temperatures over last few days were causing doubt Sam has any chance for survival. Sam’s coat is made of two layers of thick fleece and is one of reasons in our opinion Sam survived. Air trapped between two layers of fleece was acting as a barrier to body heat loss. When we finally found Sam he was dry under fleece! Top layer of coat was completely soaked through (as it was drizzling sleet on Tuesday morning), lower layer had some wet patches forming but mostly dry. If Sam wasn’t found that morning and temperature dropped again sub zero, his coat would have frozen and outcome of getting Sam home safe would probably have been different.
The whole experience is somehow surreal, all of us still recovering from it.
I would like to say big thank you to Lily Trueman, Abbie Conway, Hayley, Wendy De Sant-Williams, Wilma Rose, Nicola Jones, Alison,
Gill Reynolds, Magdalena Gryczmanska, Hector’s Greyhound Rescue, Greyhound Rescue Wales Supporters, MISSING DOGS TEAM WALES, local farming community, all those who reported sightings and everyone who gave us advice, supported us through this time and shared our posts. We will be grateful forever xxx
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Olga & Steve
You can find Sam’s DogLost timeline here: