Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lucy and Gigi Say Thanks

Lucy and Gigi had a great Thanksgiving. Their friend, Charlie, the white Maltese, came to visit and they all had a wonderful time. The grownups got to visit with each other, and Jim did some mightly fine cooking. There was turkey, broccoli puree, stuffing with mushrooms, yellow pepper soup, cranberry chutney, and carrot and currant salad. Oh problem is that we are all stuffed, so we all have to exercise more. Gigi and Lucy got to play with Charlie, and even stayed with him when everyone went out. The girls were sad to say goodbye to Charlie yesterday, but they hope he will come back for a visit real soon. Charlie is very well trained and even went wee wee on his pee pee pad. No messes from Charlie.

The Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue will be at the annual Scottish festival next week in Alexandria. Lucy and Gigi are certainly looking forward to that.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gigi's Article Creates Nice Buzz

Neighbors and friends have written us very nice notes and comments about Gigi's Northwest Current article and she has been so happy to hear from them. Listen to what Gigi's friends and fans have been saying:

Mehret writes, "Wow! Thanks for sharing. Very nice article...I checked out the blog and loved it."

Suzanne chimed in from the beach, "Fantastic!"

Paula wrote, "What a nice news article!"

Mary from Pa. wrote, "What a great article--what an amazing story! I managed to print out both pages of the article and I am going to give them to my mother to read. She will love it!!!"

Nancy, her foster mom, said,"That Gigi is going to go down in history. Great article..."

Eliza stated, "I read the article and I enjoyed it alot. I liked the picture as well."

Sue from Tennessee wrote, "What fun. A very nice article..."

Gigi gets especially excited when she knows that her many friends and neighbors are gettting a kick out of her exploits. So keep those cards and letters coming!

Right now, she and Lucy are getting bathed at the groomers. They both said they want to look especially nice for their Thanksgiving visitors. A very nice, young Maltese named Charlie is coming to town, so they have to look good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gigi Said Wow!

So the article came out from the Northwest Current. Gigi read it and said, "Wow, that's really good!" She was really excited because the man that wrote it was 99.9% accurate in the retelling of her story, and she appreciated his point-of-view. She thinks if her article can help other lost dogs and their owners to mount campaigns as vigorous as hers, then there will be alot more dogs who are found and who will reunite with their owners.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gigi Goes AU-Current

Gigi is especially excited today. It's because yesterday she was interviewed by a very nice young man writing an article about her blog for the Northwest Current. For those of you who don't know, the Northwest Current is the newspaper of Northwest DC neighborhoods--AU Park, The Palisades, Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, etc. He wanted to know all about her rescue during Snowpocalypse and alot about all of the escapades and adventures Gigi has had since then. The article should appear this Wednesday, or he said it might come out next week. Anyway, he was awfully nice to spend so much time with Gigi and her parents. Gigi is looking forward to the article with great anticipation.

Gigi and Lucy wish everybody a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gigi is Scared of Balloons

Last night, I brought home a balloon given to me by one of my staff members for Boss's Day--a nice gesture on her part. I put the balloon in the kitchen, and tied it to my footstool so it wouldn't get away. Now Shelties are very superstitious dogs, one of their more idiosyncratic traits. When Gigi saw the balloon, she became very scared, started to bark at it, and crept away from it. I thought that was funny but Jim reminded me that Gigi may have been tormented, since we do not know the story of where she comes from. Jim released the balloon, and now it is on our kitchen ceiling. Gigi stares at it and is fixated by it, but goes out of her way to creep around it. Something happened in her past--and it just may have involved a balloon. We just don't know.

Gigi is a December Calendar Girl!

When we were at the Northern Virginia Sheltie rescue (NVSR) picnic, I wanted a few things to benefit the organization, so one of the things I bought was the 2011 NVSR Sheltie calendar. I was perusing all of the photographs of the beautiful 2010 adoptees, and to my delight, Gigi's picture graced the December page. It is the one Nancy T. took in the snow where Gigi looks like she has a hind peg leg. She is gorgeous, nonetheless. She shares the page with two other Shelties, and that's okay, but now, I refer to her as our 2011 "December calendar girl."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gigi and Lucy Get Blessed

Last Sunday, October 3, 2010, we took Gigi and Lucy to the annual Blessing of the Animals at the Washington National Cathedral in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. It always happens the first Sunday in October.

I asked the rector to bless Gigi, as it was her first time. She stuck her laurel (I think) into the Holy Water and gave Gigi a big dousing. Water rippled down both sides of her snout. For Lucy, it was her second time. I asked the rector for another exorcism just like last year. She asked, "Why? Has Lucy been bad this year?" And I said, "Oh, yes, she has." We both laughed. It isn't that Lucy is devilish; she just likes to be mischievous once in awhile, and then she laughs about it later. Both dogs loved going and were very happy to be out and about with the other dogs and people at the festival.

The Cathedral is a special place. It even has a chapel for children with wonderful pillows in needlepoint of different kinds of animals. My mom used to needlepoint. What a lost art!

The Sheltie Rogues' Gallery

I thought it might be fun to share all of our Shelties with you. Our first Sheltie was Libby. We did a bad thing and went to a petshop and bought our first Sheltie there, based on looks and not research 30 years ago. Boy, was she cute. Libby lasted only two weeks. To our deep sorrow, she developed distemper and died during the holidays. But on Christmas morning before she got sick, she opened all of her presents. That's her above. Golly, she was a smart dog.

Then came Albie.

Albie was short for Albion's Angel. I always had a thing for the Romantic Poets--Blake, Coleridge, etc. Hence the name. Albie lived the longest of all of our Shelties--to 17 years. He loved to run in figure 8's with his buddy Brittany and could catch the frisbee just like a border collie--only faster. Albie developed dementia and one day could not recognize me as he came out from behind the heater in our basement in Evanston, IL. Then he took a chunk out of my hand. I did not want him to hurt anyone else, so we unfortunately had to take him to the vet's. The last day before he died he was the spryest he had been in months.

Brittany was a really sweet Sheltie and Albie's pal for 8 years. Brittany loved to be loved on. She also liked to herd Jim and me in our backyard when we played badminton. Both of them really enjoyed this. Brittany got a bone infection we thought when she was 8. We took to an orthopedic specialist and he plied her with antibiotics. A year later we were going to France--to Brittany of all things. We contemplated not taking our vacation with Brittany so sick, but our vet told us to go. We were staying in Pont Aven where Van Gogh painted. We were in a lovely old mill, the Moulin Rosmadec, by a babbling brook. It could not have been more serene and idyllic, and the hotel was renowned in Brittany for fine dining. I called the vet's to ask about Brittany's condition and found out that she ate that morning and then passed away from none other than vertebral cancer. It was not a bone infection as we thought. Of all the bizarre things--a dog named Brittany who died when we were in Brittany. We were heartbroken, but our vet told us she was better off, given the misdiagnosis by the specialist.

Lilah and Hannah came to us from Karen Munster in Joliet, Illinois, a small town out- side of Chicago. Karen is a well-known breeder of Shetland Sheepdogs and her Shelties are always happy and healthy Shelties.

We always referred to Lilah as our beautiful blonde bombshell, because she was outrageously pretty. Her mother was Madonna and her father was Ringo, so I guess being outrageous was in her blood. Lucy's kind of related to her, because Ringo was Lucy's grandfather.

Hannah was always sweet and very, very calm. Gigi's personality mirrors hers. Lilah and she were inseparable.

Hannah was very petite, but boy, she lived life in a big way. She ate the foam stuffing out of our sleeper sofa and was extremely fearless. Lilah, on the other hand, was a princess. But her claim to fame was hurling herself against the front door when the mailman came. I am surprised she never went through the glass.

Hannah died three years ago on November 1. She had hemolytic anemia, and we were fortunate to keep her alive through the miracle of cyclosporine, a cancer drug. When she did not have a quality of life as I was feeding her through a pipette and with baby food, we knew it was time.

Lilah became very depressed after Hannah died. Her most stalwart companion had been taken away. That's when we decided to get Lucy--again from Karen Munster. About a year after Hannah died, I noticed that Lilah occasionally coughed and appeared to have loud breathing. I took her to the vet's who recommended a cardiologist. We went to CCVA and learned that Lilah had congestive heart failure and that her kidneys were on the fritz too. Despite her beauty, she had always had awful teeth--like most Shelties do. Bad teeth can give dogs heart ailments. Lilah died on July 19, 2009. Her downhill slide was very sudden, and we whisked her to Friendship Animal Hospital. Jim said she died in his arms on the way.

What's Gigi really like?

People always ask, What's Gigi like? Well, I'll tell you. Gigi is very shy and reserved. She is demure and fawnlike, but she has the loudest, deepest bark. She sounds like a male dog. She remembers her life on the streets, and those were not pleasant memories. When we walk her, she crouches and becomes very alert and furtive. She hates loud noises--especially cars.

One really funny thing--Gigi loves her comfort and food. She has a special place on our bed on top of alot of comforters. She also loves to eat. Heaven forbid, we don't feed her by 6 pm on the dot. Then that bark starts. She also likes to go out and play with her buddy, Lucy. She loves her big yellow ball that Nancy T. gave her, and Lucy is teaching her to dig. Lucy loves dirt and likes to dig out all of her dad's plants in the garden. Sometimes the holes are so big I think she may just get to China yet. Lucy is the exuberant one, who adores people, and Gigi is more guarded and laid back. I am glad they are opposites.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gigi meets other Sheltie Pals at NVSR Picnic

On September 25th, Gigi and Lucy attended the Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue annual picnic. Boy, did they both have fun. There was lots to do and see. They met the Shelties up for adoption; they played games, they went to the Silent Auction, and they even reunited with Sam and Salsa from Pure Gold Pettrackers. They listened very intently to Sam's presentation on how to keep your Sheltie safe. They were the two who tracked Gigi to the Swedish Embassy during Snowpocalype. Gigi also got to see her dear friend, Nancy T. who was her foster mom. An NVSR member took a cool video of the NVSR parade. Gigi had a great time joining in the shibboleth of Shelties. Lucy barked the whole time on the sidelines, because she wanted to be in the parade too. To see the video, click here:

We have asked Martha Heisel, the NVSR Director, if she can think of some more fun events like the picnic for the holidays. Gigi had such a swell time; she wants to see her friends again. Lucy had a lot of fun too. They slept all the way home in the car, because they were so worn out.

Gigi gets invitation from Japanese Embassy

One of the really fun things Jim and I did this summer was go to the Japanese Embassy summer barbecue, thanks to Gigi. Jim and I both love Japanese culture, and we lived there. Well, when Gigi was holed up at the Swedish Embassy during Snowpocalypse, she used to travel into the Japanese embassy grounds just to take in a different venue. Because of that, we met Madame Ambassador, and she asked us to attend the picnic. The picnic occurs annually, and the grounds of the embassy are opened to government and AU Park residents by invitation. Well, it was truly a smash. The food was fabulous, and we met alot of nice people. We love Japanese food, and there was sushi, tempura prawns, kobe beef, grilled vegetables, yakitori, and other foods for the folks who didn't wish to try the Japanese food. We met the Ambassador and his wife in the receiving line, and they were most gracious and remembered us because of Gigi. Gigi hopes she can land another invitation for next year, because her folks had such a good time!

Gigi has a double

We we were at the Northern Virgina Sheltie Rescue (NVSR) Picnic a couple of weeks ago and Martha Heisel, the Director of NVSR, told us that she had once had a rescue named Skye that looked exactly like Gigi. Well, she sent us his picture, which is posted here. What do you think? I think he could be a deadringer.

We're reprising Gigi's blog!

Tons of Gigi's friends have asked us to bring back Gigi's blog, so we have decided to. Folks want to know how Gigi is doing and what she has been up to. So in response to those individuals, this is the first installment. Lots of things have happened to Gigi, since the rescue, and so as Gigi begins to grow up, we will be filling you in on all of the fun and exciting stages of her development.

A recent cool thing happened. PetsDirect in the UK gave gigishope a "best of blog" award for 2010. Criteria cited for the award were:

A Unique Blog From A Whole New And Interesting Perspective.
A Useful And Unique Blogger Resource
Great Literature And/Or Informational Quality
Helping The Preservation And General Well Being Of A Specific Breed Type.
Showing A True Love For A Specific Breed Or Pet Type

Gigi was very excited when she heard that folks in the UK liked her blog. She is still trying to recover from the excitement, and wants to thank PetsDirect for the award.

First, we will give you a glimpse of what Gigi now looks like. The photo is of her and her sister, Lucy. We will also mention funny things about Lucy from time to time, because she is a very important part of Gigi's life--being her lifelong pal and companion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gigi has found her (basso profundo) voice

For a long time, Gigi never barked. That changed in the last week. Now Gigi is slim--downright skinny. Her legs are very long for a sheltie. Nancy and I think she looks like a fawn. But when she barks, it reminds you of what they said about Tallulah Bankhead: "Her voice is one octave lower than laryngitis." If you didn't see her, and just heard her woof-woof-woof-woofing, you'd think Rottweiler, even though she looks a lot more like Bambi. Now she's barking much more frequently, which we get a kick out of (but probably not our neighbors).

I think it's a general sign of growing self-confidence. Though on a walk, Gigi remains apprehensive, crouching and moving from side to side, seemingly alarmed by noises she cannot see the source of.

We've now had her back more three and half weeks, and are thrilled to have her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gigi is doing well

I know we haven't posted in a while. Gigi is doing well and visibly gaining weight. She and Lucy continue to play tirelessly, tracking in dirt, digging up house plants, shredding tissues and generally having fun.

Though still skitterish, she's much bolder. She used to avoid certain parts of our large kitchen. Now she runs around the whole space. She also eats her food then goes for Lucy's. Most important, she's demonstrating and demanding affection.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The play imperative

The role of play in Gigi's rescue led to the following thoughts from Jim.

A semi-famous philosopher named Johan Huizinga wrote a book called (of course the title was in Latin) Homo Ludens. His core idea is that what really distinguishes mankind from all other animals was our joy in and inclination to play. Not opposable thumbs. Not tool-making. Play. It was a lovely idea, because he does make a strong case for the important role of play in mankind’s achievements in law, science, philosophy, and the arts. It was also a profoundly stupid idea from a man who obviously never had a dog in his life or observed dogs (or otters or dolphins or chimpanzees, for that matter) without blinders on.

The truth is that dogs love play, from the moment they can walk to well beyond the point where they can barely pull themselves up off the rug. They signal this love with the classic play-bow, that unmistakable posture where a dog lowers the front if it its body to the ground, with its head, tongue out, with its butt and tail up, the latter wagging. It is not something they schedule, like a play date for a child, who is more cared for than loved. It is not something they have to remind themselves to do. It isn’t even something they need to have someone else do with them—hence, the unbounded joy of chasing your own tail. A sense of play springs from them naturally, effervescently and unbidden. It doesn’t need a set of rules, a ball, or a joystick.

The great mistake we as humans make is to separate play as something we consciously do at specified times or to think of play as one of those childish things we "put away" as we become adults. Huizinga was partly right. Play is in our human nature.To play is to be child-like. It is not childish. A sense of play is the essence not just of a full life, but a creative life. At work, it leads to the non-linear connections of inspired innovation. Play is the essence of brain-storming. I have even known a sense of play to add laughter to a funeral. When my step-grandmother died, I met some cousins of hers for the first time. She was a famously unhappy, bitter woman. Cousin Tommy Dunn looked at her in the coffin and said, “Hmmm, same nasty scowl she’s always had.” We figuratively died laughing, and it released in me my pleasant memories of Grandma Mary and freed us all from the need to pretend she wasn’t an old battle axe. We had a great time at the wake. Play is why we often use our dogs to bring family members, who are barely speaking to each other, together. But we don’t need to put this burden on our dogs alone. We can and should re-discover our own love of play and playfulness.

Robert Frost wrote one of the loveliest, shortest, and most profound of poems. It’s two lines:

The old dog barked backwards without getting up.
I remember when he was a pup.

I have known this dog. And I also know this. As he lays sleeping and dreaming, his legs race as he chases and barks at a bird far overhead. He dreams of play to the happy end. I hope I follow suit.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gigi's first full weekend with us

Gigi played and slept hard. She's acting more confident. Yesterday, Nancy, Gigi and I made a brief visit the Jonas, Eva and Nalle Hafstrom at the Swedish Embassay residence. We dropped off a small gift for all their help. Gigi was a little nervous, and we held tight onto her leash. We don't want her running into the backyard!

Also, the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Yoriko Fujisaki,who also kept a watchful eye on Gigi's comings and goings, reached out to us by phone. The Fujisaki's apartment in Tokyo is near Friend's School, where Nancy taught English many years ago. It's in the area around Tokyo Tower.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jim's first dog

Gigi is sitting at the moment with Nancy on our living room sofa, as a fire burns in our fireplace.

Jim is working on completing a book about the dogs I have known and what I have learned from them, which I had put aside for several years. Inspired by Gigi and the love of dog demonstrated by the many people who helped us in our search for her, I've decided to make final revisions to the manuscript and see if I can get it published. Here is the story of my first dog: Salty. It is brief, since Salty died when I was young. One photo is of my older brother and sister, Ed and Judy, Salty, and me (the youngest--on the right). The other is, need I say it, of Salty.

Salty was the first of ten dogs who I have shared my life with. Gigi is the tenth.

My first dog was Salty, a black and white female English Bull Dog. My parents got her when I was a baby. I have no memories of life before her. She gave me my first slobbery, sloppy French kiss, with her huge tongue lapping out of that smashed face with the immense mouth which always seemed to be a in a perpetual grin. Certain stories about Salty have become favorites in my family.

For those unsmitten by and uninitiated to English Bull Dogs, they can (I don’t really understand how) appear scary and mean. We had a corner lot and my brother, two sisters, and I were always outside, along with dozens of kids from the neighborhood. Of course, Salty was always there with us. Adults would walk down the sidewalk, see that massive head with the pronounced under-bite and lower canines jutting out and cross the street, avoiding the perceived canine menace. Children were children. They ran into our yard and literally jumped on Salty, rolling around with her in the grass, gleefully and unconvincingly protesting as she licked them smack in the face. We are saw her real beauty—the beauty of a creature that is completely authentic. And when Salty ran through a crowd of us, like a speeding, furry bowling ball on short, bowed legs, knocking down everyone before her like bowling pins, we laughed and hooted and got up and hoped she would do it once again. She did.

Salty’s forbearance and patience were legendary in our clan. My younger sister thought it was really fun to try to lift this sixty-pound dog by her ears. She’d grab those floppy appendages with the vice-like grip of a toddler and do her darndest to hoist her up, Though there was little chance of that since Patti was only thirty pounds at the time. Salty never, ever objected. Not a snarl nor a growl nor even a twitch. Of course, if you’ve ever had a massage or facial when the therapist pulled on your ears, you may understand why Salty didn’t object. She was on to something.

Salty also provided me with my first experience of loss. Since she was my own age, it was like losing a better part of me, a loving, fuzzy non-identical twin. My parents had her euthanized because of a chronic, incurable illness. She was only six and half years old. And since I was the same age, the circumstances, the how and why of their decision, remain forever shrouded in mystery and lack of remembrance. But the pain, if I invite it in, remains sharp and vivid many decades later, though balanced and brightened by all the joy Salty gave my entire family.

Copyright 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gigi is acting more like a dog

Last night she was sneaking slippers and chewing on them. She and Lucy, our other Sheltie, are rough-housing everywhere, picking up detritus from our evergreens in the yard and tracking it throughout the house. And this morning, she really barked for the first time. We were surprised that this skinny little thing has a deep, "manly" bark--octaves lower than Lucy, who outweighs her by ten pounds. Who knew? So our house is messier, Nancy's slippers are a little tattered, and it is noisier. But we are excited, because Gigi is so much less shy and timid. She's always been so sweet. Now she's acting happy. More like a dog. (We're still watching her like a hawk--we want no repeats of her great escape.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just photos

Nancy H and Gigi together. Salsa, the scent dog, who tracked Gigi around AU Park, Tenleytown, Frienship Heights and Spring Valley meet tonight in our home. Sam took the photos.

The "I couldn't make this stuff up" ending

NOTE: Since this is a blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 7. One photo is of a ball (read the story), another is of Gigi in Dr. Monsein's basement, minutes after her rescue, and third is of Gigi, Lucy, Nancy and Jim Hunn, happily together and at home.

Before we conclude the tale of Gigi's rescue, a quick update. Not along ago I met Sam, the pet tracker, at the grounds of the Swedish residence. We packed up the humane trap. The trap was not what returned Gigi to us. Sam and Salsa then came by and met Gigi. As Salsa approached the door to our house, she definitely noticed Gigi's scent. Since Sam and Gigi are both quiet and shy, they got along great. I'll share photos of their meeting in another blog update.

Now back to what a number of folks have been waiting for. Jim was speaking on Thursday evening with Nancy T, Gigi's foster mom from Charlottesville, and she reminded me of how much Gigi loved playing with a kickball. In fact, Jim had brought one home for Gigi the night she escaped. Nancy T suggested I take one to the area around the humane trap, which was close to Dr. Monsein's home. Jim was dubious, but thought what the hey. So early on Friday, Jim brought fresh fried chicken for the trap, and he dropped off the kickball.

Later that day, Lee Monsein and Sam Connelly spoke via phone, the first time they had "met." Lee told Sam that he had observed Gigi playing by herself with the kickball. Gigi played with the ball as if she were in a soccer match of one. She would push it forward with her head or bat it with her paws, chasing after it. Imagine Gigi, alone in the vast lawn of the ambassador's residence, playing with the kickball. Sam suggested to Lee that he place it in his dog run, which, if you have read the previous chapters in this saga, was rigged with a motion sensor detector aimed at the gate, with ropes running through the doctor's windows. The detector sounded an alarm in Lee's house if anything approached. So Lee placed the ball inside, along with food, and waited. Since he had placed a second motion detector aimed at the humane trap, and since Gigi was very active, approaching both the trap and dog run numerous times, Lee got little sleep as the alarm in his house repeatedly woke him up.

Finally, at 3:30 AM, Gigi, entered the dog run. None of the foods that the many Gigi fans suggested (KFC, Popeye's, lamb tripe, roast beef) did the trick. It was a rubber ball and the promise of play! When Super G entered the dog run, Lee slammed the door shut at which time Gigi went ballistic. She started to leap the height of the six-foot fence. Lee was afraid she might bounce over the fence and once again take flight. Quickly entering the run and picking Gigi up, Lee took Gigi into his downstairs den and called us at 3:47 AM. Ten minutes later, we walked into the basement room where Gigi, cool as a cucumber, was being petted by Lee.

What makes this so extraordinary is that Jim works for the national profit which advocates for the importance of play in our children's lives--KaBOOM!. In fact, it was a KaBOOM! kickball (our colors are purple and orange) that lured her in. KaBOOM! is launching a campaign to Save Play in the spring, building on our 14-year history of creating 1,700 playgrounds (each done in a day with all volunteer labor) for children throughout North America. We have drawn the support of our last three first ladies--Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michele Obama. We know that play makes children healthier, physically and emotionally. And in Gigi's case, play literally helped to save her life.

This entry is being written by Jim. I hesitate as I write, because the parallels between my personal and professional lives seem contrived. I am passionate about the importance of play and about dogs. For the two to unite in the rescue of Gigi seems unbelievable. Anyone who has watched the joy of creatures at play (in additional to humans and dogs, I've observed it first-hand with chimpanzees, cats, dolphins, mountain goats and many other species) knows that we are all hard-wired to cavort, run, bump into each other, leap, swirl and laugh or bark or chirp or squeal with delight. I believe play is an essential part of a full, happy and healthy life. It's how kids learn to engage with the physical world. And it is disappearing from our kids lives. Click on KaBOOM! if you want to read more. In the meantime, know that at this very moment, Gigi is teaching our other dog Lucy the joys of kickball. And my wife Nancy and I couldn't possibly be happier.

Final chapter will come tonight

Sorry for delay, but we spent the evening playing with Gigi. She and our Sheltie Lucy, who is around the same age, are now acting like Shelties--play herding each other in our backyard (securely fenced) and house. When Nancy and I came home last night Gigi actually ran to us and jumped up to get petted. We are still vigilant, but Gigi (her newest nickname is Super Gee) is showing signs of getting more comfortable. We know this can take more than a year with a rescue dog.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Long Wait--wild critters, hi-tech and eyes on the prize

NOTE: Since this is a blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 6.
The one photo is of Nalle, Eva Hafstrom's dog, who from her perch in the second story at the back of the residence would bark whenever Gigi or the fox made an appearance. The other is night camera photo of Gigi (she is there, if you look hard).

The final piece of the puzzle was Dr. Lee Monsein. In one of those strokes of luck which pepper this tale, Larry Miller, who had spotted Gigi on Friday night at 44th and Van Ness, is good friends with Dr. Monsein, whose fenced yard gives onto the grounds of the Swedish residence. Larry gave me Lee's contact information. Lee and I spoke soon thereafter. Lee is passionate about dogs, and he clearly adores Rave, his gorgeous 4-year old female boxer. He is also a hi-tech enthusiast. This combination would prove essential our efforts to get Gigi back. Lee immediately agreed to help. He redirected a webcam he used to keep an eye on Rave when he wasn't home at the humane trap that Sam and I had set up--allowing us to watch the trap without having to drive to 44th and Van Ness every hour.

Over the next several days, Eva at one end of the property and Lee at the other were able to establish Gigi's schedule. In the morning hours from 5:00 to 7:30 AM, she was frequently visible to Eva and her dog Nalle nearer the residence, though Eva did observe her in the evenings too. Lee reliably saw her from around 10PM to 3AM, although he also saw her in the mornings. In a real sense, Gigi was no longer "lost". We knew just where she was. We decided not to report everything we knew on this blog, out of respect for the fact that all this was happening on Swedish territory and because if we were to catch Gigi, who is so easily frightened, we needed peace and calm.

On two occasions, Jim rushed to the location of the humane trap after getting reports that its door was shut. The first time as around 11PM. Flashlight in hand, he excitedly looked inside. It was a fat orange tabby, who rushed out the moment he opened the door. Jim was disappointed, to say the least. Two days later, in the pre-dawn hours, Jim rushed there again. This time it was fat raccoon, who had devoured all the fried chicken and looked very content to be there and in no hurry to leave. Jim had a devil of a time getting him/her out of the cage.

In the meantime, both Lee and Eva reported seeing Gigi being followed by the mangy fox who lives on the grounds. He was also eating food that Eva left out for Gigi. Both Sam the tracker and our vet assured us that the fox was no threat to a dog. Lee also observed deer on the grounds, too. So though Gigi was in a car-free oasis, critters were practically running into each other.

As Lee, Sam the pet tracker I considered our options (and Lee was a full-fledged member of the Gigi team), Lee decided to use his dog run, which had a gate that opened onto the residence grounds, as an enclosure trap. Unlike a small trap, the roofless run might well prove less scary to little Gigi. On his own initiative and with his own money, Lee purchased a motion detector and rigged it aimed at the gate, which we partially opened. We tied 100 lb. rope to two points on the gate which was physically close to a window in his home. Lee then ran the lines through the window from which he had removed the screen. He then closed the window. When the motion sensor detected movement, it rang an alarm in the house, so Lee could come and pull the gate shut. We placed fried chicken, raw ground beef, and a t-shirt with Gigi's foster mom's scent on it. At 1 AM the next morning, the alarm rang. Lee observed Gigi enter the run. He then pulled the rope to close the gate. But we probably hadn't placed the food far enough from the gate, and Gigi, who is incredibly fast and agile, turned quickly and slipped out.

Lee and I were now both worried she would remember, and possibly avoid the run at all costs. Over the next 48 hours, she did approach both trap and run numerous times, but never entered. She was clearly hungry.

Then on Wednesday, February 24, came the sighting at a little after 4 PM that nearly gave Jim a heart attack (he received the call at work and dashed over there). Gigi was reported being seen at the McDonald's which fronts Wisconsin Avenue at Van Ness--a mere six blocks away, but across Nebraska Avenue, which was clogged with traffic. Though the report was not verified, it led us to a change in strategy.

When a dog like Gigi is in the situation she is in, hunger is your friend--as cruel as that sounds. We thought only hunger would overcome her fear of the trap or being caught. But hunger may have caused her to leave the safety of the residence grounds in search of food (she had water and shelter). So I called Eva, and she began feeding her. We decided a less hungry Gig--who might be harder to catch--was far better than a dead Gigi hit by a car.

It was with great relief that both Eva and Lee reported seeing her that night.

At 3:30 AM on Friday, as Gigi was approaching the trap, it blew over, despite being chained to a tree. This was observed by Lee, who, it should be clear, was getting very little sleep. Nancy, Gigi and I will forever be in his debt. That was the night we had 50-60 MPH wind gusts. On the cold, damp, gray dawn of Friday, Nancy and I were as depressed as we has been throughout the search.

Little did we know that twenty-four hours later, Gigi would be safe in Dr. Monsein's basement and, soon thereafter, happily asleep in our home.

The final chapter of the saga: tomorrow. We've received a lot of e-mails with comments. Please post them as comments, so all of Gigi's fans can share!

P.S. Gigi is doing just fine. She is sleeping a lot! No wonder. And playing with our other Sheltie, Lucy. Lee came to visit last night. She did have a bit of loose bowels this morning, which was predicted, but the vet pronounces her AOK. A skinny girl to begin with, she went from 26.2 pounds to 23 (that's a 10% drop). But she will regain that weight with time. The day before she escaped our house, we had her heart tested by a specialist, since she had previously had heart worm (which she got the last time she was on her own). The cardiologist pronounced her heart sound and healthy. The cold weather of the last two weeks makes it highly unlikely that Gigi picked up anything yucky.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Swedish territory and an all-night vigil--February 20-21

NOTE: Since this is a blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 5.

Now that we knew where Gigi was staying, her foster Mom from Charlottesville returned early on Saturday. While Nancy H managed the flyering campaign from our home, Nancy T, her friend Kay, and Scottie, one of Nancy T's three Shelties, and I went to the Swedish residence. We had alerted Eva Hafstrom, the Ambassador's wife. We rang at the gate, and a man in track-suit came out and opened the door for us and waved our SUV in. We were surprised when he introduced himself as Jonas. It was the Ambassador himself. He was incredibly warm and welcoming.

Based on expert advice, the plan was to see if Nancy T, Scottie and chicken could lure Gigi out of hiding. Jim provided Nancy T with an arctic-rated sleeping bag and chicken. Gigi's foster Mom trudged down the hill from the house, in snow that was still more than two-feet deep. The skies were blue and sun intense, reflecting off the bright-white expanse. Nancy T laid out the sleeping bag near the tennis courts. She sat down, scattered chicken around, and proceeded to love on and sweet talk Scottie, feeding him chicken as well. Nancy kept this up for an hour. It was around eleven AM. Nothing. No sign of Gigi. So we packed up, and met Eva, who had been out. She is an exceptionally nice person, who worked for the national police of Sweden. She introduced us to her dog Nalle (Swedish for Teddy Bear), a Swedish Jack Russell (he looks like a Jack Russell with wiry hair).

Nancy, Kay and I joined the flyering campaign, with the three us of focusing on areas around the embassy. Before we left, Jonas and Eva gave me access codes to their property so I could enter at any time. I couldn't believe how generous and trusting they were.

Later that afternoon, Sam Connelly, of Pure Gold Pet Trackers, arrived with a humane trap, which we placed within the residence grounds just near the gate at 44th and Van Ness. To be clear, a humane trap is like a dog kennel with a door that closes once an animal steps on a trip plate at the back of the trap.

When Gigi first began her great adventure, we were most worried about the cold. We quickly learned in our heads if not our hearts that cold was not a threat. Dogs have an instinct for survival. If they get cold, they get up and move, which raises their body temperature. In addition, the residence grounds include conifers which had branches which reached to the ground. These branches served as a tent--underneath, the temperature is 15 degrees warmer and dry. Needles can be burrowed in. Sam also explained that humans who are lost worry about being lost. Dogs don't. They focus on survival. They seek three things. Food, water, and shelter. The residence grounds has shelter--the trees just described. They also had water--there was a flowing sream, plus snow. To our knowledge, there was no food. So that is what the trap provided. But let me go back to that moving to stay warm thing. Sam let me know (I had no idea), that with temperatures in the twenties, the trap would have to be monitored every hour, since a dog that can't move can quickly die from hypothermia. So I hired Sam, who spent the night watching, with an occasional visit to our house.

When Sam came to our house at 7:00 the next morning--Sunday--she let us know that Gigi made her first appearance at 5 AM. She smelled the chicken and wanted it badly. But Gigi had been abandoned in Virginia and caught in September 2009 in the same type of trap, so she was hesitant. She crouched, approached, then ran off. She repeated this pattern several times, before running off on the residence grounds.

On the plus side, we knew where Gigi was. We had permission to be there. But we needed to know more. What was Gigi up to? What were her "hours"? The answer to that in the next blog...where Dr. Monsein plays the most critical role. A cat, raccoon, and a fox also figure in the next chapter of this tale. And after that, the happy ending, when we reveal the stunning secret ingredient that led to Gigi's capture.

Prep, focus, and access--Friday, February 19

NOTE: Since this is a blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 5. Arrow on satellite photo points to Swedish residence. You can get a sense of the size of the "backyard." The large building to the right is the Japanese compound. Also included is a photo taken by Eva Hafstrom of Gigi poised to enter the Japanese property.

Nancy had to work Friday, and Jim worked half a day. In the afternoon, he printed Gigi flyers, bought plastic sleeves to put them in, prepared directions for volunteers, and bought stuff (staplers, push pins, duct tape, clear tape) to fasten them to poles, stop signs, and random other public objects. Later that night, we stuffed flyers in plastic sleeves, confirmed volunteers, and Nancy printed a map of the AU Park area, divided into 24 areas, and highlighted those. So when each team arrived on Saturday, they would have a specific assigned area and almost everything they would need. It is critical to assign areas, so folks don't duplicate efforts.

At 10:30 PM, we received a call from Larry Miller, who was walking his Labradoodle Chloe. He was at the corner of Van Ness and 44th--the exact place Gigi was seen two nights earlier. She was headed south on 44th, and ran across Van Ness. She narrowly escaped being hit by a car, and darted through the same fence, into the property of the Swedish Ambassadorial Residence.

Since we had known that she was spending time there (and we believed in the adjacent Japanese property), Nancy had called both the Japanese and Swedish Embassies, to see if we could get access to both properties. The Swedish Embassy quickly provided us with Eva Hafstrom's personal cell number. Nancy left a message, and Mrs. Hafstrom (who told us to call her Eva), said to just call whenever we needed access. The Japanese staff were polite to Nancy, but made it clear that we would not be allowed on the property. Although we were not surprised, we thought it a little ironic since we both lived in Japan, Jim has Japanese relatives, and Nancy speaks Japanese. But let us say right away, that Eva soon called Yoriko Fujisaki, the Ambassador's wife, who alerted her staff, so that no one would inadvertently scare Gigi off. The Amabssador and his wife have a dearly loved black labrador named Skipper. Skipper receives prominent mention in the offical biography of the Ambassador and his own story is fascinating. We really knew we were in the nation's capital, and Gigi had discovered one of the largest, safest and most beautiful parcels of land in city.

Everything was now ready for the what turned out to be seven days of knowing where Gigi was, but not being able to get her. We called it the Big Wait.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Great AU Park Trek--Thursday, February 18

NOTE: Since this is a blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 4. Photos are of Salsa and of Salsa and Sam tracking Gigi.

Our first impulse when Gigi ran away was to search frantically ourselves. This was unproductive. Possessed by love and consumed by fear, you feel compelled to get out and save your baby!

What we needed to do was identify where she was (our sightings were a great start), get flyers posted throughout our neighborhood, and get the word out online--this blog, Facebook, Twitter, lost dog sights (Petfinders, Pets 911, Craigslist [under both DC Lost & Found and Pets categories], and community forums. Online resources are quicker to implement these days. That way, you have hundreds perhaps thousands of eyes looking for your pet.

At this point we had two sightings--44th and Garrison and 44th and Van Ness. We needed more information. That is why Jim met Sam Connelly of Pure Gold Pet Trackers at 5:30 PM on Thursday to see if they could sniff Gigi out (for our account of how we connected, see blog Part 3).

Before we describe the great trek, let us describe one other step we took. Nancy was told about Find Toto by Mary Rowse. This service can make robo-calls (automated voice messages to land lines like you get from candidates during campaign season) to an area around any address--in our case, our home's. For $300, we paid for 2,500 calls. Subsequently, our flyering team heard repeatedly (and we heard from neighbors) that they had received and remembered the calls. In the space of days, we encountered folks who had received a call, an e-mail and had seen our flyers. Jim has a background in advertising, and it is well-known that repeated instances of one person receiving the same message multiple times (ad guys call it frequency) make it more effective. This is not an endorsement of Find Toto, but we don't feel we wasted money. We do think flyering is the most critical task--once you know where to poster, which brings us back to the Great AU Park Trek.

Jim met Sam Connelly and her tracking dog Salsa (see the You Tube video of Sam and Salsa in action by clicking here) at 44th and Van Ness. We brought a dog Snuggie that Gigi had been wrapped in as the scent item. Salsa is an eight-year old Golden Retriever, and phenomenally sweet and talented. She immediately picked up the scent in a pile of snow and ice. The she was off, with Sam following, holding Salsa's lead, followed by me and a documentarian who is working on a special TV show on scent dogs for the National Geographic channel. For a map of our track, click here.

Here's what I wrote that night:

I just got back from a 4-plus mile trek, as Sam and her scent dog Salsa (a golden) tracked Gigi's route from the sighting at 1:30 AM this morning. She has established a circuit that is primarily in AU Park, but Gigi crossed Massachusetts into Spring Valley and back, up Mass Ave to the circle, down Nebraska Avenue to Wisconsin, then back into Tenleytown, across River to 44th and Harrison where she was seen Tuesday night, up to Western, west on western to River (again) and across River yet again. We gave up the track one block from our home (what a heartbreaker).

There was much I didn't write, partly because I was exhausted and heartsick. As I saw that Gigi had crossed Massachusetts and River and walked along Mass, Nebraska, River, Western and Wisconsin (all very busy streets--though Gigi was probably doing this after midnight), I couldn't believe she hadn't been or wouldn't be killed by a car. The map doesn't convey the panic she must have felt that was clear from following her track. When she reached Wisconsin Avenue at Tenley Circle, she was clearly confused. She clearly rested awhile in a recess in front of some doors at St. Anne's Church. She repeatedly sought protection under a row of yew shrubs. Then she ran back and forth and in circles by the playground in front of the school on the church property, which may have reminded her of a playground near her foster home in Charlottesville. (It is ironic that Jim works for KaBOOM!, the national non-profit that builds playgrounds for children in need across North America.) She then turned back and went down far less busy streets, only to walk down River and Western. I quite frankly was in despair. Remember, the snow was deep and it was bitter cold.

When I began the track with Sam and Salsa, I naively assumed we might actually find Gigi. I had visions in my head of coming upon her and grabbing her up in my arms. This rarely happens--unless the dog is dead or injured. The purpose is to define the territory the dog is wandering in. When we stopped, Sam advised me would find out nothing more that night. And we are armed with the critical information we needed for the next step in operation "Gigi's hope"--flyering. Getting ready for that would consume our next day--Friday.

Meanwhile, back at Gigi HQ--our home

NOTE: Since this is blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 3.

On Wednesday, February 17, twelve hours before Kelly spotted Gigi at 1:30 AM the next morning, Nancy launched the first version of this blog. We did so as the result of great advice from Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue, Danny Finkelstein of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, and Mary Rowse.

They let us know what a critical role such blog sites can play in finding a lost pet. Danny quickly became our Gigi IT department. Nancy set it up using blogspot (which is easy), having had no prior experience. The online team at national non-profit KaBOOM! report to Jim, but he had no hands-on experience. His staff also assisted our efforts. The blog design was improved by Nancy Despeaux a few days later.

While Nancy Hunn was getting the word out on list serves, launching our blog, calling several embassies in the vicinities (more on that in the next post), and recruiting the help of a dog tracker, Jim printed flyers (designed and e-mailed by Gigi's foster mom, Nancy Tisdale in Charlottesville) and began posting in the two areas where she was sighted. So, a word to the wise -- be sure to have photos of your dog on hand; we didn't have them since Gigi had only been with us three days. I did this fliering on my own, and realized that it is a job that demands more help. Once person just cannot cover enough territory. More about how to organize a campaign to post flyers in another chapter.

As time was of the essence and Nancy had chatted with Mary Rowse, who had been involved with Baxter's rescue the week before, Mary advised that we call Sam Connelly of Pure Gold Pet Trackers to get Gigi's circuit in Northwest DC. Luckily Sam and Nancy H. were able to speak about the incident, and Sam agreed that she would bring Salsa, her scent dog, to Washington, to track Gigi's circuit.

The first critical sighting--1:30 AM February 18

NOTE: Since this is blog, chapters will appear in reverse order. This is part 2.

At 2:04:39 AM on February 18, we received this email from Kelly Spring. Kelly is a trainer at Your Dog's Best Friends, a daycare, cage-less boarding, grooming and training facility in Alexandria. They specialize in providing guided socialization to anxious and insecure dogs.

Now, I've been working in the local rescue community for three years and have a soft spot for shy dogs who need some extra time and understanding to come out of their shells.

What she thought was the yard of a house on Van Ness, was in fact the very back of the Swedish Ambassadorial Residence, which faces Nebraska Avenue near American University. Please be sure to read the last paragraph of Kelly's email! Kelly never drives down this road. And rarely is she about at such a late (or early) hour. This sighting was critical. Because once a dog is lost, you need sightings to know where to flyer and, in this case, where to begin a scent track.

I saw Gigi at Van Ness St. and 44th tonight (this morning at 1:30)! She was running down Van Ness St toward Mass Ave. I pulled over, but before I was out of the car she slipped under the chain link fence to the yard of 4400 Van Ness. I considered climbing over, but it's a huge back yard and I couldn't see her anywhere and I'm not sure that its fully fenced and she was actually confined.

In the moment that I saw her -- she looked fine.

Nancy, you should see if you can make contact with the people who live at 4400 Van Ness to see if they will cooperate -- let us put out a feeding station, call if they see her, NOT CHASE her, POSSIBLY let us place a trap there if there are additional sightings or Sam from Purer Gold finds evidence that she is hanging out there, etc.

This is a quiet neighborhood -- not a lot of traffic. And it may be an enclosed back yard with limited points where she can enter and exit, so this could be very good news.

On a side note, I have NEVER driven home this way. I was on my way home and testing out an alternative route to work for tomorrow to avoid snow constricted Nebraska Ave. It is also incredibly rare that I'm driving home at this hour. It is nothing short of a miracle that I happened upon her. My fingers are crossed that this is just the first inexplicable miracle in the Gigi search!

Note: We did have a sighting of Gigi the night she escaped our house. It was reported the next day. A DC real estate agent saw Gigi at 10 PM the night she slipped out our front door at 44th and Garrison, near Friendship Heights (behind Lord and Taylor) and several blocks behind Rodman's on Wisconsin Avenue. She knew to call us because we reported Gigi's absence on various neighborhood list serves--which is a critical and relatively easy first step. This turned out to be at the northern edge of the territory Gigi roamed. She was seen again there the next night. That is why additional sightings were needed.

Now the story of Gigi's rescue can be told--the introduction

For reasons that will become clear, we were not in a position to share everything that we knew over the 10 days that Gigi was gone. I believe anyone would agree that her story is remarkable, with incredible elements of providence or serendipity, depending on whether you believe in a higher power or luck.

The people who contributed to Gigi's return include: the Ambassador of Sweden, Jonas Haftsrom and his wife Eva and their little Swedish Jack Russell; a pet tracking grandmother and her amazing scent dog Salsa; the two folks who gave us our first critical sightings of Gigi, one of whom was walking his Labradoodle Chloe, the other happened to be travelling down 44th St. NW in lieu of going down Nebraska; the wife of the Japanese Ambassador (who has been reading this blog); and, most importantly, Dr Lee H Monsein, whose house borders the estate of the Swedish ambassadorial residence. It was Lee (as my Nancy and I have come to know him), assisted by his 4-year old female boxer Rave, who used motion sensor detectors, webcams, night vision scopes and many sleepless nights to catch Gigi. Dr. Monsein did so at 3:30 AM last night, after watching Gigi for seven hours. Between Eva Hafstrom's repeated viewings of Gigi at one end of the residence's vast "backyard" and Lee Monsein at the other, we have known Gigi's comings and goings for a week. The trick was getting her.

But like any good story, before we say how that happened, let's start at the beginning.

Before I do that, my wife and I believe that by telling the story in full, we hope to offer hope to other humans who have lost their beloved animal companions and hope to everyone who doubts the goodness of folks here in the nation's capital. Many others not yet named above volunteered in many ways--from posting flyers, to helping Nancy and me create our first website, to connecting us with critical resources and help.

I also hope to share some pointers to others who have are searching for their dogs and cats, to supplement the resources already available online. These searches work best when combining hi-tech, social media, and old-fashioned shoe leather hitting the streets. Nancy and I knew none of this when Gigi slipped out our front door on Tuesday, February 16.

Gigi is asleep in her bed in kitchen

After getting home at a little after four this morning, with Gigi on leash and in our arms, we walked up the steps to our bedroom, and Gigi jumped into bed, laid down, and promptly fell to sleep. Nancy and I were too excited to do so. She's taken several naps since. She appears to be in good shape and seems to appreciate warmth and her soft bed. But she will for the time being wear a leash at all time, and no door is opened without her being held by the other on a leash or behind a closed door between her and the door outside.

We will start posting soon about what happened.


Details later today. She looks fine. It's so unbelievable that we have her back. A million thanks to all who have helped. And to all who have had positive thoughts and wishes. Now that she's back, there we can share some amazing stories. So please check in again for the next few days.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gigi's foster mom arrives tomorrow--again!

Nancy Tisdale, Gigi's foster Mom from Charlottesville, Virginia, is travelling up 29 North to DC for the third weekend in a row. She's bringing Scottie, another Sheltie, who was one of Gigi's playmates when she spent five months with Nancy Tisdale. Nancy is going to attempt to entice Gigi out, with the help of Scottie and KFC.

My wife Nancy and I are incredibly grateful to Nancy T. She loves Gigi as much as we do. And Gigi has a real bond with her (she only spent 3 days with us). We believe she is searching for Nancy T, so foster mom is coming to her. She has had as many sleepless nights as we have. Please join me in thanking her. Do so in the comments section, so Nancy T. can read your thoughts. She is a devoted reader of Gigi's Hope, as are many of her friends and colleagues in the Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue. Also, let us now give a shout out to all the help we have received from that tremendous organization.

What food makes the best bait for Gigi? And the winner is?

Nancy and I have heard from many folks. Opinions seem to be heated. There are advocates for roast beef. For cat food. For canned lamb tripe for dogs. For raw ground beef. For roasted chicken. But a plurality clearly favors fried chicken. Some friends of Gigi firmly advocate for Popeye's. But, if by vote, there is a winner, it is Kentucky Friend Chicken. If you have an opinion, please COMMENT on this blog post and share it with everyone. Nancy and I read comments as reliably as we read e-mails. We just wish there was a KFC anywhere near us here in AU Park in upper northwest DC. So we've opted for Popeye's, since they have a location on Wisconsin Avenue. And we tried multiple other options. Thanks for all the input. Keep on caring. It does mean a lot to us.

Trap fixed and fuller report of Gigi's activities last night

The humane trap is now fixed and being checked on a regular schedule. Gigi was in sight from 11PM last night to around 3 AM this morning, laying down (but there's not sleeping) and occasionally running around, no doubt to keep warm. She continues to approach the trap (which looks like a kennel), but did not go in. Maybe soon?
Gigi was also seen in a different area (but still away from roads) at 6AM today, and was also doing fine. So she did OK on a cold and VERY windy night.

At 3: 30 this morning, Gigi seen at trap

But the trap blew over in the wind! Will go set straight soon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I hope her hiding place is out of the wind

It's so windy out. It's got to be frightening for our little girl. Hang tight and stay warm Gigi. We are thinking of you and praying for you. Thank goodness that the big snow is missing us here in DC this time.

Gigi seen in same area at 5:30 PM

Gigi was seen twice around this time. The first folks thought she might have a slight limp, but a little bit later the sighter saw no evidence of this. This is second time this difference has been reported. In both instances, walking on snow/ice vs. grass may explain the difference. Or it could be a slight limp that she walks off. Given the fact that she probably crossed Nebraska Avenue at rush hour yesterday, we are not too worried about this. We know she has fed.

Gigi being observed right now at 6:45 AM

She is checking out the trap, and laying down and occasionally walking near some trees against a fence.

E-mail from a Gigi fan

These current posts remain heart wrenching!! GiGi looks very good. Wow that lil' monkey Houdini! Her street savvy is saving her now; she knows how to negotiate a busy avenue. I thank the Gods for that.

Better news--Gigi seen at 9 &11 P last night in safer location

Gigi was seen at 9 and eleven PM last night where she was photographed yesterday morning. This is in an area that is safe from traffic!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Disturbing new sighting--can anyone confirm?

At 4:30 PM this afternoon, Jim received a call that reported seeing a dog that looked like Gigi behind the McDonald's on Wisconsin at Van Ness, walking down Van Ness towards Nebraska. The call was from a young girl. Jim immediately drove there and canvassed the area and could get no confirmation. Both Van Ness and Nebraska were choked with traffic, and this would be the first daytime sighting of Gigi. All others have been clustered from 10PM-1Am and from 5AM-8AM--none in the afternoon. I pray and hope this was a mistaken ID because the traffic is so bad in this area. On the other hand, it is not that far down the street where she has been reliably reported--just across a very Nebraska which she hasn't crossed before.


Gigi photographed 7AM February 24

It is a blurry photo, but that's our girl. She's reported moving fine. You are probably wondering why we can't get her? Remember, she's smart and fast, and in survival mode. She avoids all humans. The great news is she's staying put in a relatively small area that is free of cars. We are advised by all the experts to be patient. It's driving us to distraction, but we are taking their advice. They have been through this many times. Jim tried sitting on the ground near here 15 minutes after this photo was taken. with my back to where she was this morning, I spoke happily to Gigi and sang badly (I can't carry a tune to save my life). It didn't work (I don't think the off-key warbling was the reason why), but I took some comfort in the fact that Gigi was there and heard every word. I left her some nice fried chicken--her favorite! She needs some nourishment with the snow storm predicted for tonight (luckily, not a deep one--fingers crossed).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So close, so close and yet so far

Gigi is closeby and what frustrates Jim and I is the fact that while we attempt to sleep, she is roaming around cold and alone. We know where she is living. We rest assured in the fact that AU Park neighbors and friends are respecting Gigi's need to roam , while we strategize with folks in the "dog rescue" business about the best method to reel her in. We are beginning to think this may take some time.

Another letter and more prayers

These letters do help. After a cold and rainy night, tossing sleeplessly thinking of Gigi alone out there, reading letters like this helps to lift our spirits and give encouragement.

Dear Nancy and Jim,
I live in Chesapeake, Virginia. You and Gigi have been in my thoughts and prayers for days.
Something similar happened to our "new," unsocialized sheltie who spent her first five years at a mill - she was not a NVSR dog. We were able to "bring her back home" because of the help of some wonderful people and the power of positive thoughts and prayer.
I was distributing flyers to individuals going to church on a cold February, Sunday morning. After church one of the ladies decided she would spend some time looking for our girl. She spotted her and was able to enlist the help of some work men (who also had been given flyers that morning). They followed her until we arrived - I was able to entice her with food while sitting on the ground.
The members of the church had posted our flyers on the front doors of that beautiful church - I will never forget that image. The woman from the church would not accept the reward, so we donated it to the church in her name. The pastor called me and he told me that he read our letter of appreciation to the congregation. The workmen also received the reward.
Our girl is now a very, very stable and happy member of our family. Obedience and agility classes really helped tremendously in the bonding process. She is a radically different dog today and nothing like that could ever happen again.
I know that Gigi will be home with you very shortly. Until then, please know that you are all in my prayers.

A letter from one of Gigi's readers

I want to tell you I am following Gigi's progress each day. I hold tight my sheltie's, Hidalgo and Bella and send my positive thoughts to her; wishing her safe return home.
I had an idea. I suggest Bella is a great deal like Gigi and if she were in Gigi's position, I'd record my voice and that of Hidalgo's and place near that Havaheart along with the scented clothing, her blanket. She would be apprehensive of the small confines of the trap too. (less it were crate size.) but i'm certain she will go in just to feel home.
Know I am praying many times over the course of our day.
Jan Edwards

Gigi just seen at 7AM Tuesday

We just received a call. Gigi was reported looking healthy and active. It's now been almost a week. We have feeding station and humane trap in the area. The good news is she seems to have stopped her wide wanderings and is staying in a relatively safe area. Now, we need her hunger to overcome her fear of being caught. Whatever your inclination--prayer, intentions, positive thinking, please send good thoughts her way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thanks to all the volunteers this weekend!

We had more than a dozen folks come and post flyers in Gigi's roaming area over the weekend. Drive the area from 46th east to River on the north, Wisconsin on the east, Nebraska on the south and Massachusetts on the west and you'll see LOST SHELTIE flyers. We couldn't have done it without each and everyone of you!

Gigi seen this morning

She was doing OK at 6:30 AM this morning. She was seen on private property. The owner is cooperating with our efforts, but asked us not to disclose the location. I'm sure everyone who cares will respect that. It is a safe place, and we have established a feeding station, which will encourage her to stay, and give the humane trap a chance to work. We don't want anyone near her, because it could cause her to run and hit the streets again, which would be a grave danger. Since it is an open area, no one will be able to catch her. It is a waiting game, and all the experts advise patience, which is hard to do, but essential to her safety.

So keep your eyes open for Gigi on the streets or sidewalks. If you see her on the street, call either number on the top right of the web page immediately.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Do's and Don'ts if you see Gigi

We have been advised everything a person might be tempted to do instinctively if you see Gigi is probably wrong! Gigi is now in survival mode and perceives everyone/everything as a threat. We are providing tips straight from our pet tracker on what to do if she is seen by you.

Here are the DON'TS if you see Gigi (they are counterintuitive to us):
1. Do not look directly in her eyes.
2. Do not approach her at all... not even a step.
3. Do not convey alarm or concern in your voice.

Here's what to do:
1. Turn away and pretend to run away from her for 10 steps or so.
2. While running, use a positive and conversational tone of voice, and say her name, as if you were in the house playing.
3. Then, ideally, get on the ground (even though it is a mess outside) and squat, with your back to her, continuing to say things like "Sweet Gigi", "good girl" etc. in a happy tone. By doing this, you are in effect putting yourself in a submissive position to her.
4. Keep doing this. Gigi may appear to run away, but could well be hiding and observing you from a bush. Sam Connelly, the Pet Tracker, says you should keep this up. If you are walking another dog, crouch down and praise that dog.
5. If she does not come, which may be likely, please report your sighting--call 202-537-3660 or our cell--202-528-7724.

Many thanks for your help and consideration.

Gigi spotted 3 more times last night

We have proven sightings in her territory. We are working with Sam Connelly, of Pure Gold Pet Trackers, and narrowing in where Gigi is sleeping. This is real progress.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Robo call has yielded great results

This week we reached out to all 0f our neighbors in our zip code--2500 folks, through a robo call on Find Toto. You may have heard that Nancy (that's me) is missing a dog, Gigi, via phone. Jim and I want to say that we appreciate all of our neighbors in AU who are looking for Gigi, and we hope she will come home soon. I hope the call was not too much of a nuisance.

Guys, she is skitterish. The concern for me is that her bond is with her foster mom in Charlottesville is great. She is looking for her in Washington. Jim and I only had her 3 days. But you know what, even though her time here was short, Jim and I fell in love with her.

So if you can spot her, and you can cajole her into a safe, warm place, with 3 sides (she likes walls), that would be good. This advice is from her foster mom, whom I must say knows her like no other.

Two humane traps being set up

Based on sightings and the Gigi track that was defined when Salsa, the scent-dog, followed where Gigi is travelling, we are new setting up two humane traps. We have our fingers crossed. Though we are worried about how hungry she must be, we need her to get hungry enough that her desire for food overcomes her extreme fear of people. Gigi was caught by the humane animal officer in Charlottesville five months ago. We believe she had been abandoned. We don't know what her first year and a half was like, but it was probably not good. It is ironic that so many people are trying to help this sweet baby, but that she is so fearful of the humans that are so willing to do so much to save her.

The Hunn's reach out to each and every person today who came out to post the flyers on her behalf. Thank you so much.

Posting on telephone poles, posting online--every post helps

Teams of volunteers for Gigi covered the eastern half of her territory. Tomorrow, the western! We need the eyes on the ground of the folks who live there. All of our confirmed sightings have been from local residents who saw flyers or read about Gigi online. So if you can't post flyers on poles, please write about Gigi online, including local list serves, your Facebook pages, etc.

Six teams working. Need four more!

Thanks to everyone who is out posting flyers. Our goal is to cover half of Gigi's territory today. We need four more teams if we are going to get it done. Today. Or tomorrow.

Gigi's foster mom arrives from Charlottesville to help--can you?

Gigi's foster mom, Nancy Tisdale, Scottie--one of her three Shelties--and Nancy's friend Kay are arriving in a few minutes to help with our search and posting of Gigi Flyers. We're ready to hand out flyers to those who want to post them at 10 AM.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Confirmed sighting at 10:10 PM 2/19 at Van Ness and 44th

A nice man called us--he saw Gigi who was once again at 44th and Van Ness. He said she looked fit and running fast. She narrowly missed getting hit as she ran across Van Ness before running into a fenced area. This is the second specific spot we know she's returned to. The other is 44th and Harrison, many blocks north.

How to docs for volunteers

Here are critical documents you can download.

Please read the tip sheet first!

We will have flyers in plastic sleeves, push pins, duct tape, and maps ready by 10AM tomorrow, Saturday, February 19 for pick up at our home in AU Park (it is Metro accessible) (directions in Tips doc). You can print and post the flyer yourself within the track Gigi has been making. But please follow tips if you do (i.e., flyers need to plastic sleeves or will quickly dissolve).
Broadly speaking, Gigi is moving in the area between Mass Ave on the west, Nebraska on the south, Wisconsin on the east and Western on the north, plus a push into Spring Valley just south of the Crate & Barrel. In terms of neighborhoods, it is AU Park, Tenleytown, Friendship Heights and Spring Valley.

Posting widely outside this area is not advised by the experts. A few blocks outside the perimeter is good, since her route may expand gradually, if she doesn't find what she is seeking--shelter, food, and water.
If you do post on your own, please let us know via commenting on this post
Here is downloadable map of Gigi's route.

Area where Gigi can be found

Sam from Pure Gold Pet Trackers and I established this area where Gigi is moving at night. As a herder, she travels in circuits. Now we need help posting flyers in this area.

E-mail me at to volunteer. Time is of the essence!


Sending good thoughts to Gigi on Sat 2/20 Noon

From Gigi's Ttouch practitioner in Charlottesville:

The power of Intention is that a group of people holding the same thought carries more power than a single person holding that thought. This is often thought of as a prayer. Even if you are not nearby DC to volunteer to look for Gigi directly, this is something else we can all do to help.Please join me in holding the prayer/intention; May Gigi be completely safe. May she be easily and gently found, caught and safely reunited with her people. Please hold these thoughts through out the day and night whenever you think of it. Then, on Saturday, February 20, at 12 noon EST, please hold this prayer or silent meditation for 10 minutes together. We will increase the power of this prayer if we join together at the same time. Please use your social media outlets to post this prayer & info. The power of this prayer will increase with each person who joins in. May Gigi be completely safe. May she be easily and safely found, caught and reunited with her people.