Gypsy Found a Home–But it Wasn’t Easy!

Dec 7, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Pets

by Cathy McDonagh

On Saturday, October 26 Mark and I went to a big dog adoption event held at Burnett’s Landscaping in Salem, CT. There were dozens of dogs there and hundreds of people. The bell they clanged to celebrate each adoption rang almost constantly!

We looked at many dogs, but finally settled on a mostly white with black/brown spots Corgi/Jack Russell Terrier mix who weighs about 20 pounds. She’s about three years old and very friendly. The adoption process took hours and it was about 4:30 p.m. when the big bell rang for us!

She had been found as a stray in Macon, Georgia. She must have been someone’s pet because she was in quite good shape when they caught her, but no one came to claim her at the pound, so she was brought up here to find a good Forever Home.

Mark and I left with our new dog and went directly to PetCo. She came inside with us, walked nicely on her leash and was very calm. We bought food, treats, toys and a harness for her, but sadly we didn’t put the harness on. When we got back to the car, just as I was going to pick her up to put her in, she slipped out of her collar and ran away! Watching her run up the very busy road away from us was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had to do. She didn’t know us, she didn’t know where she was and she didn’t even know her name. There was no reason for her to come to us, and she didn’t.

Gypsy in the parking lot

She ran around the parking lot for a few minutes while about 15 people tried to help us catch her. When she started to run up the street, several people jumped in their cars to help us look. They saw her across the road at an Olive Garden, then she was in the Target parking lot–then she was gone. No one knew where she went and most people helping us wished us luck and went home, but one young couple, Ian and Maria, stayed to help us look for hours. My friend Nancy came to help us search too and we drove around, frantically looking for her as it got darker and darker.

Finally I called Ian to ask him and Maria to drive around the Best Buy parking lot (across the road from Target) and a few minutes later they called us to say they had seen her in the parking lot behind Babies R Us (near Best Buy). She ran into the woods, so we drove to the neighborhood behind the store. No luck, but at least she had been seen and she was away from the very busy road.

By now it was totally dark so I called of the search for the night and we sadly went home.

About 9 p.m. Mark decided to go back to Babies R Us and just sit in his car there for awhile. I told him that he would never see her and that she was long gone, but he went anyway. Good man!

The rescue organization did have her micro-chipped, so I stayed home and registered her with the microchip company and reported her missing. They generated a poster for us to distribute and I printed 40 of those, but never did use them.

About 10:30 Mark called and said he had seen a white animal hanging around at the edge of the woods and could it be her? Of course it could be! I grabbed our Hav-a-Heart trap and drove over there. She didn’t come near us so it was really hard to see her, even though the parking lot was well lit, but I figured it had to be her. We set up the trap and Mark went home.

It was a chilly night but not frigid. Even when it started to rain it wasn’t too bad, so I spent the night with both of my front car doors open, thinking that if she got cold enough she might jump in. I talked and talked to her and she came closer and closer. Eventually she actually took food from my hand, but there was just no way to grab her. She was so quick! But at least she wasn’t wandering around lost; she was in one place, in a big parking lot behind some stores, safe from traffic. I kept putting tiny morsels of dog food near the trap. I wanted her to be hungry so she’d go inside, but I also wanted her to know that she could always find food there, so she wouldn’t wander off. She did investigate the trap but it was too small and she just wouldn’t go in.

I can tell you that one reason there are so many stray dogs in this country is because there are no resources to help catch them. We called everyone. Most towns, if they even have animal control, only have one officer and he is overworked and underpaid–and many of them just don’t care. He doesn’t work weekends and the only time he will help is if the stray is injured or aggressive or a bear. The police don’t help with animals at all, and as for shooting an animal with a tranquilizer dart–that only works on TV. Veterinarians won’t give you an oral tranquilizer because they can’t ‘treat’ an animal that they’ve never seen. Humane societies and rescues are over-crowded and under-staffed, so they can’t help. It’s incredibly difficult to catch a dog that doesn’t want to be caught without help and no one (except friends) was interested in helping.

I spent all Saturday night in the parking lot and the next morning Nancy came out with some fencing and her two little dogs. We built a big trap/fenced in area and then tried to lure our stray into it with the dogs. She was interested in the dogs but she just wouldn’t go into the fenced area. Very frustrating!

Neither Mark nor I wanted to leave our little dog alone for very long, so he stayed at the parking lot all day Sunday while I tried–and failed–to get some sleep. I just couldn’t stop worrying about her, so I finally just went back out there. I spent all Sunday night in the parking lot, but because so many people had tried to catch her the day before, she wouldn’t come near me. It was a lot colder too. The poor little dog dug herself a shallow bed in some mulch, but I could see her shivering. I tried putting a blanket down for her but she wouldn’t come near it and in fact, she moved to sleep in the woods where I couldn’t see her. It was so frustrating and disappointing! I did see a pretty fox investigating the trap though and that was fun.

Monday morning we were finally able to borrow a bigger Hav-a-Heart trap from Animal Control, so we set that up. Another friend came with one of her dogs and some homemade meatball treats. By now our little dog was very hungry and

Betsy was able to get her to come very close–but not close enough. More disappointment!

The people in Babies R Us and the big furniture store on the other side were all very interested in our little runaway. Everyone wanted to help, but since she would run from anyone chasing her, we told them the best thing to do was just send us their best mojo or prayers. At least we were able to use their bathrooms during the day; at night I had to drive a few miles to an all-night gas station to use the bathroom.

I stayed all day Monday until Mark came from work, then tried to sleep – but couldn’t. By now I was going on less than nine hours sleep over three days. When I went back out there about 9 p.m. on Monday, I brought some Benedryl, which can cause drowsiness. (I looked up the proper dosage, of course.) I had gotten very close to the dog before when she was sleeping, so I was hoping that if she was just a bit drowsier she might let me pick her up. We put the drug in some raw hamburger and she gobbled it right down.

It had no effect!

By now the only thing I’d done at home was try to sleep. The house was a mess and I was expecting company over the weekend, I hadn’t spent any time with the cats and just did the minimum to take care of the rats. I was distraught, frustrated, exhausted, worried, and disappointed and–did I say frustrated? I felt hungry but nauseated at the same time; I was getting sick. About 12:30am I was so upset and tired that I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I left the poor dog on her own and went home to get some sleep.

I went back out there at 7:30 Tuesday morning and I gave the dog a slightly bigger dose of the Benedryl. I think she yawned once, but for the two hours after I gave it, I kept tossing her tiny, itty-bitty morsels of hamburger to keep her near me. I still wanted her to be hungry, but I also didn’t want her to run off and fall asleep in the woods. I talked to her for two hours while cleaning out my car and kept tossing bits of hamburger and put more hamburger and bacon inside the trap. She did actually go in the trap–all the way in–my heart stopped!–but she just didn’t step on the plate that would have snapped it shut. Have I mentioned how frustrating all this was? Anyway, after two hours she finally walked away to get a nap, but she still wouldn’t let me get close to her, so I walked over to the nearby stores and went shopping.

When I came back into the parking lot she actually ran up to me! She was wagging her tail, play-bowing, running around, seeming just thrilled that I had come back. She was so happy to see me she was dancing all around, but just wouldn’t let me touch her. When I bent down, she ran, so with great difficulty (I’m a BIG person and sitting on the ground is nearly impossible for me) I sat down on a curb. That must have been the magic that she was waiting for, because as soon as I was down closer to her level she came right up to me and I was able to finally get my hands on her. From frustration to elation in a matter of seconds! I’ll tell you, getting up and holding onto the dog, was not easy! But I finally managed and I got her into my car. I had my dog!!!!

Gypsy safe again

I called Mark and waited for him. He came right out to get the borrowed trap and, after I had put the harness on the dog and tied her in the car; together we went to the stores to announce that she had been caught. Everyone was so happy for us–and her!

She ran away from us about 5 p.m. Saturday and I finally caught her about 1 p.m. Tuesday. She ran down a four lane, extremely busy road with shopping malls and big box stores on both sides and she crossed this road at least twice when traffic was really heavy. She ran about a mile before she ended up in the parking lot behind Babies R Us and she spent nearly three days and three cold nights in that parking lot, but thank goodness she was there and not wandering around. We might never have found her!

So now she is home and because Mark and I spent so much time with her in the parking lot, she already knows us well and we actually have already bonded in a way. She’s very friendly and playful but content to sleep quietly when I’m on the computer. She cuddles well–she actually fell asleep in my arms when we were watching TV. She doesn’t seem to know any commands like sit, come or stay but she’s learning quickly. They told us she was housebroken and so far, so good! She is very interested in the cats and will bark and growl at them, but she isn’t at all aggressive towards them. Of course the cats are horrified, but they will adjust!

The rescue people were calling her Tabbie, but Betsy suggested naming her Gypsy, since she is very independent and quite a wanderer. I like that name, so Gypsy she is!

You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.

Cathy McDonagh is 56 and very happily married for 4 years to Mark. They live in Connecticut with 8 cats and 4 rats – and Gypsy, of course! She is a Happy Homemaker who occasionally works as a Professional Organizer, helping people declutter their homes. Gypsy has adapted quickly to her new life and seems very happy.


  1. Such dedication. It’s people like Cathy and Mark that make life with adopted pets such a joy to read about.

  2. This is a great story, especially for the holidays. Gypsy is one lucky little dog.

  3. I could not walk away until I read this entire post.
    My heart is pounding just imagining how terrified you must have been. I am so glad this had a happy ending.

  4. Super HAPPY TAIL! and I have to agree — ‘catching’ a dog ( or cat for that matter ) that isn’t ready or is truly panic stricken is difficult at best – and it’s no easier for professional ‘Animal Control’ people either – except they may have the right equipment immediately available — but if the dog/cat is ‘trap shy’, wary of ‘new’ things, etc. they can’t work miracles over night. – and tranqing really isn’t like it’s portrayed on the old ‘WILD KINGDOM’!

  5. Thank goodness Gypsy found you and Mark because someone else would have given up and walked away. Happy holidays from New Hampshire.

  6. Gypsy must actually be a CAT, because she has to have NINE LIVES!


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