Nothing quite compares to the gut-dropping sensation you feel upon realizing your dog has made a run for it and the uncertainty about whether he’ll make it back.
Fortunately, a Minnesota nonprofit known as The Retrievers is dedicated to bringing missing dogs home. We caught up with Operations Director Natalie Wicker to learn more.
SWD: How is The Retrievers different from Lost Dogs MN?
TR: The Retrievers uses a hands-on approach to help people find their lost dogs through consultation, search strategy, and the humane capture of skittish dogs. Our clients are assigned a case manager, who works with them until the case is resolved. We also work with rescues, since new foster dogs can be a high flight risk due to anxiety about their new surroundings. In comparison, Lost Dogs MN is a great online resource where people can share information on lost and found dogs.
SWD: Describe a day in the life as a Retrievers’ case manager.
TR: Managing a case requires daily effort and includes generating public awareness, providing client consultation, and helping to trap shy or skittish dogs so that they can be safely reunited with their owners. Each case manager usually handles 1-3 cases at a time, and we generally have 6-10 active cases at any given moment. As Operations Director, in addition to managing my own cases, my primary focus is ensuring that our volunteers have the tools and support to be successful. I work a full-time job; my evenings are dedicated to The Retrievers. We’re all volunteers who give as much as we can.
SWD: Tell us about a Retrievers success story.
TR: Recently a good Samaritan came across an abandoned, emaciated pit bull living in filth under a trailer home with her newborn puppies. The person began feeding the mama, whom they called Luseigh (Lucy), and then contacted us. Since Luseigh was incredibly fearful, we deployed a humane trap. Less than an hour later, she entered the trap. As we sat with her, we noticed her gaze was locked on a specific area of the trailer home. We began to pull siding off and a brave young neighbor girl army-crawled under the dilapidated trailer home and found the puppies, who mama had hidden well. Ruff Start Rescue brought the family into a foster home, and Luseigh has been learning to replace her sadness with trust. This is one of my favorite cases because we were not only able to bring one life to safety, but seven! [The puppies have all found homes, and Luseigh is currently available for adoption].
SWD: There are a lot of people who think that losing a dog can only happen if the owner is extremely careless. Do you think that is true?
TR: People generally think “this would never happen to me”…until it does. Dogs are animals who have instincts. You never know when they will follow their nose after a scent, get startled, or just decide to take themselves on a little adventure and get turned around. Many of the owners we work with say, “He’s never run off before.” That being said, there are a lot of things people can do to prevent their dog from becoming lost in the first place, like using martingale collars rather than flat buckle collars while out and about, not allowing your dog to approach the door when people are coming and going, and making sure gates and fences are secure (and reminding kids and guests to close them). These are particularly important any time you bring home a new foster or adopt a dog — dogs in transition are always a flight risk. No matter how trained your dog is, we advise people to always take precaution. Prevention takes little effort but saves you a lot of anguish and keeps your dog safe.
SWD: How can our readers help The Retrievers?
TR: We currently have 26 team members and are always looking for more like-minded folks to join the team. People with a volunteer spirit and a passion for helping lost dogs are welcome to apply. Donations are also appreciated!