A few years ago we featured one of our Canicross friends, Sue-Lee, in our “My Story” blog. It showcased her Canicross adventures with her beautiful labrador Darwin. You can find that post here.
Fast forward to 29 September 2023, and Sue faced every dog owner’s worst nightmare. While she was away on holiday, Darwin (who was being cared for by a friend) managed to unexpectedly barge out of the front door and bolt up the road. It was nightime, and reports then came that a large black dog had been hit by a car and then had run off out of sight into the woods. Sue was contacted immediately, and she flew straight back from holiday to find her dog.
Given that Darwin had disappeared in a built-up area that he knew well, you might think that he would have been found quite quickly. However, it was over six weeks before he was caught and reunited with Sue Lee.
We wanted to share the story, as we often think this would never happen to us, and if our dogs do get lost, they would look to come home quickly.
“Friends, neighbours, and the Canicross community rallied overwhelming support and assistance. There was continued commitment to bringing Darwin home, remaining unwavering from the initial sightings and weekend searches to subsequent spots at Chalk Farm Lake and the A331.
For four weeks, despite deploying multiple feeding stations, drones, ground searches, and the generous contribution of wildlife cameras by Salli Scott, Darwin remained elusive. Various possible sightings led to dead ends or encounters with other wandering dogs. Speculation arose that he might have been picked up or ventured farther away, prompting the launch of the “Too Hot To Handle” campaign with the backing of Salli and Heather Driscoll-Woodford.
Amid doubts, Sue remained convinced that Darwin was still local but had found a perfect hiding spot and was scavenging for food at night.
This intuition proved correct when, on 30 October, a call reported a big black dog in the woods, just half a mile from the A331 sighting. Sue and another friend, Cathy and Emma, saw him very briefly in the area. He was frightened and anxious and ran off; however, this was the first confirmed sighting in four weeks.
Elated by the discovery, new feeding stations were set up and monitored by cameras lent by Salli. Darwin visited all four stations within 24 hours, indicating his presence in the area. Recognizing the need for a trap, Amanda Wood-Woolley introduced the team to Solstice Missing Dogs, Karen, and Jodie. Despite challenges, including Darwin’s clever attempts to avoid the trap, they persisted.
After modifications and various attempts, including a larger trap, Darwin finally entered the trap on November 11, after 12 days of tireless efforts. Sue’s patient interaction with him and the careful extraction from the crate marked a joyous reunion. Darwin, now back at Sue’s house, behaves as if he never left.
The success of the mission is credited to the collaborative efforts of numerous individuals and organisations. Special thanks are extended to A Turner & Sons Butchers, Prospect Estate Agents, the Core Team, Cathy, Emma, Heather, Jodie, Karen, and especially Salli, whose unwavering support and dedication played a pivotal role in bringing Darwin home.
It was an emotional rollercoaster of a journey and gratitude is extended to everyone involved in helping search for Darwin. Together, they successfully brought Darwin home, and a very happy ending to the challenging ordeal.”