When a lost dog comes home

A good dog story can be the cure for what ails you as the Duluth News Tribune’s John Lundy proves again today.

It’s the story of Bentley, a 2-year-old lab mix, who bolted when the owner’s boyfriend was trying to put him in the car. Amara Jensen was out of town when her canine went missing.

It was minus 22 degrees in Duluth, not the best weather for a short-haired dog, but not an impediment for dozens — maybe hundreds — of people who cared enough to help look for Bentley. But days went by. No Bentley.

A Minneapolis-based group provided signs — repurposed campaign signs — to post around Duluth.

“If you drove down Woodland (Avenue), you just saw Bentley everywhere,” Jensen said.

Reports of Bentley sightings started coming in. He was seen on someone’s porch but fled when his name was called.

When Jensen got home, she searched Hartley Park trails. No luck.

Until…

“I’m getting real frustrated, and I started bawling,” she related. “And I walked out and I called my mom and I said, ‘Mom, everyone’s seeing him on the trails and I haven’t seen him, and I don’t know what to do.’ ”

At that moment, she saw Bentley on the other side of a creek. In her excitement, she threw her cell phone into the snow. “And my mom, I can hear her screaming on the phone: Are you all right? What’s happening?”

Following Cadigan’s advice, Jensen spoke familiar phrases. The dog started whining and wagging his tail — and trying to figure out how to get across the creek. Eventually, Bentley leaped across the creek and rushed to Jensen’s arms, whining and crying and getting dog kisses from Hans.

Just get in the car next time, Bentley.

Why didn’t Bentley come when people called his name? Because a dog that’s lost acts differently.

“Dogs go into survival mode, some relatively quickly,” [Retrievers volunteer case worker Jennifer] Cadigan said. “The only thing they’re concerned with is finding food, water and shelter. Everything and everyone is a predator, even their owners. That’s why you can’t chase lost dogs. Chasing lost dogs is the worst thing you can ever do.”

Instead, get down low and make yourself as small as possible, Cadigan said. Don’t make eye contact, and don’t say the dog’s name.

You can quietly say familiar phrases, though, Cadigan said.

The familiar sounds, spoken calmly, can overcome the fear in the dog’s brain, as can familiar smells, she said.

Bentley, by the way, is named for Bentleyville, where Jensen and her boyfriend met.

Related: Lost Dogs Minnesota on Facebook

  • Michael

    Funny, I didn’t realize the dust in the office was so bad this morning. Thank you Bob.

  • MrE85

    I needed this. Thanks, Bob.

  • MikeB

    Cannot imagine the heartache they endured while their dog was out in the cold weather. I’d be (even more so) unbearable

  • bjnord

    We just went through this last year; our dog bolted out the door of family we left her with in Faribault. She was running around town for two days; lots of sightings, but she’s really fast, no hope of catching her. The worst moment was when we got back into town, and got within calling distance, and she stopped briefly but then shot away from us. We felt the same heartbreak Amara Jensen did at that moment… what do you do?

    The article is right; the dog’s brain goes into adrenaline-soaked panic mode, and they don’t even recognize you… the worst thing you can do is try to chase them.

    Fortunately she kept circling back to the house; we finally got her by waiting until dark when the town was quiet, and sitting out in our van with the door open and her blanket just outside. After a few hours wait when she didn’t feel threatened she jumped right into the car. She was in really bad shape but has since made a full recovery.

  • Will

    Great story.