AJ is half lab, half red tick coonhound and his greatest joy in life is chasing squirrels, foxes and, of course, raccoons. He's smarter than the average human and 90 pounds of rompin', stompin' dynamite—so Saturday was not his first excursion. He's broken two of those steel-mesh leashes now, busted out of his collar three times, and made many other devilishly clever, Houdini-like escapes in the four-plus years he's resided at 730 Downing Place.
For him, escape is a wonderful game—and all the men and women of our neighborhood merely players.
According to the "AJ Rules," it's our job to catch him. If any family members approach, he'll run right past us, and if we're not fast enough to catch him ... that's our tough luck. The good news is he's got tags, with his name and our phone number. Eventually, he gets bored or tired or hungry and goes up to the nearest kind face, and the kind face brings him home, or calls us, and we pick him up.
When AJ takes off, the doorbell and phone start ringing at regular intervals with reports from the neighborhood. "AJ's loose!" "We just spotted him running through our back yard!" "Just wanted you to know, it's about 11 a.m., and he's in Good Templar Park, still going strong!"
Saturday was a little different.
We got the usual barrage of calls throughout the morning. By afternoon, they died down but we weren't terribly worried. "He'll show up any minute," we thought. He always had.
In the late afternoon, we started going on little family search parties. I'd go walking one hour, Tricia and Kathryn would drive around the neighborhood the next. After dinner, Paula and Kathryn went out again, in the dark, and didn't see or hear any sign of him. No calls, no barking in the distance, no friendly neighbor walking up the sidewalk with AJ in tow. I made the last search through the neighborhood and woods on foot and gave up just before midnight.
We were worried, but we figured someone had to have found him and taken him in. We didn't want to think of the alternatives, but we couldn't help ourselves. "Maybe the leash got caught and he's stuck." "Maybe he wandered into somebody's garage and can't get out." And, of course, we started to wonder if the next phone call might be the worst news of all, that he'd been hit by a car.
I just didn't know what else we could do except hope, so I went to bed, still expecting we'd hear his bark, open the door and find him standing there with that sheepish look he gets when he knows he's done something wrong. I found out later that Paula had stayed up most of the night, waiting and worrying.
When he wasn't back by morning, I was seriously freaked out, so I did what most of us do when we've run out of answers: I went to the Internet.
First, I put a note out on Facebook that AJ was missing. Then I found the Kane County Animal Control website and discovered they had a warden on call 24 hours a day. So I called that number, and was pleasantly surprised when I got a call back a few minutes later.
The warden took down AJ's description and suggested I call the Geneva Police Department. So I did. And AJ was there.
As soon as I got out of the car at the Police Department, I could hear him barking. The officer in charge told me that he'd been quiet all night and didn't make a peep until I was close by. It's amazing, dogs' sense of smell and hearing—and faith that I'd find him somehow.
He's resting here by my feet, as I type this. He had a little intestinal problem yesterday, probably from something he ate in the woods, and had a few small cuts on his feet, but he's fine today. And the Nagels are glad and grateful.
One of the reasons I'm writing this is to let folks know what you can do if your dog gets lost in Geneva. What I didn't know is that Geneva police regularly get calls about loose dogs and will come and pick them up. Typically, they'll hold onto the dog for 24 hours, then pass him/her along to Kane County Animal Control. The Geneva Police Deparment phone number is 630-232-4746. The Kane County Animal Control phone number is 630-232-3555. One of our readers, Jill Amoni, also let us know about this website: http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/
I'm also writing to thank the GPD and the KC Animal Control and all the people who responded to our Facebook post. Sometimes, it really does take a village.
Finally, as you've probably read, a dog was struck by a Nissan Pathfinder sports-utility vehicle traveling north on Route 31 yesterday, when the dog got loose and ran toward another dog into the roadway. It's a sad tale, and I'm writing to express sympathy for the person driving the SUV, the woman walking her lab and, especially, the family members whose dog died Sunday.
Some commenters suggested that a dog getting hit by a car isn't much of a news story. Others speculated the dog—a pit bull breed—might have been trying to attack the dog across the street, and the conversation took off from there. But after what we went through with AJ this weekend, our thoughts are with that family and what they must be going through.
We're sorry for their loss and very grateful AJ is home.