Wind: 3 mph
By Gail Breslauer
This is a scary, pre-Halloween story—at least it was for me.
Some humans get what's called spring fever. Some folks get that same feeling when the deep natural snow arrives. If that describes you (as well as me), then perhaps you can understand, and forgive me (and two of my Siberian husky sled dogs) for what happened this past Friday.
On October 24 and 25 the temperature dropped below freezing for the first time of this season. Apparently that was all it took for "fall fever" to set in for 5-year-old, eager Nahanni. About 6:15 p.m., I received a phone call from Karen of Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm telling me that she saw two Siberians running down North Fayston Road, heading for Route 100. I uttered some expletive while thanking Karen and running for my car keys, cell phone and a jar of dog biscuits.
While Nahanni's was in the kennel, she engineered a Houdini-like escape out of a hole no larger than the span of my hand with outstretched thumb and pinky fingers. Nahanni's kennel mate, Touvik (an 11-year- old, 50- to 55-pound male), got his large head and big body through that 8-inch-by-8-inch hole and went with her.
I drove to North Fayston. I knew how many miles long-legged Nahanni could run but didn't know if Touvik could or would keep up with her this season. But they were seen running on and near a busy paved road that they don't know, running at a busy time of day. Both Nahanni and Touvik are light gray and white Siberians, but what if people mistakenly think they might be coyotes or wolves? Would they be shot?
I spotted them in the middle of the road. Others had seen them, too. I stopped the car, left the headlights on and opened the rear hatch hoping they'd come and hop in to go for a ride with me. I called and tried to whistle them to me, jiggled the dog treats. Siberian husky owners know you can't run and chase them; they like to play chase and think it's a great game. They have to come to you. At the same moment, as I stood there in the road calling to them, a car was coming down the road, as another car came up the road and slammed on its brakes as soon as they spotted the dogs in their headlights who were frightened, frozen and remained standing in the road.
This could have had a horrible, horrible ending, but it didn't. I saw Touvik move out of the way of the car, but I didn't see him or where he went. I was sure I saw Nahanni get slightly clipped by the car and lift her leg while bolting three-legged away from the car towards the woods heading north or northeast. But I was just as worried about the car's driver and front-seat passenger as I was about my dogs. I ran to the (unknown to me) driver who was rapidly getting out of his car. I wanted to make sure they were OK. I think, hope, I apologized and told him it wasn't his fault. It absolutely wasn't—and I'm so terribly sorry.
Gary Williams and Ned Kelley were helping with the cars and people in the road. A neighbor saw where the dogs headed—through the woods at his house to the brook where the woodchuck also lived. I figured the dogs might follow Shepard Brook. As I got closer to Route 100, I spotted another car's headlights at the base of a private road—the lights shining on the dogs as they headed uphill. As I searched, while out of my car at the top of a knoll, I could see Wilder Farm Inn and lots of cars and bright headlights driving on Route 100--way too close for comfort, instilling more fear.
I went on to Wilder Farm Inn alerting innkeepers Luke and Linda Iannuzzi that two of my dogs were loose, friendly, one was injured and might be headed towards the inn. I asked them to please call the Hartshorns and Williams families in case the dogs diverted through the woods in that direction. As I was leaving the inn's parking area, I got a call from Brad telling me the dogs were just spotted. Off I went again and there they were being held, cuddled, calmed and loved by Valley locals on the side of Route100 very close to North Fayston Road.
At that point, I was so relieved and grateful I never asked how they got the dogs to come to them. I did have enough presence to ask for everyone's name as we stood there in the dark. Huge, huge, huge thanks to Joan Gilbert, Jess Long and Trevor Gaylord and anyone and everyone else who was on Route 100 and/or North Fayston Road that evening and involved in any way in helping to save my dogs lives! I'm glad there were no car accidents or injuries to any humans that night as a result of my dogs and I cannot apologize enough to everyone. I'm grateful that this Valley is full of dog-loving, animal-loving people—loving people who will stop to help one another whenever help of any kind is needed.
Touvik probably helped save Nahanni's life that evening, and his own life, by staying with her. The next day I was told that Touvik eventually went to the open arms of the kind humans he never met before who were on Route 100 but who rapidly stopped their cars when they saw him in the road. Once the folks had and held Touvik, Nahanni (with an injured, bleeding rear foot/paw) came out of the woods to join Touvik and the humans.
Long story short, with many huge thanks to Donna and Skip for their help and understanding, and even bigger hugs and enormous thanks to Dr. Roy Hadden, both dogs were examined that night and both dogs were unbelievably lucky. Nahanni's paw was sutured. Both dogs are housebound until Nahanni's sutures are removed. They're happy in the house and Nahanni has remained glued to my left side or at my feet—although she badly wants to go for a run and has her nose way too high in the air catching scents when I take her—on leash—to do her business. Touvik hasn't been far from either of us.
Breslauer lives in Moretown.