Seneca Krueger could never have guessed the extraordinary trip Zelda would make to be with her again when she initially picked up her foster dog Zelda last year.
Krueger, a psychologist, is a dog foster mom who specializes in teaching rescued dogs to trust humans again. She’s fostered 30 dogs so far, but Zelda was an especially case.
She realized that Zelda seemed to be the calmest when she was on a leash, so she began tether training her — and gradually, the shy dog began to open up.
“When I was home, she was attached to me,” Krueger said. “Over the course of two weeks of tether training, I had also weaned her off of her anti-anxiety medications, and the pacing had decreased. She was even willing to come out of hiding on her own for brief periods of time.”
Zelda eventually wagged her tail after two months of living with Krueger and her two family dogs. She began to bark and play around four months. However, Krueger knew she had helped Zelda as much as she could, and it’s time to let her go.
“As Zelda began to gain a little more confidence, I decided it was time for her to find her forever home,” Krueger said. “This is what you are supposed to do as a dog foster; help them adjust and then happily say goodbye as they go and live their best lives.”
Krueger drove Zelda 65km to her new home, but breaking up with her was harder than she expected.
“I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see through my tears,” Krueger said. “For the first time in my 12 years of dog fostering, I felt like I had given away my dog.”
Ten days after saying goodbye, Krueger received a call that terrified every dog owner – Zelda had gone missing. Krueger immediately got in the car to start looking for her.
START (Search, Track, and Retrieval Team), an all-volunteer dog search team, had also received notice of Zelda’s disappearance. The team put up feeding stations and trail cameras across the region, and reports of Zelda sightings began to stream in. As temperatures dropped below zero, Krueger refused to give up on her search.
“The coldest days were the days I spent the most time searching because I was desperate to get Zelda warm and safe,” Krueger said. “[I] spent hours out in the freezing cold, following dog tracks through ravines, frozen swamps and fields.”
Krueger received news more than two months later that Zelda had been discovered in Minneapolis, midway between the dog’s new home and her foster home. Only then did Krueger know Zelda was attempting to return to her.
Two weeks later, Krueger learned that Zelda had been sighted near her home. She set up feeding stations around her house and started throwing dirty laundry on the front lawn in the hopes that the smell would entice Zelda to return to home.
A couple contacted Krueger to inform her that they had been feeding a very frightened dog that resembled Zelda. But Krueger didn’t want to get her hopes up after such a long time.
“Although I really wanted this dog to be my Zelda, I knew that if there was a lost, scared dog out there on the streets, we had to help it,” Krueger said. “Even if it wasn’t the dog that I knew and loved, and missed so much.”
Finally, the couple was able to trap the emaciated dog and notified Krueger in the early hours of the morning. Inside the cage, Krueger discovered a little, anxious dog that barely resembled the Zelda she once knew.
But when the manager of START arrived, a quick scan of the dog’s chip confirmed the impossible. After over three months on the run, Zelda had found her way home.
“It was a miracle, and what else do you do in the face of a miracle? I sobbed,” Krueger said. “I apologized to Zelda for not recognizing her. I touched her for the first time in 97 days. I assured her that she was going home forever and that I never stopped looking for her.”
Zelda has settled in nicely at home and is overjoyed to be back with her mother.