Greyhound Lost: A Minivan Warning

By Alice Brown, September 2014
As I stood in our hotel room gazing into the large, searching eyes of my female Greyhound, Kazi, I felt numb. She lay on a dog bed that my husband and I had brought in case we were lucky. You see, we had just spent the last two days in a search for her, one that at times had seemed hopeless. To be able to be in the same room with her right now felt unreal. All the possible outcomes of the past days swirled through my mind. How this experience had ended this way was just short of a miracle. We had her back, unharmed; yet we stood in that room in a state of blissful shock.

It had been a glorious fall morning the day it began, perfect for an outing. My husband and I had been searching for the ideal dining room set for many months, and so we decided to go on a shopping trip. Our Greyhounds, although not in need of a table but loving a ride, begged to come along. Jumping into the back of our van without hesitation and curling up on their favorite travel beds, they were ready for adventure.

We headed out for our day of shopping, and traveled south on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a beautiful and unspoiled area located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. We enjoyed traveling this stretch of road where the fields of soy beans, corn and cotton were abundant in the fall, where old buildings were untouched and repurposed, and where crepe myrtles lined the rustic highway. It brought peace to our souls and was the reason we had chosen to relocate here.

 Soon we came to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, an expanse of 18 miles of aquamarine water and steel blue sky. This beauty and tranquility ended abruptly as we crossed the bridge into Virginia Beach, a bustling city of wide streets filled with speeding cars—many, many cars.

We got into the rhythm of the streets with their endless traffic lights and made our way to the store. Our sweet Greyhounds slept the entire trip and only raised their heads when we stopped at a red light or made a turn. We arrived at the furniture store ready to do some heavy shopping, and this is where our story takes a horrifying turn, unexpected but ultimately uplifting.

We parked, got out of our van, and checked to see that our dogs were settled in the back.  All seemed well so we moved into the store in anticipation of ferreting out something perfect for our home. After finding what we thought would work for us, and while discussing the details with the salesperson, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. It seemed that something had happened regarding our van.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

When I looked out of the front window of the store, my heart sank. My husband, who had run out before me, was already speaking to a person who had witnessed the incident. There were people hovering around the car speaking in low tones as I ran to see what had happened. The back of the van was standing open, the mouth of a giant cave but with no animals inside taking shelter. Our dogs were gone. I took in the scene: my husband was talking to a bystander, and Rusty, our male Greyhound, was being held by a stranger. I approached the person restraining my dog, thanking him, and asking what had happened. 

It seemed that for no apparent reason, the hatch on the back of the van had opened, its great metal jaws beckoning the outside. The dogs, confused, and seeing no one, jumped out. Rusty, thinking a treat was in the offing approached a stranger who grabbed his collar. As this person went to grab Kazi, she bolted. But where had she gone?

Greyhounds are fast and, if they are the least bit skittish like Kazi is, they are almost impossible to catch. My husband and I have had Greyhounds for almost twenty-five years, but we have never lost a dog like this. Oh sure, now and again, one had gotten out of the backyard, but was always quickly recovered. This was terrifying. Here we were on one of the busiest streets in Virginia Beach, and she had already crossed it. What to do first? Although numbed by fear, we wasted no time. My husband jumped into the car to scour the nearby streets, a stranger volunteering to go with him. I took Rusty and started out on foot, questioning people as I walked. Some people had seen her and others not, but all were sympathetic. Then a thought; we had worked with a Greyhound group from Virginia Beach for a few years, and I was sure that they would help.

I called the leader of our group. She, in turn, called others and before we knew it, we had a group of Greyhound owners and their dogs looking for our runaway. It is often said that emergencies bring out the best and worst in people. I only saw the best. Many people offered their help. What these good people didn’t know was how important their simple acts of kindness were to us. They cared enough to help us look for our lost pet. And so we looked. We searched that entire day and into the night when it was too dark to search anymore.  Finally, giving up for the evening, we were forced to make the journey home. How hard it was. It had turned cold and rainy, and all I could think of was poor Kazi out in that horrible weather.

That night, we slept very little, and by early the next morning, we were back on the road heading south again across the Bay. This time, we had brought extra clothing so we could stay overnight. The weather was dreadful, still rainy and cold, the cold nothing compared to the frigid chill around our hearts at the loss of our dog. 

Upon our arrival, we had flyers made and started posting them. Occasionally, we received calls from people who had heard of our plight and were willing to pass out flyers or to help in any way they could. Sometimes, it was just simple information shared that helped to shape the rest of our day.

We felt helpless as we trudged through the maze of that gloomy day. People called with sightings of what they thought could be our girl. We tried to follow up by posting flyers everywhere. The weather worsened, it poured, the sky darkened mirroring our impotence. By 4:30 p.m., we decided to stop and regroup for the next day.  I looked at my husband as we sat in our car, both drenched from the rain, and for the first time said, “I don’t think we’re going to find her.” With that thought, we headed for our hotel but on the way stopped at an emergency animal hospital to post our last flyer of the day.

There are so few times that miracles happen, we tend not to believe them when they do. As we pulled into a parking space, my husband’s phone rang. He wasn’t quick enough to get it, but a message was left, and as he listened, he started motioning me with his hand. He hung up, looked at me and exploded, “They found her!”

Unbelievable. He called the number left on the phone, spoke to our savior, and receive directions. As we hurried to pick up our little fugitive, we were in shock. Our emotions had just  catapulted from despair to elation. 

When we reached our destination, we were amazed at the distance our dog had covered in her twenty-five hour journey. She had not only crossed one main road of nine lanes, but also another of eleven. The miracle was not only had we found her, but that she was still alive and not hurt in anyway. After wandering into an industrial park where her rescuers had been working late, she approached their door, they opened it, and she walked right in. Reading her tag collar was all that was needed to reconnect us.

You may be thinking, what a happy ending. But this could have ended very badly for us. This was written to inform and to caution. My husband and I have a Honda Odyssey van which is comfortable and useful especially carrying two large breed dogs. However, one of the special features of our car was the cause of this misadventure.                                                      

At first, the feature of an automatically opening rear hatch had appealed to us. If your arms were full, you could just press a button on the remote and the hatch would open. We, however, did not realize the distance the signal of that remote travels. When we were in the furniture store, my husband put the remote/car key into his back pocket and sat down. That simple action pressed the button for the rear hatch. Even if the doors are locked, one push of that button will open the hatch.

After this took place, we went to our car dealer and asked to have this feature disabled. Disabling it, however, would also disable other features of the vehicle that were needed.  So we decided to solve our immediate problem by using the valet key that has no remote on it when the dogs are in the car with us. This is a suggestion that you might wish to follow if yourdogs travel in the back of your van. After locking the vehicle, try to open the rear hatch with the remote using only one click. If it does open, be aware and act accordingly. Checking this could save you unwanted heartache.

Car manufacturers should rethink and recall vehicles with this poorly designed feature. I hope that this is something that will be changed in the future design of minivans. We were just fortunate that our story ended happily and well and that Kazi is safe in her bed. Incidentally, she promises not to run away again when it’s raining. I’m not too sure about when the sun is shining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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