Chestnut, a 12-week-old Golden Retriever puppy being raised as a potential Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) guide dog, was found safe in Greenfield 41 hours after she was scared off by New Years Eve fireworks.
She was located unharmed at 1 p.m. Jan. 2 by area resident Bayne Sperry, about a kilometre from where she had run away.
“We are so thankful for everyone in the area who helped out and grateful for their support,” said Laura Kennedy, Puppy Raising Supervisor for CNIB Guide Dogs. “We were thrilled by the number of people who shared posts on social media, and also for the volunteers who made the trek out from Halifax to help in the search.”
Kennedy said Chestnut and her puppy raisers from the Halifax area were in the Greenfield area visiting friends on Dec. 31. Nearby fireworks were set off scaring Chestnut and she bolted for the woods.
Puppy raisers are volunteers whose role is to foster a potential CNIB Guide Dogs puppy from about eight weeks old to between 12 and 15 months old. The dogs then are paired with trainers to complete their guide dog training.
Chestnut was leashed at the time that she bolted, but Kennedy said it was “fight or flight time,” and she chose to flee.
The puppy raisers and their friends combed the woods through the night, alerted people in the neighbourhood and made posts on social media.
On Jan. 2, a professional dog tracker, Mike Chapman, his wife Laura, and dog Diesel, were brought in to help in the search.
However, it was Sperry, who was heading into his home after searching on his own who happened to glance at his neighbour’s vacant home nearby and saw the dog sitting on the steps.
“He went a little closer and said, ’ You must be Chestnut,’ and she came running over to him so excited,” reported Kennedy.
“We were so thrilled that she was found safe and healthy. We also couldn’t get over how clean she was. She is a white Golden Retriever puppy and she didn’t have a lick of dirt on her. And she had her leash on her when she bolted and it was in perfect condition. She hadn’t tried to chew through it or anything like that.”
Although she was hungry, Chestnut appeared happy and “overall, looked wonderful to us,” added Kennedy. A check-up at a vet confirmed her good condition.
Kennedy is thankful the weather was relatively warm and above freezing during the days Chestnut was on her own. The puppy is now back with her trainers, one of 10 young canines in the province schooling to be guide dogs.
Kennedy suggests the incident serves as a lesson about fireworks and dogs in general.
“We know every dog is different, but generally speaking fireworks can cause a fair bit of stress and anxiety in dogs, mainly because they are so loud and unpredictable,” she said. “Oftentimes you will notice a lot of panting, lip-licking, and some dogs may want to be right by your side, while others may kind of want to bolt.”
There are ongoing calls to ban fireworks completely, but Kennedy doesn’t have a strong position either way. However, she has some suggestions to mitigate the impact of fireworks.
Communication is key and people should talk with the neighbours and let them know of any plans to shoot off fireworks, so they can take precautions, said Kennedy, adding there could be some time restrictions for fireworks, such as being permitted only between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Other suggestions she had for a less stressful fireworks event for Fido include taking the dog for a long walk beforehand, so the pet is more rested; making sure it has a safe, comfortable place to rest when the fireworks start; placing the dog in its crate if it’s been pre-established as a safe place; closing the curtains to shut out the bright lights; and giving the dog treats or possibly playing calming music when the fireworks are occurring.
“I have seen more people asking for fireworks to be banned or to use silent fireworks. It’s not just an issue for dogs, but I’ve seen articles about how it may set off people suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how it affects them,” said Kennedy.
This year in Canning, a horse owner had to euthanize the animal after it was spooked by nearby fireworks and crashed through the paddock fencing. The 16-year-old show horse was found suffering a compound leg fracture. A petition was started following the social media posting of the incident calling for changes to where fireworks are sold to and how and when they may be used.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin