Local author pens book about true lost dog stories
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – A local author’s new book is more than just a feel-good read or a coffee table ornament.
“Home at Last: True Lost Dog Stories,” by Bette Anunson Anderson of De Pere is practical, too.
Along with its 10 happy canine reunion tales, the 107-page book contains common sense tips and advice on what to do if your pet goes missing.
Anunson Anderson knows a little something about the topic.
She’s found or rehomed more than 2,500 dogs and innumerable cats over her five decades working in animal rescue.
She’s been a trailblazer and catalyst in the local animal welfare arena, starting in the 1960s, before the Green Bay Humane Society had a building of its own.
She’s played leading roles in the launching of shelters in Shawano, Sturgeon Bay, and Oconto, as well as starting a rescue network on the Menominee reservation, and volunteering thousands of hours toward bettering the lives of animals.
For more than 20 years, she ran an unofficial lost dog program alongside the Green Bay Humane Society and has been recognized by state and local groups.
“Bette is the most kind and compassionate animal lover I’ve ever known,” said Riverside Animal Hospital’s Dr. Steve DeGrave, who played a role in helping Anunson’s efforts along the way. “There isn’t an animal she doesn’t love or a thing she wouldn’t do to help them.”
Early on, Anunson Anderson recognized not all older dogs that wind up at shelters were abandoned because their owners lost interest in them.
Many may have gotten confused and lost their way.
“They get disoriented just like people do,” Anunson Anderson said. “They could stay in your yard and stick to the same routine for years but one day turn the wrong way and go a different direction.”
Even old dogs can walk for hours, desperately searching for a familiar landmark and not finding one, before anyone notices they’re gone.
“People have no idea how far even an older dog can go, even those whose owners may think can’t walk a block,” she said. “If they’re lost, they can go miles and miles.”
She writes about Shadow, a blind collie, who traveled 25 miles one winter, from Little Suamico to Champion, across the frozen bay of Green Bay. He was gone for weeks.
Anunson Anderson said pet owners tend to think if their dog isn’t found after two days, it’s either dead or someone picked it up and isn’t likely to give it back.
That’s not necessarily the case, she said.
One little Yorkie from the Shawano area got out and wandered around for six weeks.
“People kept seeing it but it wouldn’t come to anyone,” she said.
Finally the lost dog walked right up to a hunter, perhaps realizing it was time to stop and ask for directions.
Anunson Anderson said when it comes to putting up signs, make them by hand and don’t limit your geography.
People are more apt to pay attention to handwritten flyers and signs than to those professionally printed, she said. It could be because they stand out.
“Print clearly, and make it big enough that people get the message while traveling at the posted speed limit,” she said. “They can always loop back around to get the number.”
Often people with lost animals put up signs within a short radius of their home, but Anunson Anderson said it can be helpful to reach farther to expand the number of eyes that see it.
Dogs that get out can travel outside or beyond their usual parameters, and people get around, too.
You never know when someone who might not have otherwise seen the sign will report having seen the animal.
One year on the day after Thanksgiving, a sheltie from the Denmark area got loose, and although people reported seeing it, it didn’t return for months.
Anunson Anderson and volunteers managed to capture it the following May at Kroll’s East on Main Street.
“Its nails were torn down, and it had been staying alive on roadkill,” she said.
She said shelties (Shetland sheepdogs) and collies are among the most difficult dogs to catch.
According to Sheltie Nation, they don’t just mosey around but seem to have a destination in mind.
Minnesota Sheltie Rescue says shelties may go into “near feral mode when lost,” making them very hard to catch.
Anunson Anderson said her experiences have taught her a lot and she feels others might benefit from it.
“I wanted to educate people on these types of things, so I wrote the book,” she said.
Although she’s rescued literally thousands of animals, she chose the 10 particular cases in her book based on the uniqueness of the situation and how it affected her.
“Each one is different from the other,” she said.
All of the dogs have special circumstances, whether a disability, age or geography.
Some have touched her so much she keeps photos of them around her house.