Setter survives Outer Ring Road ordeal

Barb Sweet
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Dog finally reunited with frantic family

Rodney Oliver is ecstatic to have his English setter, Harley, back after the dog was lost for 10 days near the Outer Ring Road. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Harley is one lucky dog. The affable, tricoloured English setter went missing from his St. John’s yard in early October, setting off a desperate search for him and triggering a little bit of fate that led to his being found and brought to Humane Services.

His owners, Rodney and Dawn Oliver, say Harley broke off his lead between 6-7 p.m. one evening after, they suspect, moose wandered into their yard, as they live near the Outer Ring Road. A neighbour reported seeing moose that evening.

“Hardly a day goes by we don’t see moose,” Rodney said.

The Olivers posted notices, advertised their plight on Facebook, Kijiji and other websites, and called the city.

Rodney walked every inch of the ditches on the Outer Ring each night after work until midnight, calling to Harley. He even took a day off work. The couple went to wherever there was a reported sighting.

One night they were in Foxtrap calling out until

1 a.m. after a trucker reported seeing a dog near the weigh scales.

Lyly Fortin, whose hobby is finding lost animals, also joined the search.

But as the days — 10 of them — stretched on, the Olivers became more and move devastated.

“We didn’t do dishes or anything,” said Rodney, who does not use Harley for hunting. He is among their beloved family pets and has his own room.

Harley is microchipped and has a City of St. John’s dog licence.

Finally they got a call from Humane Services saying that a dog matching Harley’s description was found by a dog trainer on the Outer Ring.

Rodney’s wife asked the shelter to check the dog’s microchip, not wanting their hopes dashed again.

It was indeed Harley, 30 pounds lighter and with a small lump on his shoulder.

“Oh my God, it was like Christmas morning,” Rodney said.

Harley got barbecued steak that night for supper and his wounds have since healed.

“He’s living on easy street now,” Rodney said, adding that Harley’s sticking close by and is being more obedient than usual.

“What I would say to anyone is not to give up on their dog. … Spread the word.”

Well-known Conception Bay South dog trainer Glenn Redmond was driving along the Outer Ring Road when he noticed a car pulled over and a bit of commotion. Then he saw a dog dart across the highway.

Redmond looked on, horrified, as the dog nearly got killed on the busy road.

“Literally, there was one truck came by — I swear to God — you were watching it happen and there was nothing you could  do about it,” Redmond said.

“I can’t grab hold of the dog and I can’t stop the vehicle. If I had seen (him get killed) I still wouldn’t be sleeping. You are watching and saying, ‘Please, please, please.’”

Fortunately, Harley was spared.

Redmond pulled over to the left of his lane, and went to the ditch in between the divided highway. A lady travelling in the opposite direction also pulled over and was instrumental in helping nab Harley. From there, Redmond bundled Harley into his vehicle, gave him treats and brought him to the city shelter.

Told by The Telegram about Harley’s reunion, he said the family did everything right — getting the word out as far and as wide as possible, including through social media, and contacting rescue groups.

He said a dog can travel a long distance and owners should branch out the search.

Dogs live in the moment, Redmond said, and if they follow a scent or other distraction, they can find themselves in situations where they don’t know how to get home.

“Then, if they get hit and injured, all bets are off,” he said.

“I could only imagine how I would feel if my dog was lost. It’s great he had some loving owners on the other end.”

Humane Services manager Cindy McGrath said everyone at the shelter had goosebumps watching the Olivers’ reunion with Harley.

“Oh my God, they were so emotional, so thrilled,” she said, adding it’s key that people license their dog and phone the shelter and the SPCA immediately about a missing pet. That could be crucial if an injured pet is brought to the shelter, as time is of the essence to find the owner.

She marvelled at Harley surviving on the Outer Ring.

The evening Harley went missing, the Humane Services shelter actually received an anonymous call that an injured black and white setter was seen on the Outer Ring Road and sent out animal control officers, who were unable to find the dog. 

McGrath said it’s possible Harley was struck by a car, and the driver didn’t stop to help him.

She said there’s been times the shelter has reunited owners with pets missing for six months, but the story doesn’t always end as happily.

As for Fortin, she described herself as merely providing a “bit of support” to the Olivers.

“I mostly look for cats, because cats get lost all the time. I have helped with many reunions. My goal is not necessarily to find the animal myself but to make sure that the animal is found. Making sure the owners do not give up, help them come up with ideas to get the word out. I put up posters, set up live traps, go on searches where sightings have been reported,” she said.

“It is just something I have been doing since I was a little girl.”

The Olivers are grateful for her help and are thrilled that Redmond rescued Harley.

 This is a corrected version

Organizations: Humane Services

Geographic location: Outer Ring Road, Foxtrap, Conception Bay

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Recent comments

  • Eloise
    November 17, 2012 - 14:12

    This is a wonderful story. I have a question-since I am not a cat owner. Last year a beautiful Maine coon cat arrived on my deck just as winter was starting. I felt sorry for it and tried to catch it but to no avail. I provided it with an igloo and food every day and it meowed and stayed on the deck area. Finally it got to be very cold at night and snow came. I put ads in the papers to find an adopter. Finally a nice lady said she would adopt and give him a forver home. I was able to lure the cat into the house and get him in a cage and she came and picked him up. This was January 3rd 2012. End of story? Not. This past week the cat is back. Now this woman lives in another county-at least 25 miles from here. I tried in vain to call her to ask if she knew the cat was gone. Phone disconnected. Now can someone tell me HOW this cat got back to my deck and why? I am so amazed.

    • rl
      January 19, 2013 - 11:44

      sorry just saw your post; hope you can give cat food and water and brush him, also maybe give him a home; maybe the lady could not keep him and abandoned him very close to your home?

  • volunteer
    November 14, 2012 - 11:40

    If your pet is lost, you should also contact the local no-kill rescue group,

  • Gail Bradbury
    November 13, 2012 - 20:26

    So happy to hear of Harley's return to a loving animal family.

  • Kathy Lewis
    November 13, 2012 - 12:12

    Heartwarming story. Always good to hear about the kindness of others.

  • Mary
    November 13, 2012 - 08:54

    Nice story...

  • Setterowner
    November 13, 2012 - 08:34

    As a Setter owner that would never own another breed, so glad to hear a happy ending to this story. Sentences like this which I dont think are a quote from the owner but from the author of this article leave me with a sour taste in my mouth "“We didn’t do dishes or anything,” said Rodney, who does not use Harley for hunting. He is among their beloved family pets and has his own room." This sentence assumes that people that use their dogs for hunting dont think the same of them. Truth is that many of these dogs that are not used for hunting become extremely bored and and a higher tendency to roam when they get off lead. My dogs have always been used for hunting and sleep at night on my bed. They receive dog food that is $80+ a bag, have all lived to be 14yrs + and are happy dogs. It would be nice if articles regarding hunting breeds didnt always have to put a spin that assumes dogs that are hunted are unhappy, abused and unloved. In fact in majority of cases it is the complete opposite.