Seneca Krueger could never have guessed the incredible 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 parent who specializes in teaching rescued dogs to trust people again. She’s fostered 30 dogs so far, but Zelda was a particularly challenging situation.
“She arrived with anti-anxiety meds,” Krueger told The Dodo. “Zelda paced. She spent the whole day either pacing or hiding.”
Krueger realized that Zelda looked calmest when she was on a leash, so she began tether training her — and gradually, the shy dog began to open up. “She was attached to me when I was at home,” Krueger added. “I had also weaned her off her anti-anxiety drugs during the course of two weeks of tether training, and the pacing had diminished.” She was even willing to come out of hiding on her own for short periods of time.”
Zelda eventually wags her tail after two months of living with Krueger and her two family dogs. At four months, she began to bark and play, though she still struggled with unexpected noises and guests.
Still, Krueger knew she’d done everything she could to aid Zelda, and it was time to let her go. “As Zelda gained confidence, I thought it was time for her to find her forever home,” Krueger said. “This is what you’re meant to do as a dog foster; help them acclimatize and then gladly say goodbye as they leave and enjoy their best life.”
Krueger drove Zelda 40 miles to her new home, but saying goodbye was more harder than she had imagined. “I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see through my tears,” Krueger explained. “For the first time in my 12 years of dog fostering, I felt like I had handed away my puppy.”
Ten days after saying goodbye, Krueger received the phone call that every dog owner dreads: Zelda had gone missing after sliding her leash. Krueger rushed in his vehicle and began looking for her right away.
An all-volunteer dog search squad named START (Search, Track, and Retrieval Team) had also received information of Zelda’s disappearance. The crew put up feeding stations and trail cameras throughout the region, and reports of Zelda began to stream in.
Krueger refused to give up her hunt even when the temperature plummeted below zero. “The coldest days were the days I spent the most time seeking because I was frantic to get Zelda warm and safe,” Krueger explained. “I spent hours out in the frigid weather, following dog tracks across ravines, frozen marshes, and farms.”
Over two months later, Krueger received word that Zelda had been sighted in Minneapolis, midway between the dog’s new home and her foster home.
Only then did Krueger understand Zelda was attempting to find her.
The adopters returned Zelda to Wags and Whiskers Animal Rescue, the group that arranged the adoption, and Krueger was overjoyed to have her puppy back — if only on paper. “She was mine again, and I was more determined than ever to locate her,” Krueger said.
Krueger learned two weeks later that Zelda had been spotted near her home. She set up feeding stations around her house and started dumping dirty laundry on the front lawn in the hopes that the smell would entice Zelda to return to safety.
A couple contacted Krueger to inform her that they had been feeding a very skittish dog who resembled Zelda. Krueger didn’t want to get her hopes up after such a long time. “I knew that if there was a lost, scared dog out there on the streets, we had to help it,” Krueger explained. “Even if it wasn’t the dog I knew and loved and sorely missed.”
Finally, the couple was able to capture the emaciated dog and notified Krueger in the early hours of the morning. Inside the cage, Krueger discovered a small, nervous dog who bore little resemblance to the Zelda she remembered. However, when the START manager arrived, a quick scan of the dog’s chip confirmed the impossible.
Zelda had returned home after more than three months on the run.
“It was a miracle, and what else do you do when confronted with a miracle?” “I wept,” Krueger said. “I apologized to Zelda for failing to recognize her. For the first time in 97 days, I touched her. I assured her that she was returning home for good and that I would never stop looking for her.”
Zelda has settled in nicely at home and is overjoyed to be back with her mother.
“She has become my Velcro dog,” Krueger said, “and is never more than a few feet away from me at all times.” “My other dogs are also relieved to see her return and lavishly groom her.”
This family is forever for Zelda. “I had no idea that the entire time I was looking for Zelda, she was looking for me,” Krueger added. “Zelda has officially become my dog.” But, let’s be honest, I didn’t have much of a choice. She is very determined.”