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Unwashed clothes help bring loyal lost dog home

Updated: October 27, 2020 06:51 PM

Otis, a yellow lab, recently survived three days in the woods in central Minnesota. 

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He and his dad were hunting in Brownton, Minn., when his dad suffered a heart attack and passed away. Otis stayed by his side until people came looking, which scared him off. 

The family asked The Retrievers, a group that helps find lost dogs, for help. They recommended the family quickly get some pieces of unwashed clothes into the woods. 

"It's basically a candy trail for the dogs to follow back," Amy Addy, who volunteers with The Retrievers, said. 

It worked for Otis. While The Retrievers case manager Tara was looking for a spot to place a large humane trap to catch him, she spotted Otis sitting by his dad's shirt in a tree. 

"Everybody was doing everything they should have done. They were laying on the ground, they weren't making any eye contact," Addy said. 

And with the help of some food and another friendly dog, they were able to catch Otis and reunite him with family. Addy said it's a great example of how this tactic works. 

"When there's a trauma like this, whether it's a car accident or a house fire, obviously something like this happening, dogs will typically stay in that radius. They just kind of keep looping around the radius because it's the last place they ever saw their human," she said. "We tell people, get back there, put clothes and food, and sure enough, the dogs come back."

In the winter, they recommend refreshing the scent more often because it tends to be wetter and colder. 

She says it's often not helpful to yell for a dog because they have gone into survival mode and just hear noise, not their name or their owner. 

"They basically forget who the helpers are, and all they think is they're going to get eaten. They're afraid of everything," Addy said. 

To keep pets safe, the group also recommends: 

  • Having a collar with an identification tag or a phone number stitched or written onto it
  • Microchipping pets and registering them
  • Using a leash

The Retrievers has a Facebook page where they post photos of missing pets. Addy also helps a group called Missing Pets in the Northland, which also helps reunite dogs and cats with their owners. 

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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