Evanston Animal Shelter Canine Director Tanya Ohanian’s “compassion for animals knows no bounds,” according to a Facebook post written by her colleagues at the shelter. So it was no surprise when Ohanian launched into action after hearing that a frightened labradoodle named Roey had been on the run since April 14, when the clasp on his leash broke while on a walk with his Evanston pet sitter. To complicate matters, Roey was unfamiliar with the area and his human family was out of town.
News of the missing dog spread quickly after it was posted on the Facebook group Lost & Found Evanston, IL. More than 200 people of all ages participated in the search for Roey.
After nearly a week of dodging traffic on busy thoroughfares such as Main Street and Dodge Avenue, Roey appeared healthy and content as he cuddled up next to Ohanian on April 20 at the animal shelter, 2310 Oakton St.
Ohanian said Roey had been safely captured with the help of volunteers earlier that day, after a resident reported that the dog was in the backyard of her home on Ridge Avenue.
“I got pretty involved starting Saturday … I tried my best to organize [the search],” Ohanian said.
“I think he very quickly went into survival mode, and he would bolt the second someone looked at him. There were lots of sightings, kind of all over Evanston. … But he kept going back to Larimer Park at night. That’s the area where the pet sitter lives. … It was scary because he kept crossing Ridge, crossing Dodge, all these major streets,” she said.
Ohanian put her cellphone number on fliers and social media, fielded calls and spent late nights getting things set up to attract Roey to spots where he had been seen. She was up each day at dawn, checking the dog trap that had been put out – all while making sure the dogs in the shelter continued to receive the care they needed, including four walks per day.
Ohanian was quick to credit a group of dedicated volunteers who made it their mission to reunite Roey with his owners. She said Evanston resident Gina MacEwen was part of the search from day one – crisscrossing Evanston, hanging fliers and coordinating information received from searchers.
Volunteers searched on foot, on bicycles and by car, posting, texting and calling in the location of their sightings of the dog.
“The point of organizing,” said Ohanian, “was, one, that people would stop chasing him, and two, so we could kind of map out where he was going, and maybe why he was going there. Once we did that, we set up a couple of feeding stations so we could see if he was going back [to the places he had been seen].
“Two nights ago, we set up a trap – with camera, food, everything – at ETHS. He hadn’t touched it, so we lost hope for a little bit. Last night, we set up a trap at Larimer Park with a camera. He ate the food, hung out there for a couple of hours, and went in and out of the trap. We had gotten his blanket [from the pet sitter] and put it in the trap, thinking it would lure him in. It did, but he ended up taking the blanket out, running across Ridge with it, and leaving it at a nearby house,” said Ohanian.
Thanks to the well-publicized search effort, it did not take long for the homeowner to learn that the dog she saw in her yard had to be Roey, and she called Ohanian.
“I went over there and put the blanket inside of their yard and weighted it down with a brick so that he wouldn’t take it and run if he ended up going back there,” said Ohanian.
Fortunately, Roey did go back to the house where he left his blanket. Ohanian said Gina Coleman, one of the volunteers who was driving around looking for the dog, spotted him laying down in the yard. She closed the gate to the yard and called Ohanian.
“Gina is really the reason Roey was secured,” said Ohanian. “A couple of the other volunteers also showed up, which was great because we put them at all the exits so that he couldn’t exit. I got there five or 10 minutes later, and I was able to corner him.”
Roey brought people together who might never otherwise have met. As author John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley, “A dog is a bond between strangers.”
A message for the Evanston community appears on the Evanston Animal Shelter Facebook page: “There are many people out there who worked tirelessly to make this happen. We are proud of each and every one of you. … This could have ended badly, but we are all ecstatic that it is a happy ending after all.”
Roey’s family will be back to take him home on Sunday.