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If your dog runs away, and it just won’t stay, who ya gonna call?

  • Some of the dogs that were lost and later reunited with their owner thanks to Granite State Dog Recovery and volunteers. Courtesy

  • Some of the dogs that were lost and later reunited with their owner thanks to Granite State Dog Recovery and volunteers. —Courtesy

  • Some of the dogs that were lost and later reunited with their owner thanks to Granite State Dog Recovery and volunteers. Courtesy

Monitor columnist
Published: 9/10/2021 7:48:27 PM

Some people love dogs.

And then there’s Susan Piche.

She lives in Goffstown and runs her own dog-sitting business, caring for more pooches than Pongo and Perdita.

But the real indicator is this: She’s the vice president of Granite State Dog Recovery. That means if you hire her, she’ll wake up during the wee hours, alerted through her smartphone that a dog, once lost, had been trapped and is safe, waiting for a return home.

Then she’ll get dressed and fetch the dog and, viola, someone the next morning, a client, will have a treat with breakfast. Or maybe Piche will deliver the dog home that very morning. Before the sun has risen.

And Piche won’t charge a dime.

“It’s addicting,” she told me by phone. “There is an adrenaline rush once you see the dog in the trap and you know it’s safe. We’re the crazy dog ladies.”

She says that because the all-volunteer staff for this Hooksett-based institution, about 30 people, is made up mostly of women. Some spouses help in a hands-on fashion.

Others, like Piche’s wife, assist by simply letting their partners leave in the middle of the night and work the equivalent of two jobs – only one of which pays – without complaining.

As Piche says, “I’m sure it’s rough, but we would not be (married) for so many years without her being understanding.”

And Piche, of course, would not be dedicating a huge chunk of her life – day and night, really – to dogs without having had a few of her own growing up. She mentioned Thunder, a Springer Spaniel, and a Golden Retriever named Danger.

These days, her business, the one that puts food on the table, is thriving. Her clientele is down due to COVID, but she still dogsits for 50 people.

“I go to people’s homes,” she told me. “For 25 or 30 minutes, shorter if it’s a quick let-out. I walk them, exercise them. I’ve done this for over 10 years.”

She wouldn’t reveal her fee. Her love for dogs was an open book.

She joined Holly Mokrzecki of Manchester and her GSDR team about 10 years ago. Their success rate of returning a lost dog home safely is 93%, Piche says. She had a lot to learn when she signed up with Mokrzecki.

“We saw there was a lost dog and we chose to go out and catch this dog,” Piche recalled. “Little did I know that you just don’t go out and call their name. People see that and they’re like, ‘Yeah, right,’ but 99% of the time it will run the other way. That is why people need us. We have grown to use these tactics by trial and error, on our own.”

Mokrzecki’s business, a nonprofit, served all of New England in those early days. “There was nothing like us then, so people called us,” Piche said. “People in Rhode Island would get word of what we did and call us.”

They post a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, a thorough Sherlock Holmes-like procedure that exhausts any and all possibilities.

Don’t wait for your dog to come home; begin searching immediately. Call animal control offices, cops and animal shelters within a 20-mile radius. Search the house, top to bottom. Check your garage, under vehicles, in the bushes, in case your dog got spooked. Check with neighbors. And always, always have a leash while searching.

If that doesn’t work, who ya gonna call? Certainly not Ghostbusters.

GSDR uses have-a-heart traps and says hot dogs make good bait. Vienna Sausage, too. Or a dog’s favorite snack.

There are sad stories, of course. There are hungry predators, and sometimes dogs don’t come home.

Once, a German shorthaired pointer bolted from a big rig at a truck stop and remained free for 1½ years, appearing from the dark to grab a sandwich left by a dog-loving trucker, then disappearing until one night it ran onto the highway and was killed.

They caught a petrified feral puppy named Alberto and a dog with massive separation anxiety, later called Bacardi after GSDR “placed him in a foster home and found an amazing family,” according to Piche.

She says most cases are cracked within 14 days. Their traps and nearby video cameras notify volunteers like Piche that it’s snack time, and the procedure works quite well.

Maybe a little too well.

“We’re always getting alerts because wildlife – fisher cats, skunks, fox, they’re always eating the food. Dogs are smart. They know when animals are there, and they stay clear until the trap is clear.”

That doesn’t necessarily occur at dinner time. Or even during the day.

“For whatever reason, dogs are more comfortable in the dead of night,” Piche said. “Most of the time they’re caught between 1 and 3 a.m. I’m sleeping with one eye open.

“But we never turn down a plea for help.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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