Two months ago, Trooper went missing.
His owner, John Longton, let the 4-year-old German shepherd run free on his 156-acre Genovesi Lane farm that sits off the main road in Slingerlands. He thought a hunter shot the dog because although he likes to run, Longton lives in the perfect spot for it, and Troooper always came back home
That day he didn’t.
Longton called the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society in Menands, which is where most municipalities across Albany County used to take strays. His daughter, Samantha, hung flyers up around town asking for help in the family’s mission to find Trooper.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the family gave up hope of finding Trooper alive.
I never thought I would see him again, Samantha said at a recent Peppertree Rescue dog adoption clinic at PetSmart in Glenmont.
Trooper had wandered into Bethlehem and was picked up by the town animal control officer. The full grown shepherd, who weighed about 80 pounds, had a decent enough temperament, even if he was a bit skittish about being in a strange place surrounded by strange people, so he was taken to Reigning Cats and Dogs, where the town now takes some of the better-behaved strays, according to Peppertree President Betsy Sommers.
Trooper stayed there for the shelter-allotted 10 days given so people have a chance to reclaim strays, and then he went into the care of Peppertree Rescue. Peppertree is an Albany-based dog rescue and adoption agency.
Peppertree, as it often does at venues throughout the Capital District, sponsored an adoption clinic Saturday, Jan. 19, at PetSmart, and Trooper was one the many dogs they were showcasing for adoption.
And Longton’s sister-in-law was one of the many people checking out the dogs ` including Trooper.
`It took a moment for me to realize it was Trooper, but I had a feeling it was. I started petting him and he seemed familiar, and then I noticed his eye, which he hurt in an accident, and I can’t tell you how good I felt,` said Kim Zwack. `It was just an awesome feeling. I really can’t put it into words.`
When she knew for sure it was Trooper, she immediately called Longton, who had guests and didn’t answer the first phone call, nearly didn’t answer the second, figured if she was calling twice in such a short time, it must be something important.
`She said ‘Trooper is here’ and I honestly couldn’t believe it,` he said. `So we hopped in the truck and raced over and sure enough, here’s Trooper.`
When Longton and Samantha walked into the store, they spotted the dog and called his name.
Trooper just started `going nuts,` Longton said.
`I’m just really, really excited to have him back,` Samantha said while stroking Trooper’s back.
Trooper, no worse for wear, though now neutered as per Peppertree policy, seemed hyped-up. On occasion, he jumped straight up in the air, his snout more than 5 feet off the ground, and spun around 360 degrees ` a German sheperd pirouette.
Sommers said the way Trooper’s story, and happy ending, unfolded is a first since she co-founded the organization in 1999, but added it probably will not be the last time an owner makes an honest effort to find their wandering dog and can’t. A change in policy at the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society increased the cost to municipalities to house dogs, so many towns look for other options for strays.
By state law, municipalities have to pick up stray dogs, designate a place to take them and care for them and pay that place to do it.
`With all the pressures of formulating a budget and the concerns that go along with it, animals are not a high priority with everything else they are facing,` Sommers said of the smaller municipalities.
Animal control officers look for ways to house the dogs during the redemption period before they go to a rescue. The village of Ravena uses its department of public works garage to house dogs before they look to a rescue group like Peppertree, and Bethlehem uses Reigning Cats and Dogs, she said, adding some animal control officers will keep the strays in their vans while they try to find the owner.
With each municipality doing its own thing, it makes it difficult for the owners to know where to look for their pets that have been picked up, Sommers said, and that is a problem across the board.
For the Longtons and Trooper, it was a matter of the right time and the right place. As they finished filling out paperwork and put Trooper’s leash out, staff and visitors to the store gathered around the new celebrity ` glad of a happy ending.