Grace, above, was safely captured by another town resident. Photo provided
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BETHLEHEM — Grace, a 4-year-old German Shepherd owned by a town resident, had just completed her visit to the Delmar Animal Hospital at around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, when she slipped out of her collar and ran off.
Her owner, Kieran Fitzgerald, would not see her again for five days.
“When they were leaving their appointment, the dog got away as it slipped from its collar,” explained Dale, the hospital’s office manager who did not disclose her full name. “Kieran had Grace come in for routine care.”
Fitzgerald herself recounted that Grace got free and ran away while she and her other dog, Jazzman, were being put in the back of her truck parked in the lot behind the animal hospital before leaving.
According to Dale, while animal hospital staff tried to help to no avail, Fitzgerald grew worried and put up lost dog posters across town.
Delmar Animal Hospital later posted about Grace’s disappearance with a photograph submitted by Fitzgerald on Monday, Oct. 1, describing her as “very skittish” and encouraging the public to be on the lookout. It also included a phone number for locals to call if Grace was spotted.
That Facebook post drew over 80 shares, with several comments from fellow locals who agreed to help search for Grace too. Fitzgerald also said she received over “700 Facebook messages” from people who expressed their sympathies and hopes to help locate Grace.
“She is my first dog ever, she sleeps in my bed with me and she’s wonderful,” said Fitzgerald, who lives with her brother in Bethlehem. She revealed that both Grace and Jazzman provide her with emotional support as she previously struggled with physical issues with her knees and hips, while her husband had passed away from cancer four years ago.
According to Fitzgerald, Grace was finally returned home on Tuesday, Oct. 2 after another town resident, a daytime nurse named Jill VanAlstyne, set up a cage filled with items including dog treats and water in an open field by Meads Lane.
Grace eventually was discovered there.
Fitzgerald recalls her first words upon her dog’s return home were, “Grace, you’re back!
“She looked scared and she got skinny. It must’ve been tragic for her to [get] lost in the woods. But she’s okay now,” she said before chuckling. “I’m never going to take her out again.”
Jennifer Bull, DVM, one of the veterinarians at Delmar Animal Hospital, has since offered three tips for dog owners to prevent a similar situation from happening to them.
“The fit of a dog’s collar is very important in making sure that they’re not able to escape from you,” she said.
“It should kind of be like how the collar of your shirt should fit — not tight enough that it’s uncomfortable but it certainly shouldn’t be able to go over your head.”
She also brought up microchips as another option and “great identification process.”
Animal control officers, shelters and veterinarians can generally can scan for microchips when unknown dogs or cats are picked up, according to her. This is especially useful when animals are found very far from their owners
Lastly, Bull advised people to be aware that “animals can get away from people at the best opportunity they have, more often than people probably think.”
Pets may seem loving and gentle at home but they can get scared and want to escape when brought to a veterinarian, “although this happens more with cats than dogs.”
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