If your dog runs away and he doesn’t stay, who are you going to call?
Some people love dogs.
And then there’s Susan Piche.
She lives in Goffstown and runs her own dog-sitting business, looking after more pooches than Pongo and Perdita.
But the real indicator is this: She’s vice president of Granite State Dog Recovery. This means that if you engage her, she will wake up in the wee hours, alerted via her smartphone that a dog, once lost, had been trapped and is safe, awaiting her return home.
Then she will get dressed and go get the dog and, viola, someone the next morning, a client, will feast on breakfast. Or maybe Piche will deliver the dog to the house that morning. Before the sun rises.
And Piche won’t charge a dime.
“It’s addicting,” she told me over the phone. “There’s an adrenaline rush once you see the dog in the trap and know it’s safe. We are the mad ladies of the dog.
She says this because the all-volunteer staff at this Hooksett-based institution of around 30 are mostly women. Some spouses help in a practical way.
Others, like Piche’s wife, help by simply letting their partners go out in the middle of the night and work the equivalent of two jobs – only one of which pays off – without complaining.
As Piche says, “I’m sure it’s difficult, but we wouldn’t be (married) for so many years without her understanding.”
And Piche, of course, wouldn’t devote much of his life – day and night, really – to dogs without having had a few growing up. She mentioned Thunder, a Springer Spaniel, and a Golden Retriever named Danger.
These days his business, the one that puts food on the table, is thriving. Her clientele is declining due to COVID, but she still keeps 50 people.
“I go to people’s homes,” she told me. “For 25 or 30 minutes, shorter if it’s a quick outing. I walk them, exercise them. I have been doing this for over 10 years.
She would not disclose her fees. His love for dogs was an open book.
She joined Holly Mokrzecki from Manchester and her GSDR team around 10 years ago. Their success rate of returning a lost dog to the safe home is 93%, says Piche. She had a lot to learn when she enrolled with Mokrzecki.
“We saw that there was a lost dog and we chose to go out and grab that dog,” Piche recalls. “I didn’t know you don’t go out and call their names. People see that and they’re like, “Yeah, okay”, but 99% of the time it will work the other way around. That’s why people need us. We grew up using these tactics through trial and error, on our own. ”
Mokrzecki’s company, a non-profit organization, served all of New England at this time. “There was nothing like us back then, so people called us,” Piche said. “The people of Rhode Island were learning what we had done and calling us. ”
They post a list of dos and don’ts, a thorough Sherlock Holmes procedure that exhausts all possibilities.
Don’t wait for your dog to come home; start looking immediately. Call animal control offices, cops and animal shelters within 20 miles. Search the house, top to bottom. Check your garage, under vehicles, in bushes, in case your dog is scared. Check with the neighbors. And always, always have a leash when searching.
If that doesn’t work, who are you going to call? Certainly not Ghostbusters.
GSDR uses heart traps and says hot dogs are good bait. Vienna sausage too. Or a dog’s favorite snack.
There are sad stories, of course. There are hungry predators, and sometimes the dogs don’t come home.
A short-haired German pointer once fled from a large platform to a truck stop and was free for a year and a half, emerging from the darkness to grab a sandwich left by a dog-loving trucker , then disappearing until one night, he ran down the highway and was killed.
They caught a petrified wild puppy named Alberto and a dog with massive separation anxiety, later named Bacardi after GSDR “placed him in a foster family and found an amazing family,” according to Piche.
She says most cases are resolved within 14 days. Their nearby traps and video cameras let volunteers like Piche know it’s snack time, and the process works pretty well.
Maybe a little too well.
“We always get alerts because wild animals – fishing cats, skunks, foxes, are still eating food. Dogs are intelligent. They know when the animals are there, and they stay away until the trap is cleared.
This does not necessarily happen at lunchtime. Or even during the day.
“For some reason, dogs are more comfortable in the dead of night,” Piche said. “Most of the time, they are taken between 1 and 3 am. I sleep with one eye open.
“But we never turn down a cry for help.”