For more than a year, a Newark family has been desperately searching for a little red dachshund named Rudy. His owners, Donna Watson and John Ohnstead, left on a long overdue vacation on December 25, 2011, leaving the now eight-year-old dog with a family friend. Within an hour of their departure, Rudy escaped, and Donna and John immediately turned around and headed home to search for their beloved pet.
Since then, an entire community has rallied in an effort to bring Rudy home, including renowned pet detective Karin Tarqwyn who brought a team to Delaware to track Rudy. Their efforts have paid off, as Rudy has recently been spotted within a two-mile radius of his home. TSD reached out to Donna to show our support and to talk with her about the journey to bring bring Rudy home.
Town Square Delaware: Rudy’s story tugs at the heartstrings of any pet lover. How’s the search coming?
Donna Watson: The search is coming, but it’s tedious and frustrating. We still get sightings and we have them scent confirmed. It used to be that a lot of the sightings were Rudy. Now that we’ve helped to round up the lost dachshunds of the area, all recent sightings calls that we have received have been Rudy.
TSD: The power of the social media and word-of-mouth campaign you’ve developed to help with your search is incredible. How did the campaign come together?
DW: The campaign came together slowly and certainly in stages. Remember there are no services in the entire state of Delaware to assist/advise lost dog owners. We had no idea what we were in for or how to begin to find or search for Rudy. We started by placing an ad on Craigslist and posting flyers in stores. Rudy was listed on every lost pet website we could find and we contacted all local shelters and rescue groups to promote awareness. We established Rudy’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bringrudyhome.) We branched out to door-to-door distribution of flyers business cards when Rudy would be sighted in an area. Ultimately we posted flyers/posters.
With our determination and persistance in trying to find Rudy, came more attention/awareness about him. We hired a pet detective and that did draw in a lot of press and media attention. Our local legislators have also been helpful in spreading the word about Rudy. They have taken [his message] to civic association meetings and emailed notifications throughout the entire time that he has been missing.
TSD: In your ongoing efforts to find Rudy, we imagine well-meaning folks have suggested you give up the search and get a new dog. How do you respond to that?
DW: Some folks have suggested that we discontinue the search. They have suggested all of the following: Rudy has been stolen, Rudy has been taken by a predator, and the list gets longer. None of these scenarios are reality as he is still being sighted in various areas (those sightings are confirmed via scent tracking) therefore we know that he is alive. The sightings are far enough away from one another that we know that someone doesn’t have him. Our response to those who make this suggestion is, “We will not leave him out there as long as we have evidence that he is alive! Would you leave one of your family members wandering, hungry and alone because someone told you to do so?”
TSD: Has there ever been a point when you and John have thought about giving up the search for Rudy?
DW: Sometimes it gets discouraging, especially when we are being heckled or harassed by an occasional mean-spirited prankster. That harassment usually comes via the internet, Craigslist or Rudy’s Facebook Page. However we have the support and encouragement of many more wonderful people who have helped us along the way. We didn’t know many of these people prior to Rudy going missing; they go beyond volunteers, and many of them we now consider to be friends. However, we have never reached the point where we have considered giving up the search.
TSD: While Rudy hasn’t yet made it home, your search has reunited several other dogs with their owners, right?
We have assisted in rescuing 14 lost dachshunds. Twelve were returned to their owners. Two were dachshunds who were surrendered by owners. We were asked to come take a look to see if these two were Rudy. We ended up taking both of them home. They are not Rudy, but they are Rudy’s brothers and new additions to our family.
TSD: What do you miss most about your little dog?
DW: Rudy has been our baby since he was 8 weeks old. I miss everything about him! He used to send me off to work in the morning by walking me to the door, giving me one last lick and he would be in that same location to greet me when I returned home. His demonstrations of affection, his companionship and his loyalty are some of his best qualities. I also miss him snuggled up at my feet in the evening, as well as our neighborhood walks.
In addition to the 14 dachshunds that we have rescued, Rudy’s loss has also been influential in promoting awareness, not just in him, but of the lack of services and information available to lost pets and their owners. That awareness has influenced the State of Delaware’s Animal Welfare Committee to consider instituting a statewide lost and found pet registry. I personally receive at least a call per week from someone who has lost their pet, asking for assistance and advice. I never turn anyone away. This experience is devastating and I always help in anyway that I can. I’ve even developed and posted lists of to-do’s to assist people who have lost and/or found dogs.
A plea from Rudy: “If you see me, please call my mom and dad immediately (302) 437-5112. Follow me or stay with me until my mom and dad arrive, but PLEASE DON’T CHASE ME!”