They weren’t sure if they’d see Poncho again.
The boxer got loose Dec. 20 when he went to work with his owner in Pleasant Gap and ran as a customer left the office. A day later he’d been hit by a vehicle in front of the DMV.
His rescue included uncertainty, patience and a little bit of luck three weeks later, according to Pet Recovery of Centre County member Christa Gallagher.
“We feared he might not be alive, because we hadn’t seen him in two weeks,” she said. “None of the food we put out was eaten. No one was calling in sightings.”
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They learned Thursday that he was spotted in a field, but kept his general location secretive. The small group of searchers, knowing that Poncho was skittish, wanted to rescue him in a trap, not by shear force of manpower walking through fields and brush.
Too many people, they said, would scare him off.
“When he got hit in front of the DMV, somebody put out a post that said he had just been hit,” Gallagher said. “We didn’t see it at first and just sent two people to look. We got there and about 14 cars were there. Poncho was in survival mode, so he probably felt scared and got chased away.”
He was spotted again on Sunday, this time near a trap that had a camera recording movement.
“At that point we really knew he was alive, but he wasn’t eating,” Gallagher said. “We just need him to go into one of those traps.”
He finally took the bait and was reunited with his owner at about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.
They took him to Metzger Animal Hospital, where he got a mostly clean bill of health.
“He went from 60 pounds to 40 pounds, so he’s really thin now,” Gallagher said. “He had worms, which Dr. Metzger treated him for. He was tired. We were surprised he had no frostbite, because when we saw him on camera he’d pick one paw up and put it down. And he kept doing that with his paws because it was so cold.”
While Poncho is a success story, the group regularly updates its Facebook page for missing pets, sightings and rescues. One dog, a hound, has been loose near Interstate 80 for about six weeks.
The group asks that people take a picture if they spot a lost pet and report it. Sometimes an animal will go to you if you allow it to be interested in you.
“Sit down very calmly, look down at your feet or legs and not at them and let them be interested in you first,” Gallagher said. “Let them feel comfortable around you.”
The last thing anyone should do is follow or yell at a lost pet. Clapping and whistling might scare them away.
“People have very good intentions, but their instinct is to avoid us,” Gallagher said. “They travel at night. They avoid everyone and everything. It can be hard.”