A retired Alaskan sled dog has been on the run in Bangor since escaping from her transport at Bangor International Airport last month is finally on her way home.
The story of Beaver, a former member of an Iditarod kennel in Alaska, captivated dog lovers around Maine, including residents of the Fairmont neighborhood who had reported multiple sightings on social media of the elusive dog over the past several weeks. The Bangor International Airport announced she had been found early Tuesday morning.
Beaver arrived in Maine on a transport flight on Feb. 21, according to a post on the airport’s Facebook page, to join her new adoptive family, but escaped from the airport. For 23 days, Beaver eluded attempts to catch her. She was ultimately captured by Denise Lawson who had originally arranged for the dog’s adoption to a Mainer. Lawson runs a sled dog adoption service and drove up from Virginia Monday to help catch Beaver.
“We are just super, super happy she is safe and back with us,” Lawson said. “Right now she is sacked out in the backseat of our car with two of our other dogs.”
Prior to coming to Bangor, Beaver had spent six weeks with Lawson and her partner Gordon Smith in Virginia. They organize adoptions of retired sled dogs from Alaskan racing kennels.
Beaver is from an Iditorad racing kennel outside of Fairbanks, according to Lawson, and flew from Alaska to Virginia in early January. Before placing a sled dog with an adoptive family, Lawson and Smith work with the dogs to familiarize them with life as a pet. This includes learning about traffic and even how to climb stairs — all things a sled dog who has spent a life in the Alaskan bush may never have experienced.
That orientation likely helped Beaver avoid getting hit by a car while on the run, Lawson said. Lawson credits the response from the Bangor community for Beaver’s happy ending.
“The entire town of Bangor just came together on this,” Lawson said. “So many different people did so much and we are so very thankful.”
On the “Find Beaver” Facebook page, residents posted sightings for the elusive dog. From that a map was created and updated with every sighting marked by location, date and time. Officials with Bangor’s animal control office set out feeding stations for Beaver and residents also put out food for her.
This past weekend, Lawson said she and Smith decided to drive the 12 hours north and join the search. They packed up two of their dogs familiar to Beaver and using the data on the Beaver Facebook page, formulated a plan.
“We were able to come into town with all this information on where Beaver had been and were able to orientate ourselves super quickly,” Lawson said. “That first night we got a real understanding of the lay of the land and of her comings and goings and that was key because by the end of that first night we could predict where she was going to be at a certain time.”
Lawson and Smith spent a chilly Sunday night camped outside in the Fairmont neighborhood and despite seeing Beaver several times, were not able to get close to her. The second night they poured a trail of liquid smoke on the sidewalk leading up to a grill. Late that night they fired up the grill and started cooking up some of Beaver’s favorite goodies — salmon and hot dogs.
When Beaver showed up on schedule and came close to investigate the aroma of cooking food, Lawson said Smith lay down on the ground and closed his eyes pretending to be asleep. It took a bit of time, Lawson said, but eventually Beaver moved close enough to Smith that the harness she was still wearing was touching his hand. Smith was then able to gently grab the harness, snap a leash on it, ending Beaver’s weeks on the run.
Lawson said she watched the whole thing from inside her car, not daring to move or even make eye contact with the dog in case it spooked Beaver.
“Anything could have spooked her during that time,” Lawson said. “We texted everyone in the neighborhood asking them to please stay inside.”
Once Beaver was secure, Smith led her to the waiting car and she was more than happy to hop into it, Lawson said.
“When she was in the car, she was all about the cuddles,” Lawson said. “She looked at the other two dogs that she knew and it was like she was saying, ‘Thank goodness, I am back with my pack,’ and then she curled up and fell fast asleep.”
Beaver appeared in good health but Lawson said she will see a veterinarian once back in Virginia for a full assessment. After that she is going to spend time with Lawson and Smith while they evaluate her behavior and determine how much time she needs before being placed in an adoptive home.
“Her physical and mental health are the most important things,” Lawson said. “She has had this traumatic incident and we need to let her settle and feel safe.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report misidentified Denise Lawson on two references.