How Rescuers Saved a Great Dane Who Spent a Month Missing on a Michigan Island


How Rescuers Saved a Great Dane Who Spent a Month Missing on a Michigan Island

Zaria was marooned and hungry for weeks, avoiding the humane traps designed to get her back to safety. By Jennifer Huizen October 06, 2022 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print great dane rescued on island
great dane rescued on island Credit: RacheeLynn / Shutterstock

On the night of Aug. 17, Zaria, a 2-year-old Great Dane, went missing in Harrison, a town with a population of less than 10,000 in the central region of Michigan's lower peninsula.

We'll never exactly what went down (we'd have to ask Zaria), but she likely ran away from her owners, according to WNEM. She then swam across the waters of Cranberry Lake onto a privately owned island, where she stayed, kicking off a weeks-long quest to rescue the hungry, lost dog.

After an extensive search, Clare County Animal Control located the lost pup using a drone. When they saw her, she was extremely emaciated. Initially Animal Control had wanted to use volunteers to track Zaria down on foot, but in a Facebook post animal control officer Bob Dobson said, "We did not want to push her [too] hard … we do not want to exhaust her [too] much, it could kill her."

So the team opted to set out food traps, hoping to build enough trust so she'd be more easily captured. The private island is heavily covered in thick marsh, so local lumber company Harrison Lumber donated wood pallets so volunteers with Moore's Lost K9 Search and Recovery could get a safer path onto the island. In a Facebook post, Moore's said a local resident offered to ferry the crew back and forth from the island using a pontoon boat.

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On Aug. 30, Moore's crew placed two traps on the island, offering a variable buffet that included loads of water, breakfast sandwiches, mac and cheese, hot dogs, two cooked (and delicious looking) turkeys, smelly canned dog food, and six cooked hamburgers.

In a Sept. 1 Facebook post, Moore's said there was a ray of hope: The previous night Zaria was spotted entering one of the traps and stayed in it for 90 minutes. Clare County Animal Control had a veterinarian and a new foster family standing by for the malnourished, likely traumatized big dog.

If the rescue operation wasn't tough enough, it got tougher. Zaria experienced a major "setback" after people trespassing on the island spooked her. The setback made Zaria more hesitant to approach the traps and reluctant to eat, Moore's said.

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Then things get murky. Moore's said the island's property owner requested they discontinue their work on Sept. 16. The day before, Moore's left out enough food and water on the island to support Zaria for at least two days.

Dobson, however, said the public didn't know the full story and the property owner had been nothing but supportive of the rescue. He said animal control planned to set its own traps, and simply leaving food out on the island would only deter Zaria from entering their new trap (along with leaving trash on the island).

Thankfully, the new phase of the rescue operation didn't last long. On Sept. 21, Clare County Animal Control announced the good news.

"Zaria update: after over a month she's finally caught and safe out of the marsh!" they wrote.

Zaria's long recovery began soon after she was found, eating several small meals a day as her digestive system reacquaints itself with normal food. Clare County Animal Control is caring for her until she's ready to be placed in her foster home. As of Oct. 5, she's already gained 10.5 pounds and is "doing great."

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