Golden retriever returns home to Vermont family after 18 months on lam

On a late June day in 2014, a golden retriever traveling in a car that was involved in a minor crash in northern Vermont bolted, setting off a frenzied search that captivated the surrounding community. On Saturday, after 18 months of near misses, the elusive dog, Murphy, was finally caught and returned home after surviving more than 500 days alone on the run.Murphy was in the backseat of Kirsten Campbell’s car when it skidded off the road near Stowe and slammed into a tree, according to local reports. Campbell, then 24, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the crash, but Murphy looked to be fine. Yet when she opened the door to check on him, the then-3-year-old golden retriever darted into a nearby field.”When my granddaughter let him out of the car, he didn’t come back,” Ed Hamel, Murphy’s owner, told WCAX-TV. “And of course she was hurt, so a bunch of her friends went after him and chased him — which probably did not help.For more than a year, the dog was spotted dozens of times along a 30-mile stretch of Vermont’s Route 100 as the quest to find Murphy became a full-fledged community effort — with a network of volunteers aiding in the search.”Family members and a devoted group of dog lovers have deployed game cameras, custom-made traps and a gun that fires a large net,” Vermont’s Seven Days newspaper reported last summer. “They’ve consulted an animal psychic, trappers and a wolf tracker. They have enlisted countless locals to post Murphy sightings online and created a phone tree to spread any news about the missing canine. But they haven’t been able to bring Murphy home.””If you say his name, he runs like a jackrabbit,” Hamel told the newspaper at the time. “He doesn’t know who he is.”
Hamel himself once spotted his dog outside of a supermarket”We saw him once down in Waterbury across from Shaws,” he recalled. “One day he was sleeping down there next to aexcavator — just sleeping in the sun at noon one day. I walked up, spoke his name, and he just ran away.”Holly Mokrzecki, a dog recovery expert in neighboring New Hampshire, said it was likely Murphy had gone into “feral-dog” survival mode following a traumatic event like a car crash.”Some of them will resort to that within 15 minutes of getting away from their owners. It’s pretty amazing,” Mokrzecki said in July. “You’re calling, ‘Buster, Buster,’ and he’s not thinking, That’s my owner; they’re trying to help. There’s something in their brain that says, I need to keep moving; this is a predator trying to get me.”In early 2014, Wilson Ring, a Vermont correspondent for the Associated Press, began seeing Murphy outside his home in Waterbury, more than 20 miles south of the accident.Ring built a homemade trap with video surveillance and set out food for Murphy, but the dog somehow always managed to elude capture.Miraculously, Murphy also managed to survive Vermont’s brutally-cold winter. (The average temperature in Stowe last February was -1, 13 degrees below normal.)As the year dragged on, spottings of Murphy slowed, and hopes for the retriever’s return began to fade. But a string of recent sightings renewed their spirits, and on Saturday, Ring’s retooled trap finally worked.”We had an electric eye to trigger the trap that was run with a battery and a magnet,” Ring told WCAX. “And as soon as he cut it, the magnet let go and the gate fell, and that’s how we got him.”Hamel said that Murphy appears to be in good health — and immediately resettled at home.”Pretty much exactly like he was,” Hamel said. “It was so amazing when he walked in the house last night, it was like a light bulb came on. ‘Hey, I’m home! I know you people, and there’s my toy!'”Yahoo news