Team effort rescues runaway pooch on Shelter Island

VICKIE CARDARO PHOTO | Bashful in the trap, rescued at last.

Last Chance Animal Rescue, headquartered in Southampton, was founded in 2008 by Whitney Knowlton, who hails from North Carolina. Familiar with the kill policy of dogs found in that region, she travels weekly to Carolina to transport pets to Long Island for adoption. Her organization partners with a group of private plane owners who call themselves “Pilots ‘n Paws”; they fly animals every Saturday to Newark, where they are transferred to vans and brought to Petco locations on Long Island, hoping for adoption.

On September 28, a little Cairn-terrier mix named Bashful was among 71 animals transported to the area; she was destined for adoption by Linda Holmes of Dinah Rock Road. But on Monday, October 8, Bashful shot out the back door —a common occurrence among rescue dogs, her heartbroken owner was told.

Stephanie Bucalo, who volunteers with the Last Chance organization, swung into action. She printed flyers, which she and Linda posted all over Hay Beach. Then she organized volunteer searchers, including Vickie Cardaro, Joanne Kresch, Chris Johnson, Maria Caccese, Ruth McAlonen, Joan McVeigh, Penelope Moore, Cynthia, Dick and Bob Needham, Kathi Needham, Louise Polshuk, Debbie Spotteck, Barbara Springer, Tim Tiernan, Paulette and Gordon van Vranken. Linda gave flyers to George Schultheis and Bobby Antici, the UPS driver.

Linda contacted dog warden George Butts and the Shelter Island Police; Stephanie posted an alert on Facebook; and Linda Zavatto networked with residents of Hay Beach.

While searchers roamed the Hay Beach neighborhood in cars, Stephanie walked with her Border Collie-Besenji mix (who is also looking for a home). After the dog got the scent from Bashful’s bed, it led her right to Bashful, who was hiding in bushes just two houses away from Linda’s, but the little dog ran away into the woods.

Then on Wednesday morning, October 10, carpenter Paul Rylott spotted Bashful running along Gardiner’s Bay Drive. He found a posted flyer and called Stephanie, who also spotted Bashful, running north from Dawn Lane; again Stephanie tried to catch the dog without success.

Mattituck dock builder Don Reeve was working on a job in the area and spotted Bashful. After he and his colleague John Gallo finished their job, they again saw the dog on the Ram Island Causeway. “We almost got her,” he told Stephanie, “but we found her in a 60-foot-long drainpipe on the Causeway.”

Vickie and Stephanie rushed to the spot. Vickie called Highway Superintendent Jay Card, who dispatched Rob Gorcoff, Martin Hunt, Mike Mitchell, Brett Page and Barry Ryder to the location. Stephanie called the Shelter Island Police; Officer Kevin Springer and Detective/Sergeant Jack Thilberg responded, along with a couple of deputies from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, who happened to be on the Island.

The North Fork Animal Welfare League in Southold offered to send over someone trained in the  use of a pole for this purpose, but the highway crew brought their big truck with its long hose, to which they attached a cardboard box. Meanwhile, Officer Springer crawled about 30 feet into the pipe but gave up as the dog retreated further. Stephanie crawled into the other end but little Bashful kept moving deeper into the pipe. Using the box and hose, the highway crew nudged Bashful slowly toward the opening, where Stephanie waited with a dog trap supplied by Debbie Spotteck. Finally, Bashful was in the trap and wolfing down her first meal in three days — cat food.

Stephanie and Linda rushed Bashful to the Shelter Island clinic of North Fork Animal Hospital where veterinarian Daniel D’Amato kindly stayed after the 1 p.m. closing time to treat Bashful for pneumonia, dehydration and deep scratches in both eyes, prescribing pills, two eye ointments and eye drops for the exhausted little dog.

Bashful (and Linda) are recovering at home; at press time Bashful’s cough was nearly gone and her eyes looked better. Is not this search and rescue story what makes Shelter Island so special?