TATER’S STORY – The Scared to Safe Chapter

04 May 2024

TATER’S STORY – The Scared to Safe Chapter

“This is my story; it is not my complete story, but it is my story so far. My name is Tater and I’m a big, handsome, brindle, crossbreed dog with gangly, long, road-runner legs. I have been on a journey as big as me. I recently travelled from rural NSW to my foster home in Geelong, Victoria, with some unexpected detours on the way.”

Hope4Paws Animal Rescue Inc (H4Ps) learned about Tater through rescue advocates Rural Pound Aid. On hearing of his need and wanting to save him from death row, Rangi and Ana at H4Ps made plans to move Tater from a shelter in NSW to their care in Victoria. They knew very little about Tater, there were no records of his history. All they knew was that he needed to be rescued, and this would be the start of their shared journey.

Tater’s days at the shelter had been filled with uncertainty, surrounded by barking dogs and unfamiliar faces, experiences, sounds and smells. Despite the shelter’s care, Tater was overwhelmed with fear and likely carrying emotional scars of past trauma. H4P representatives met with the transport service to take Tater to a foster care home in Geelong, where he could start to feel safe and build his confidence. Transporting Tater to his foster home, despite doing all that was possible to help him feel safe, temporarily exposed Tater to more unknowns and fears. He shared a long car ride with strangers, who despite their good intentions, were still strangers to him. On arrival at his destination, his desperate need for self-preservation prevailed and Tater slipped the leash and took flight. He ran off into the night, his heart pounding and his long legs providing a fast escape.

Tater’s rescuers were instantly worried for his wellbeing and promptly launched into action to find him and bring him safely back into their care. For over 10 days, Tater wandered unfamiliar streets, parks, reserves and bushland while hungry, thirsty, and alone. He avoided people, hiding away whenever he saw or heard someone approach. Tater’s survival instincts kept him alive but also made him extremely difficult to find. Word of his plight spread quickly through the local Geelong community and beyond and it wasn’t long before kind-hearted individuals took it upon themselves to help find him. Multiple sightings were reported around Waurn Ponds Creek but he continued to remain elusive. On a couple of occasions, he came close to being caught, only to slip away again. H4Ps engaged a drone service to do a sweep of the area but unfortunately there was no sign of him. At this point, the trail went cold and there were no more sightings in the area.

He didn’t appear again until late one night when he found his way into a workshop in Lara, 25 kilometres from where he had initially escaped. The son of the workshop owner knew of Tater from social media and contacted H4Ps to let them know he was safely contained on their property. The H4P team couldn’t believe it. Tater had travelled so far and he was alive and safe. Early the very next day H4P arrived at the workshop. Huddled down and frozen with fear, Tater had not moved position all night. He was terrified! The team cautiously approached the trembling Tater who flinched at their touch but didn’t run. A collar and two leads were put on him to keep him secure and he was carefully lifted into a crate in a car and uneventfully travelled to his foster home. 

The kind-hearted foster carer Nicki and her son Eli, welcomed him with a quiet room, giving him time and space to decompress from his ordeal. After tirelessly assisting with the search efforts, Nicki and Eli now showed him love and patience to help make this transition easier for him. Very slowly, Tater explored his new home, the people and the dog he shared it with.

Now that he was safely in foster care, it was important for Tater to have a veterinary health and wellbeing check to make sure he hadn’t been injured or become unwell while on the run. Veterinarians at the Geelong Veterinary Hospital thoroughly examined him, including performing x-rays to check for any internal injuries. Except for a sore on his hind leg and some weight loss, he had no other apparent injuries and could go back to his foster home. A week later he returned to the clinic for desexing, vaccinations, flea and worm prevention treatments and another round of x-rays, just to be sure everything was okay. All of the procedures went well and he was given the all clear to go home. 

Day by day he took small steps building connections with his new foster family. However, loud noises, sudden movement and people approaching too close would see him flee to a safe space. As much as his foster carers wanted to shower Tater with affection, they patiently withheld their advances and waited for him to let them know when he was ready. It became clear that Tater’s growing confidence and trust was being helped along by the foster family dog Bonnie, her confident and calm demeanour showed him not everything is scary, and how to play and be joyful. She helped him conquer small but significant hurdles like using the doggy door. His motivation to follow Bonnie outside outweighed his fear of going through the door. After following her through, Tater’s fear was allayed, and he went in and out on his own.

Our ongoing commitment to Tater’s wellbeing led us to connect with Natalie from Mojema Canine Relationship Coaching Natalie worked with Nicki and Eli to create a safe learning space for Tater, respecting his choices and providing positive experiences with plenty of rewards. Using two things that Tater loves most, food and his connection with Bonnie, Natalie and NIcki helped Tater to learn new skills and successfully tackle new experiences. Tater is a fast learner and in just a few weeks it was pleasing to see he had become more optimistic, slowly overcoming his fears, spending less time on his own and more time seeking interactions and touch, and playing joyously with toys, Bonnie and his human friends. 

The community support for Tater has been amazing and was instrumental in this chapter of Tater’s story having a happy ending. Thank you particularly to Kate, Diamond, and everyone who helped with the search or put out food and water for him when he was on the run, Drone Services Geelong, and everyone who kept him contained at the workshop in Lara. A huge thank you to his foster carer Nicki, Eli and Bonnie who welcomed him into their home and gave him the space and love he needed. Thank you to Natalie for gently teaching and supporting Tater’s learning. 

Although Tater’s life has improved immensely in the few weeks since his days on the run, his story is not finished. H4Ps and our network will continue to provide care and support for Tater until he is happy, confident and ready to find his forever home. To help make this happen you can support us by volunteering, donating or fostering. 

Hope4Paws Animal Rescue

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