Rescuing Rowdy


rowdyphoto170 days on the run

By Amy Brase


It’s no surprise to an animal loving community when a team of volunteers band together to find a missing pet. Most, however, are shocked to hear a story like Rowdy’s. This little Schnauzer/Westie mix captured the hearts of many when he ran away from his foster home and was missing for almost 6 months. How he survived the Minnesota winter is still a mystery, but the relentless determination of those who cared is as clear as day.

Wild and scared

Rowdy came to rescue after his original family had become overwhelmed with too many dogs and the inability to provide medical care and adequate attention. This resulted in a very unsocialized dog.

Rowdy found a foster home with Susan Aune, a St. Cloud volunteer with Small Dog Rescue of Minnesota (SDRM). His first few weeks were rough as Rowdy tried to escape and showed no interest in people or other dogs.

“He was like a wild animal when I first got him,” says Susan. “Rowdy’s first day in a kennel, he ripped it all apart and made a big mess. He was filthy, matted and terrified of people. The first time I took him across the street to meet kids, he just laid down and shook.”

Disappearing in to the night 

“Rowdy was driven to Rochester for a trial adoption in July of 2015,” says Eric Bjornsen, a Rochester volunteer with SDRM and lost dog recovery groups. “He was still very frightened of new people but after a long conversation with the potential adopter, it was determined that it may work out for both of them.”

On July 26 while out for a evening walk, Rowdy bolted from his potential adopter into the dark with his leash dragging behind him. Nine days later, SDRM was notified and the search began. Volunteers mobilized, posted signs and set out feeding stations after multiple sightings.

Susan Aune spent endless days searching Rochester and exhausted her vacation time in motels, poring over websites in an effort to find Rowdy.

“I never stopped looking for him and praying for him,” recalls Susan. “It was an emotionally intense experience. I carried my cell phone with me everywhere and kept it charged by my bed, waiting for the call.”

On January 12, a small dog was spotted in Eyota, running in circles to avoid being captured. He eventually ran into some deep snow and didn’t have strength to free himself. Local law enforcement took the dog to the Eyota Vet Clinic and his microchip confirmed: Rowdy!

“He couldn’t have lasted another day”

Rowdy’s adventure had come to an end 20 miles east of where he had bolted 170 days earlier. The weak, disoriented dog had lost a third of his body weight and spent the next 24 hours receiving fluids under the care of Dr. Ode and staff.

“His circling behavior was likely the result of low blood sugar,” says Eric. “Everyone agreed that he likely couldn’t have lasted another day on his own.”

Rowdy’s next stop was Fluff & Buff Pet Grooming in Rochester for a complimentary bath and trim, which revealed a minor cut and bump on his head. He was later diagnosed with Lyme Disease and also had a broken canine tooth that required surgery.

“All considered, he was in amazingly good condition,” says Eric, who is thrilled to see Rowdy as a different dog now and has developed a trap design for use in rescuing missing dogs.

Third Time’s a Charm 

Susan has become Rowdy’s permanent foster mother. His challenges continue with arthritis in both elbows and surgery to remove a benign tumor. Though he leads a life with some discomfort and medication, Rowdy has found a new love in a scent-work class.

“Any dog that can survive six months on his own has a good nose to find food,” says Susan. “He’s now very outgoing and can meet new people, take treats from them and follow them around,” says Susan. “He’s a delightful, friendly little dog who will just sit on your lap all day long.”

And Rowdy has learned that people aren’t so bad after all. As far as he’s concerned, the kids across the street can pet him for hours on end. He has no plans for bolting from the good life now.

Amy Brase is a local writer with a very social Goldendoodle who loves visitors at the door. 

Though Rowdy’s tale has a happy ending, many are not. One of the most important things that dog owners can do is socialize them, ideally from the time they are puppies. This may include classes and dog sports, but it can also be as simple as visits to dog parks and daily walks in the neighborhood to meet all ages and types of people and other dogs. A socialized dog is easier to locate and catch if lost.

Lost Dogs Minnesota ( is full of information on how to find lost dogs, including a reminder not to chase a lost dog.  It also posts listings of lost and found dogs.