Chasing Izzy: A stress-filled all night adventure of losing (then finding) my dog only 24 hours after adopting her

The journey starts just after midnight when Izzy slipped free of her collar and sprinted away, and ends at 7am with a phone call and a huge sigh of relief…

Photo of Izzy and I by Tonya Perme, taken 6 months after this story took place

This story was originally written and shared on Facebook on September 1st, 2020 at 8pm the evening after the event itself. Writing and sharing it was a helpful and necessary part of processing the trauma. I left this largely unedited with the exception of reformatting a few things for Medium, as I think there’s something about the freeform burst of writing straight from the heart that more accurately upholds the feeling of the experience.

Some of you may have seen me post a message about Izzy being lost last night. Thankfully, thanks to the amazing kindness of passerby dog walkers and a serious group effort, she is home safe now and doing well as of 7:30am this morning. She’s been sleeping most of the day, and doing well, all things considered. ❤️

This ended up being a 7+ hour journey trying to find her in the middle of the night and was terrifying and surely traumatizing for both of us. It involves several kind strangers, a friend I hadn’t spoken with in years but dropped everything at 3am to help (🙏 Adam Weis), a rescue volunteer from the organization where I got Izzy who drove all the way out from Livermore at 4am, many many hours of bike searching and chasing and close encounters, a few scary near death moments in high traffic roads like Fell and Oak, and almost giving up until about 7am when I got the message on NextDoor that she’d be safely caught and cared for.

I want to share that story of what happened, in case it’s helpful to others somehow, or even in a weird way, if it brings a glimpse of positivity and hope in an otherwise really weird and rough time in the world. I also think some part of me needed to write all this down, therapeutically, for myself.

So here’s a pretty unedited unfiltered stream of the events, at least as I remember them…

At around midnight, Izzy, who was sleeping in my bedroom with me with the door shut, started clawing at the door. Still not knowing what any of these foreign gestures really mean yet, I assumed she needed a pee break. So I put on her collar/leash, took her out, and sure enough she peed pretty quickly. As we were walking back in, she started pulling away harshly, clearly not wanting to go back inside for some reason. The collar must not have been tight enough around her neck, as she was able to slip it over her head upon tugging, and escape just as we were almost inside.

We shared a millisecond (but movie slow-motion-like) knowing glance of “oh shit”, before she instantly BOLTED as quickly as she could away from me down my street near Duboce park. Panicked, I sprinted after her. I’d renamed her Izzy, but her name in Taiwan was “Ruunie”, so I was calling that thinking there’d be more of a chance she’d recognize it. I chased her down Lower Haight, and eventually up Pierce St to Alamo Square (a car at this point saw me chasing her and tried to help, which instead probably only added to her panic). As I got to the top of Alamo Square, I’d lost her. On foot, without my phone, and knowing her sheer speed and that she had nothing on her but a bandana, I was out of breath and starting to feel things were pretty hopeless.

It was probably 12:30 or so by this point, and I’d started telling everyone around I saw. I really nice man name Dave who lives on the park took my number down and said he’d keep an eye out. I decided given she was no where in sight at this point, that I needed to have my phone on me, to start alerting the rescue agency and any others I could think to help.

I ran home, grabbed my phone, and ran back outside as I called the volunteer from the rescue (Ashley), who suggested I immediately post on NextDoor and some other services like PawBoost. She said she’d set an alarm for 4am, then drive up from Livermore to come help me look. I continuing circling the block, at this point also calling my mom for emotional support. I ran up, told just about every passerby I could see about her in case they saw anything. Ashley suggested I leave some food outside the door just in case, so I headed back home to do that, then I got a text from Dave that he’d seen her still in Alamo square.

I sprinted out again to grab an electric Lyft bike, and headed up where I saw Dave outside looking around. I biked through the park, and saw her again in the distance. I biked after her, and she was SO fast darting in and out of the streets. At this point it’s about 2:45am, so fortunately there weren’t many cars on the road. Whenever I would get close-ish to her, I would slowly hide the bike and walk, per Ashley’s good advice of not scaring her and trying to have her come to me. She had no interest in coming to me, as each time I approached, even gently, she’d sprint again and I’d have to get back on the bike to at least keep a line of sight. I followed her down toward Divisadero, near the Popeyes on Hayes, and she was so quick I lost her again (it didn’t help that she’s a black dog and it was super dark out). I biked in circles around that area, again telling everyone I saw about her, and continuing to call for her. After about 40m, I biked back home, and decided to post on Facebook.

It was this point (~4am) that Adam saw my post and messaged me and offered to help, and mentioned it’s best we look before it’s daylight and all the traffic starts. I agreed, jumped on another e-bike, and at this point Ashley too was on her way. Adam gave me a flashlight, which was helpful and he drove toward the pan handle and through Golden gate park, while I would stay biking around the area. No sign of her, and around 5am I met up with Ashley who gave me a slip collar to help catch her (sort of like a lasso) in case we saw her again.

Being on a bike holding a flashlight and a lasso, it started to feel almost like a twisted upside down old western, except instead of an adventure seeking John Wayne on a horse, it stars a hopeless millennial on a Lyft e-bike who has no such dexterity as his only skills were in technology (to be fair, this was still useful in the end).

Anyway, at this point, a man in a sweaty t-shirt hears me calling for her, and says “are you the guy looking for the black dog? I saw her.” The man said he saw her near Haight between Page and Lyon about 15 min prior (presumably while on his run). I told Ashley, and took off toward there (a bike proved to be way easier than a car actually as it was difficult for Ashley to keep up and balance driving and parking). I got up to that area, and sure enough there she was. I continued trying to balance getting off my bike, while slowly approaching, and the unfortunate need to also get back on the bike when she’d inevitably sprint so as to not lose track. This was a frustrating repeating pattern that must’ve occurred nearly 5 times throughout the evening.

At this point I was also regretting not bringing AirPods, as trying to play “walkie talky” to let Ashley know my every move to try and help trap her meant I was using one hand on the phone and one hand to bike, which resulted in quite a few unfortunate falls in the frantic process (fortunately no lasting injuries, just bruises). It was at this point I tried several times to cut off Izzy from going toward Oak, which I knew was starting to get busier as we’re at about 5am at this point and people are starting their days. Sadly it didn’t work, and Izzy found her self sprinting into (fortunately mild, not too crazy traffic, but still a fast multi-lane street).

At this point I was in full terror, fearing this was going to the moment I’d watch her get taken from this world. All because I didn’t tighten her collar enough. All because I chose to use a collar I bought instead of the harness or instead of the Martingale collar she came with which had a better fit. All because I felt I had to take her out at midnight. All because I — of all people —adopted her on the other side of the globe.

And this is when the most scary and surreal and terrifying moment happened: I literally saw a car drive OVER her (she’s fortunately small enough, and the car high enough, that upon ducking, she remained unharmed). The car was going at least 35mi. The cars behind saw this and halted to a stop at which point she darted back toward the panhandle. I tried to continue keeping her IN the panhandle instead of on Oak, but no matter what I’d try her moves were unpredictable.

At this point a woman from the top floor of her building yells at me out her window “This is why you should never take dogs off leash, you asshole!”. While her assumption was not quite accurate, her harsh anger was nothing compared to the inner sense of self hatred I’d felt as a failed dog owner, though it certainly fanned the flames.

At this point Izzy darted somewhere either into the DMV parking lot, or north toward Fell (another busy street), but I’d completely lost her again. Ashley and I continued searching, continuing to ask everyone we saw if they’d seen her.

5:45am. I feared this was defeat, parked my bike and continued on foot for a bit. Then decided it might be best to start printing out signs. But what do I even put on the signs? Call me if you see her? I worried I’d be put in the same position I continued to be in all night, trying to balance cautiously approaching while not losing track.

Ashley and I realized it may make more sense to put something about “call animal control” as they would be faster and have an easier time better equipped than me and my slip collar. I went home, finished the design for the posters, and decided to try and shut my eyes for 30m or so before Kinkos would open anyway, also after learning animal control only took phone calls from 8am onward.

I put my phone on my chest on loud, and realized there was no way I was going to fall asleep. What if she was on another busy street? What if she was hit? Scared and confused, and these were only her first 48 hours of living in a new country after what was already likely another traumatizing experience being on an 11 hour flight from Taiwan. I continued spiraling down catastrophic thoughts, and almost having a panic attack but breathing my way through it. I’d had her for not even two days. TWO DAYS. How insanely embarrassing and horrible.

Then, at 6:45, the first text came in. At first I felt hopeful, reading the words “I have your dog”. Before reading the rest of the message, I immediately called. No answer. Reading the text again, I realized it was someone who’d seen my number from NextDoor, and was clearly trying to scam me by asking me via text to “confirm I am who I say I am by sharing a code from a website” (riddled with spelling errors and odd grammar of course). Great, I thought. Now I’m going to get hit with identity theft, along with dog-child endangerment. Trying not to make an awful situation worse, I promptly removed my cell from NextDoor, and asked to be messaged via the platform instead.

At about 7am, a heavenly notification arrives on my phone:

This one felt real. I could already feel the wave of relief coming over me. I called her immediately and upon picking up, she (calmly, patiently, caringly, and hopingly all at once.. not even sure those last two are real words but you know what I mean) said:

“are you.. Noah? … I have your dog”

My heart racing, I replied “IS SHE OK?? THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. HOW DID YOU EVEN CATCH HER?! WHERE WAS SHE?!”.

She calmly replied that her and a group of fellow dog lovers / walkers in the area saw Izzy near Alamo Square, and were able to through a miraculous carefully considered group effort, slowly approach enough to get her calm enough to place one of their dog leashes onto her. I still don’t have the exact full details, but from what it sounds like it was truly heroic.

I quickly threw on my shoes and hustled up to go meet her (Frances) near Alamo Square with my harness in hand and tail between my legs. She calmly walked outside with Izzy, handed her a treat, and asked me, “by the way, you never mentioned her name on NextDoor… what is it?”

I replied “well it’s complicated, it was Ruunie in Taiwan, and I recently renamed her Izzy.”

Frances immediately smiled a big knowing grin.

“You’ll never believe this, but… that’s actually my daughters name.”

I asked what I could do to ever thank her, and all she said was “Honestly nothing. If this ever happened to me and my dog, I would just hope others would do the same. And it just makes me so happy to know you are reunited and safe.” She gave her a treat, helped me put on the harness I brought and made sure it was secure. Took back her leash, then gave me the treat bag. Izzy hadn’t really been into treats so far. But she was super into these ones.

We walked home, and almost immediately both fell asleep for hours, both probably processing our traumas in our own ways and nightmares. But both feeling so thankful to be in a community of so many caring dog-friendly neighbors.

I’m exhausted and going to go to bed again soon as I’m still running on adrenaline, but just wanted to say THANK YOU to so many people.

To Dave, a kind gentle soul who continued checking in and shared a lovely message this afternoon:

To Adam who without hesitating offering emphatically to help (I later returned the flashlight he gave me so he could also meet Izzy).

To Ashley, the volunteer from the rescue (HARA) who drove at 4am 1 hour (each way!) to help me find her, who’s advice about NextDoor was the winning ticket, as well as providing constant support throughout.

To the sweaty man who told me to look in Upper Haight.

To my mom Karen for emotional support whom I woke up in the middle of the night and calmed me down as she always does.

To every kind soul I met who took down my number and offered to call if they saw her.

To Frances, and the amazing community of Alamo square pup owners / caretakers who ended up with this miraculous rescue.

And you know what, even thank you to the woman who yelled at me from up on high right at the peak of the scariest moment where I saw Izzy nearly get hit — I’m not sure what to thank her for yet, but like everything in this story, it feels as if it almost happened for a reason.

To my coworkers who covered me for some missed meetings with total understanding and care.

And to my friends for general support.

/fin

I’m sharing this story 7 months after it happened. Izzy and I have been doing great ever since. She can easily go off-leash in Duboce Park, Alamo Square, or her favorite, Fort Funston. She’s getting more and more comfortable with herself and her environment every day, and loves playing with her friends at the dog park. I feel very lucky to have her in my life.

My coworkers recently gifted me a photoshoot with her for a work anniversary with the very talented bay area pet photographer, Tonya Perme. She did a great job capturing Izzy’s playful curious spirit, and of course, my admiration for her:

Design Director at Figma in SF. Previously led the UX team at ClassPass in NY, before that the iOS Google App in Mountain View. Carnegie Mellon Alum. ENFP.

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