Most Recent Possible Sightings

Confirmed Sighting: May 9 2012, north Chevy Chase. [2011]December 11, neighborhood outside Colombia Country Club. October 20, Colombia Country Club. September 14, Candy Cane City and into Rock Creek Park. September 7 or 8, Brookville and Shepherd in Chevy Chase, and then back south on Connecticut to Chevy Chase circle (where she is getting water, we believe). August 28th, on Thornapple in Chevy Chase, and then headed south on Connecticut!

(For other sightings, see archive at the bottom of the page.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Most Frequently Asked FAQs

We will post the whole updated and revised FAQ tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are a few of the most frequently asked of the frequently asked questions, with answers behind the cut.

Q: Is it really Sassafras people are seeing?
Q: How is she staying alive?
Q: Why hasn't she been captured or come to a human for help?

Q: Is it really Sassafras people are seeing?

Our sightings are confirmed by the tracking dog, which means we can be 100% certain she has been there. If Sassafras' scent isn't there, the dog has nothing to follow. ( We had plenty of negative sightings where the tracking dog didn't find anything.

When we receive a phone call (or email) about a sighting, we ask lots of questions to see if the sighting was likely Sassafras. For those that are promising and there is a very specific location to start a track from, we bring in the tracker. The tracking dog sniffs a scent article three times (in our case, a bag full of Sass' hair and her brush) and then uses her nose to determine if she can follow that scent.

It’s hard for a lot of people to believe exactly how effective the tracking dog is, unless they’ve worked closely with one – the dogs use a highly-developed sense of smell and special training (the training takes about two years, and it’s generally about training the dog and human as a team so they communicate with one another) to pin-point one smell from a huge variety of smells. Someone explained it to us as if we were to give a human a color to follow, and having them follow that one line of color through many lines of many colors.

Q: How is she staying alive?

Our assumption is that Sass is chasing small animals and finding trash, as well as discovering water sources. Rock Creek Park is full of picnic sites, and the DC area has many, many creeks.  We don't think someone is directly feeding her because the confirmed sightings have all come from someone who saw her alone and the tracks have covered a great deal of ground. During the tracks there is evidence that Sass is chasing animals and stopping at water sources.

It is normal for lost animals to travel when people are not around.  Because of the heat during the summer months while she was lost, and her extreme skittishness and shyness around people, Sass seems to be traveling at night. One of our confirmed sightings of her was when she crossed a road at 3:30 a.m.

Q: Why hasn't she been captured or come to a human for help?

There are a lot of reasons why it's been so hard to catch Sassafras:

1.      First, Sass was only comfortable with humans in her "pack."  In other words, only we or her daycare providers could pet her, and she would avoid being touched by strangers.  She’d only allow a stranger to pet her after at least 10 minutes in our company. So if someone tries to pet her or call her, she will run away. She’s very shy.

2.      Second, her breed(s) and the natural tendencies of those breeds make it difficult.

3.      Beagles are born travelers, so Sass' 10+ mile radius of territory isn't unusual (for those familiar with the DC area, a 10 mile radius is basically anywhere within the Beltway).

4.      So we have a needle/haystack problem. People often wonder why we don’t just hang out all night at places where she’s been spotted more than once --there are many of reasons why this isn’t feasible, but --

·        The first reason is that she may take weeks to return to any one spot, or she may never go back there; because of her range, we cannot possibly predict where she’d show up.
·        Second, Sass seems to be traveling at night (see question above).

Dogs live in the now. Sass isn't reasoning that she needs to find people - she's finding food, water and shelter and in her brain that is her life now, she's not trying for anything beyond her needs. She doesn't think like a human, so we can't impose human logic on her thoughts. For shelter, she's probably curled up under a bush somewhere - we see plenty of places where this is possible on our tracks.

We have heard of a lot of dogs that have been gone longer than Sass and survived - at the moment there are a couple of 
mastiffs who have been avoiding people for months - if an 80 lb dog can hide, our little Sass can certainly be overlooked.

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