Dog that led Summit County animal control officers on a two-week chase in October has recovered |

Dog that led Summit County animal control officers on a two-week chase in October has recovered

Zip the Vizsla, one month after she was found emaciated and shivering in a bathroom stall at Copper Mountain. The dog had evaded capture by animal control officers for two weeks before. Now she is well and living with her forever family.
Special to the Daily |

Zip the dog lived up to her name when she slipped away from her handlers on Oct. 15 during a stopover in Frisco. The Vizsla was on her way from Durango to a foster home on the Front Range via the Colorado Wyoming Vizsla Rescue Group when she got loose.

The skittish dog then proved nearly impossible to capture.

Rescue group volunteers put up posters around Frisco and Copper Mountain and notified Summit County Animal Control, whose officers used multiple tools, from live traps to net guns, in their attempts to capture the dog, all without success.

“We didn’t have somebody that she was familiar with to come catch her,” said Jesslyn Swirka, an animal control officer. “So she had a bunch of strange people who were like, ‘Hey, come over here.’”

Vizslas are Hungarian bird dogs, with one layer of sleek short hair. Often they are referred to as “Velcro dogs,” according to Shawna Wells, a volunteer with the rescue group, because they are so keen to be physically close to their owners. Zip, however, was skittish, likely due to the transfer, and in unfamiliar territory.

“Really, any type of breed of dog would be horrified in that situation,” Swirka said. “They’re in an area they don’t know, they’ve got a bunch of people trying to catch them. Whatever animals or people she came across in the time she was out could have been a horrifying experience for her as well.”

As one week stretched into another, the local animal community was on high alert as the Vizsla rescue volunteers came out in force to hand out posters and follow up on sightings with Animal Control and Copper Mountain security staff. Weather was a concern, with temperatures dipping low at night and the occasional snowfall, as were potentially harmful interactions with wildlife, like foxes and coyotes, and the idea that the dog might attempt to cross the interstate.

As one of the volunteers, Wells came up as often as she could from her Boulder home to follow up on sightings of Zip.

“It’s not that we couldn’t find her. We had sightings all the time,” Wells said. “It’s just that we couldn’t capture her.”

Wells did everything she could think of, from talking to people on the street to calling up businesses in areas where the dog had last been seen, like Copper, and asking them to keep an eye out.

“It’s such an amazing community,” she said, explaining how often she ended up speaking with the same person multiple times. “Nobody got upset with us, nobody got tired of hearing our story. Everybody was so kind.” People bought dinners for the volunteers and, after hearing that many of them were sleeping in their cars over the weekend, offered them places to stay.

“It was really incredible,” she said. “I mean, where does that happen?”

Finally, on Oct. 28, Wells got good news. Copper Mountain security team was alerted to a thin, shivering Zip who had been found in a bathroom stall inside a Copper building.

“She was pretty emaciated,” Wells said. “She was cold and I don’t think she would have survived that day, and I certainly don’t believe she would have survived that night.”

Wells then facilitated Zip’s rehabilitation from her Boulder home. Though it took some time for the dog to build up trust, she eventually settled down and gained a healthy amount of weight again.

“I had given up hope, honestly,” she said. “I was hopeless at that point. I really thought that was (the end), and the worst part would have been not knowing. It’s so fortunate that it ended in a good way, and it couldn’t have ended in a better way, and most of that is the community in Frisco.”

And just a few weeks ago, Zip was matched with her new family, who had been among the volunteers searching for her in October.

“She really surprised us all in her ability to rebound, and she has found her forever family, and they’re really great,” said Wells.

Wells attributes Zip’s happy ending to the helpful efforts of the Summit community.

“It’s so incredible to me,” she said. “When you do rescues, you lose a lot of hope in humanity because the things that you see, and to have that kind of community support and assistance every day for almost three weeks, unyielding support like that, just really sort of gives you a restored faith and hope in humanity, for sure.”

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