The saga of Finn, a Brittany Spaniel mix who went missing in Joliet March 31, had a happy ending Thursday – all because of the kindness of a Romeoville woman who loves animals.
“I had been feeding him every night for over two months,” said Mildred, who lives in Romeoville Gardens, a senior retirement community near Normantown Road.
Although pleas for Finn’s return had gone out in newspapers, on signs, posters and Facebook, Mildred leads a quiet life in her little corner of Romeoville, and wasn’t aware that an all-out effort to find the lost dog had been under way.
“I didn’t know anybody was looking for him,” Mildred said of Finn. “I always feed all the animals – the birds, the squirrels, cats, whatever comes into my yard. I was feeding the dog boiled chicken, tuna, whatever I had … and he just kept coming back.”
Recently, Mary Ann Helton, Romeoville’s animal control warden, alerted Mildred that the dog she had been feeding was probably Finn, the wandering Brittany spaniel mix who had been spotted over the past couple of months from Joliet to Minooka, Shorewood and Romeoville.
“Once I knew they had been looking for the dog for so long, I was happy I could help,” Mildred said. “This little guy really won my heart.”
Helton immediately notified Cathy Schadel, state coordinator of the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network, who, along with fellow coordinator Susan Hennis (Finn’s former foster mom) and the help of countless volunteers, had been leading efforts to locate Finn.
The wandering spaniel had been spotted in Romeoville several times over the past few weeks, so learning that he had been returning to the same location gave Schadel and Hennis real hope that Finn would finally be found.
Hennis said the rescue group set up a live trap at Mildred’s home, and asked her to keep putting food out for Finn, just as she had been doing for the past few weeks. Hennis explained the trap is a cage with a mechanism that’s triggered when an animal steps on it, closing the door and keeping the animal safe.
At first, volunteers placed the food outside the trap, Hennis said, then moved it inside the cage, where Finn could be safely held until rescuers arrived.
Schadel said the trap was set up at an angle just outside Mildred’s kitchen window, where she could easily see her new-found friend if he returned to sample some of her home cooking.
And then the waiting began. Mildred said she kept watching out the window, just as she had for the past few weeks. But now, she had a mission: catching Finn.
Schadel said she received the call she had been waiting for since March 31 at about 12:21 a.m. Thursday.
“It’s me, Mildred … I’ve got your dog. He’s in the trap,” Schadel heard, before springing into action.
Since Hennis lives in Normal and Schadel hails from Earlville, a call went out to volunteers who had aided in search efforts and live closer to Romeoville. Several of them waited at Mildred’s home until Schadel arrived.
“After he went into the cage and the door shut, he was so good,” Mildred said. “He didn’t cry, he didn’t whine … he was so good, such a good dog. I guess he was just exhausted.”
Schadel took the tired but tail-wagging dog to an area vet to be checked out after his long ordeal.
“He had a ton of ticks and fleas, and a wound on each hip – one had to be stapled, but the other had already begun to scab over,” Schadel said. “But otherwise, he was fine. If only he could tell us what he experienced, that would be quite a story.”
For now, Finn has found a home with Schadel and her family - including 10 dogs and seven foster dogs – in Earlville.
“It’s really something to see Finn with the other dogs – he seems unfazed,” Schadel said, as another of her foster dogs kept nudging Finn in an effort to get him to play. “I don’t think he really knows what’s going on yet.”
When Finn escaped from a vehicle at Cracker Barrel in Joliet March 31, he was being transported to a family in Canada who was planning to adopt him. Hennis said that although the family had been following Finn’s adventures over the past couple of months, they have since adopted another dog, Molly.
According to Finn's Facebook page, Schadel and Hennis discovered just this morning that Molly is Finn's mother - and the Canadian family has agreed to adopt Finn after all, so he can be reunited with his mom.
Hennis and Schadel have posted thank you messages on Finn’s Facebook page for all the volunteers who aided in the search for the wandering pooch, as well as organizations such as humane societies, animal control, and the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network, the group that originally rescued Finn from a shelter in Peoria.
As for Mildred, Hennis and Schadel can’t thank her enough.
“She is just a wonderful woman,” Hennis said. “We couldn’t have found Finn without her,” echoed Schadel.
Although she won’t be cooking chicken and other goodies for Finn anymore, Mildred said she will continue watching the birds and squirrels from her window - and feeding any animal that comes to her door hungry.
“Once I knew they had been looking for this dog for so long, I was so happy I could help,” Mildred said of Finn’s rescue. “It’s really nice, the way it came out.”
To visit Finn’s Facebook page, click here.
For more information or to make a donation to the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network, click here.