Dog Found Alive on Island Month After Running from Owners

Animal control in a rural area of central Michigan says it has rescued Zaria, a Great Dane who ran from her owners and for a month evaded recapturing efforts.

Clare County Animal Shelter said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Zaria had been successfully captured, marking the end of the saga that attracted attention from dog lovers across the internet. A follow-up post, which has drawn over 1,600 reactions, thanked the community for its support and included a picture of the white and brown Great Dane starting her recovery after a month of being undernourished on her own.

Zaria went missing the night of August 17 from her home in Harrison, a small town in the center of Michigan's lower peninsula, according to a post from the shelter. The post described the dog as 2 years old, 50 pounds and skinny due to her high metabolism, as well as very friendly but frightened by hats.

Animal Control Officer Bob Dobson told the Morning Sun last month that Zaria had been located on Cranberry Lake, northeast of Harrison, and had become severely emaciated. Officers spotted the wayward dog with a drone, but Dobson said animal control tracked Zaria slowly and cautiously.

Great Dane Blessing of the Animals
Dianna Maria stands by her 170-pound dog Picasso, a Great Dane, before the annual Blessing of the Animals ceremony on April 16, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. Zaria, a 2-year-old Great Dane, was rescued on an island in rural Michigan after a month of recapture efforts. Mario Tama/Getty Images

"We did not want to push her [too] hard as you can see in the picture we do not want to exhaust her [too] much, it could kill her," Dodson said in the Facebook post that included a picture of a thinning Zaria, the skin hugging the ribs on her large frame as she waded through the island's reeds.

Harrison Lumber donated pallets to make a better path to the island for volunteers, who were warned they'd get very wet, Dodson said in the post. He added that Moore's Lost K9 Search and Recovery set up traps on the island. "Fingers crossed," he said.

Dodson told CBS affiliate WNEM-TV in August that he suspects Zaria slipped free from her leash when she was put outside by her owner one night and began running, falling into the water and swimming until she made it to the island.

Dodson confirmed the dog was in "that fight or flight mode right now," according to the station. "She's in the flight mode right now."

The island's marshy conditions made more conventional rescue techniques less effective, the station reports. After setting two traps on the island, rescuers began placing hot dogs, mac & cheese and breakfast sandwiches nearby to lure Zaria in.

After setting the traps, Zaria began eating and drinking daily but didn't get close enough to the trap to trigger it, ABC affiliate WPBN reported. Dodson also advised people wanting to catch the dog that the island is privately owned and the owner had threatened trespassing charges.

Moore's Lost K9 Search and Recovery said in a Facebook post earlier in September that Zaria became more trusting, stepping further inside the trap each time she entered. But the company said trespassers on the island spooked Zaria.

"Zaria is constantly looking around and spooks back in to the deep marsh with any extra noise," the company said in a post. "This set back has cost Zaria significantly."

The company said in a post last week it would end its efforts after spending "hundreds of hours and sleepless nights conditioning Zaria for multiple traps" following the property owner saying he would no longer cooperate. The company said that Zaria watched as they removed their equipment, leaving the recovery up to county animal control.

Ruanne Hicks, the director of Clare County Animal Control, told Newsweek in an email that by using its own trap along with lots of chicken and a borrowed camera and laser release system, animal control eventually captured Zaria.

Animal control said in a Facebook post that Zaria had been examined by a vet and will be fed several small meals a day until her system can adjust to normal feedings.

Hicks said Zaria's owner surrendered her to the shelter, where "after she is back to normal health, she will be placed in a foster home" or with a rescue service.

Update 09/22/22, 4:29 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information and background.