Four months might seem like a reasonably short timeframe, but it's way too long when you're a dog trying to survive alone in the Arizona wilderness.
That was the case of escape artist Mor'Du, who survived all those weeks in the Tucson area with help from community members before he was finally caught by a dedicated team of trappers earlier this week. The pup arrived back at the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) on Monday after two escapes in six months and countless miles traveled.
After surviving his escapes and the hoarding situation that first landed him at PACC, Mor'Du is certainly ready for a calmer, spoiled rest of his life.
"It's very, very important to me to give them that chance for the life they deserve," says Carmen Lopez, who founded the Tucson Lost and Found Pets Support Team and led the monthslong search for Mor'Du.
Sharing the name with the bear villain from the Pixar film Brave, Mor'Du was adopted over the summer from PACC months after he was rescued from the hoarding situation. Likely still dealing with what PACC called "fear-based trauma," he escaped his new owner's house Aug. 26 and traveled 8 miles back to PACC.
Lopez tells Daily Paws she believes he escaped in an attempt to reunite with his family—the dogs he'd lived with in the hoarding case. He reunited with his new owner in early September, but he'd escaped again only days later. That's when Lopez and her team started looking for him.
Her team put up flyers and scoured social media for Mor'Du, who might be a German shepherd and chow chow mix. About a month later, he was spotted 3 or 4 miles from where he escaped, Lopez says, but he likely traveled much more than that. She theorized he was again looking for his family members.
"You can tell he's a very smart dog," she says.
The longer dogs are missing, the lower the odds they're found alive. But community members put out feeding stations for Mor'Du, so that's likely how he kept going while evading capture. In fact, he looked pretty healthy when the team was able to put eyes on him. And besides a limp, he looked OK when he was eventually trapped, Lopez says.
That day came Monday. A well-placed camera captured footage of Mor'Du entering a humane trap in the Tucson area just before noon. The smart pooch manages to avoid triggering the trap on his first trip into the cage, but it closed behind him the second time he went in to investigate the bait. (You can watch the rescue here.)
Lopez and her team watched via the camera from a nearby park so they could rush over and help him before he had time to escape again. It brought tears to her eyes after she, along with teammates Juanito Esquivel and Tanya Gutierrez, had spent so many days hoping to find him.
"It's just happiness to me," she says. "... You don't sleep if you know they're out there fighting wildlife or struggling to find food."
(A welcome side note: During the search for Mor'Du, a camera from Lopez's team recorded images of another missing dog, Spot. They trapped and reunited him with his family two days before they found Mor'Du. "They had no clue we were working on trapping him, too, and it was just amazing," Lopez says.)
We are starting the week off with some good news.
Mor’Du A746366 is back at PACC thanks to the volunteer-led Tucson Trapping Team!! They have been working for months to try and get him. Today, they succeeded. pic.twitter.com/5dIPvdCGus
— Pima Animal Care (@PimaAnimalCare) January 24, 2022
Lopez doesn't know what's next for Mor'Du, though she wonders if living with one of his family members from the hoarding situation might work best for him. Otherwise, she hopes he can live in an environment where he can relax and learn to trust humans.
Lopez and the 60 or so members of the Tucson Lost and Found Pets Support Team have been at it for about seven years and have no plans to stop. So far, she estimated she's rescued about 400 animals.
"We really want to be saving as many as we can."