Snare puts Nikiski dog in brush with death

Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2000

On July 29, Sarah disappeared.

Her owner, Joanne Hardesty knew it was a bad sign.

"Usually they (Sarah and the other family dog) hang around the house, she's not a runner," said Hardesty.

Hardesty said her 2 1/2-year-old golden retriever and Australian-shepherd mix usually doesn't leave their Daniels Lake property in Nikiski. If Sarah does roam a bit, she said, she is never gone overnight.

The family, Hardesty's husband, Charles, and their children Luke, 14, Shane, 11, and Rose, 8, spent the following days hanging posters, putting ads in the paper and contacting the local radio program Doggone news.

The family thought she was lost, but as time went by, Hardesty said, the outcome was looking bleak.

"I thought she was dead," she said.

Then, on Aug. 15, the family came home to find their beloved Sarah sitting in the driveway.

She had left with a red collar, so the Hardesty family did not immediately notice what had happened.

The family ran to greet the pet when they noticed a wire snare around her neck.

Hardesty said she ran to call the veterinarian while her husband snipped the snare off Sarah.

The snare, a wire trap set in a loop fashion during trapping months, was taken by Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper Paul Fussey. Fussey declined to discuss details of the case because it is still under investigation but described the device as a typical twisted metal snare.

"That type of snare is pretty generic and is set up for lynx, wolf and coyote," Fussey said, adding that the trapping season ended in April.

Leaving snares out past that date would constitute trapping in a closed season, which results in an automatic court appearance with punishment determined by a judge, he said.

Fussey wouldn't speculate on where Sarah encountered the snare.

"I didn't even know they used wire snares to catch animals," Hardesty said.

The family immediately took the pet to the veterinarian where Gerald Nybakken examined her and said he had never seen this kind of case to this extent.

"The dog was extremely close to death," he said.

Nybakken said Sarah had less than one-eighth inch between the snare and her carotid artery, the main artery located on each side on the neck that supplies blood to the brain.

As well as suturing her neck wounds, the veterinarian installed drainage tubes to allow the body to rid itself of any fluid or dead tissue. The tubes were removed five days after they were put in.

Nybakken said though it is hard to say how long she was caught in the snare, he believes it was a minimum of a week.

No matter how long Sarah was snared, the dangers of her situation were great. If she would have fought to get free, the doctor said, she would have killed herself.

"She is an extremely lucky dog because the noose did not close down completely and she could reach water," he said.

The entire time he examined Sarah, Nybakken said she seemed to have a stable mental condition.

"This dog was pretty happy. Mentally, this dog was very well off," he said. "I was impressed by the dog and the owners."

He said Sarah's future looks good and she will gain her lost weight back.

"I think she will do just fine," he said.

Julie Britton, a retired school teacher who is currently involved with animal therapy with children, said this is not the first case of dogs snared on the Kenai Peninsula.

Seven years ago, Britton found two dogs dead in snares near the Mackey Lakes area. The snares were left out from the previous hunting season or set out early, she said.

The owner was walking his two dogs when they ran into the woods and disappeared.

"It seemed odd that it is legal to set snares in an area that is so frequently used," she said.

Since returning home, Hardesty said the family is happy to have Sarah back and has kept her under 24-hour care.

Hardesty said she thought Sarah had lost about 20 pounds during the ordeal. She is currently on a diet of high protein puppy food to get her strength back and put the weight back on her.

"She seems to be getting back to her same old self," she said.

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