Adopted dog takes 97-day walk back to foster mom--sad story, happy ending

This is Zelda.Photo: Wags & Whisker Animal Rescue

Zelda is a six-year-old German shepherd mix who found her way back to her old neighborhood in St. Paul, after being adopted by a family nearly 30 miles away.

“She definitely has some superpowers, Seneca Krueger, who fostered Zelda, says with a laugh. “I’m still trying to figure out what other things she can do.”
Zelda’s first arrived at a Twin Cities animal rescue from an overflowing shelter in Texas. That's when Seneca was chosen to foster Zelda. Krueger was familiar with fostering. By her estimate, she’d taken between 30 and 40 dogs into her home previously. Zelda stayed with her for 7 months and by the end of that time she began to wag her tail and made enough progress to finally being adopted.

A family in Chanhassen stepped up to take Zelda in permanently. Or so, everyone thought, including Krueger, who found herself missing Zelda more than she expected.

“And with Zelda, I adopted her out and spent three days crying. I felt like I had lost my dog.”

But Zelda apparently wasn't digging her new scene. “I think it was maybe 10 days, and she was gone,” Krueger says.

Krueger immediately joined the search for the runaway. 

“Three times a week I was out for four or five hours,” she said. “The days where it was 30 below were the days I was most worried about her. I was out all day trying to find her so that she could be warm.”

Social media posts yielded dozens of sightings, all the way to Orono, north of then-frozen lake Minnetonka.

“I never believed I wouldn’t find her,” Krueger says.

An all-volunteer dog search team had also gotten word of Zelda’s disappearance. The team set up feeding stations and trail cams around the area, and sightings of Zelda began to pour in.As temperatures dropped below zero, Krueger refused to give up. “The coldest days were the days I spent the most time searching because I was desperate to get Zelda warm and safe,” Krueger said. “[I] spent hours out in the freezing cold, following dog tracks through ravines, frozen swamps and fields.”

Over two months later, Krueger got word that Zelda had been spotted in Minneapolis, halfway between the dog's new home and her previous foster home.

Only then did Krueger realize that Zelda was trying to make her way back to her. 

The adopters surrendered Zelda back to the organization that set up the adoption, and Krueger was thrilled to have her dog back — if only on paper. “She was mine again, and I was more determined than ever to find her,” Krueger said.

Two weeks later, Krueger received news that Zelda had been spotted near her home. She put out feeding stations around her house and began dumping dirty laundry on the front lawn in hopes that the smell would coax Zelda back to safety.

A couple reached out to Krueger to let her know that they had been feeding a very skittish dog who looked like Zelda. But after so long, Krueger didn't want to get her hopes up. “Although I really wanted this dog to be my Zelda, I knew that if there was a lost, scared dog out there on the streets, we had to help it," Krueger said. "Even if it wasn’t the dog that I knew and loved, and missed so much."

Finally, the couple was able to trap the emaciated dog and called Krueger in the early hours of the morning to let her know. Inside the cage, Krueger saw a small, nervous dog, who barely resembled the Zelda she once knew. But a quick scan of the dog's chip confirmed the impossible.

After over three months on the run, Zelda had found her way home.

Zelda has been adjusting well to being at home, and couldn't be happier to be with her mom again.

"She has become my Velcro dog, and is never more than a few feet away from me at all times," Krueger said. "My other dogs are happy to have her back as well and groom her a lot."

For Zelda, this family is forever. "I never could have imagined that the whole time I was searching for Zelda, she was searching for me, too," Krueger added. "Zelda is officially my dog. But let’s be honest, it’s not like I had a choice. She is very persistent."

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