Drogo had it made. The German shepherd mix was rescued from Sarajevo and whisked 1,700 miles away to a new home in Scotland after Emma Campbell saw a friend's distressing social media post about the plight of street dogs in Bosnia.
His new family was ready to give the timid dog an amazing life. Campbell was slowly taking him for walks around the island of Arran so he could get familiar with his new home.
One day, about four weeks after Drogo had arrived, Campbell drove him a short distance from her home. The plan was to walk back with the dog so he could learn the area. She opened the car door to get ready for the walk and scared Drogo bolted.
That was last October. The elusive pup has evaded capture ever since.
"I honestly didn't think it would go on this long, but I always felt that he had the potential to survive out there," Campbell tells MNN.
She and her family have taken extreme measures to bring Drogo home. They tried luring him into traps with tempting barbecued sausages and sirloin steak. They put out items scented with a female dog in heat. They asked a shelter worker Drogo knew in Bosnia to send a T-shirt with her smell. They enlisted the help of a volunteer team of expert dog finders.
The family even adopted Drogo's sister Goldie in hopes that would somehow inspire the dog to return.
"I've learned a lot about these dogs in the last eight or nine months — since before we got him too, as I was in touch with the shelter for approximately three months before he arrived," Campbell says.
"They are very resilient dogs, not like your usual domesticated dogs."
Captured ... on camera
Drogo has become a local celebrity as followers track his progress on the Finding Drogo Facebook page and watch as his image is captured on wildlife cameras around the island.
He's been spotted on camera just steps away from entering a trap and even came within about 65 feet of Campbell in a field before taking off again, according to the BBC.
Experts believe Drogo is likely in survival mode, where he's regressed to his primal instincts.
"A dog that has entered Survival Mode prioritizes things in the following order: Survival, Food, Water, Shelter. When a dog has entered survival mode, very often EVERY human is viewed as a predator — even the one that has fed, loved, walked, bathed and pampered them for the last 2-4-12 years," Finding Drogo posted on Facebook, quoting information from Petsearchers Canada.
When a dog is in survival mode, he feels like utterly he's on his own.
"All humans are predators who want to capture and harm them. People yelling (calling a pet's name), shaking a food container (loud noises), cars, other dogs barking and pursuing, squeaking toys, a door slamming — these will all invite a fight or flight response. In most (95%+) this will result in a flight response rather than fight."
The good news is it's almost always temporary. Once a dog is caught, he'll usually return to his earlier personality with little change, the experts say.
As for Campbell, although she admits she has been discouraged a few times, she says she's not giving up.
"At least two times when there was about six weeks between sightings we had feared the worst and spoken to the kids about him going over the rainbow bridge, then he pops up somewhere," she says. "Me, I am pretty stubborn, and I owe it to this dog to get him to safety. I brought him here, so I feel 100 percent responsible for him."