NORTH ADAMS -- "We caught Bigfoot."
That was the text message Hinsdale veterinarian Dr. Keith Beebe received in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
It was Carrie Loholdt, animal control officer in North Adams, telling him that they had finally captured Maya, an on-the-loose pet dog that had been meandering through North County since last July.
Maya has been the subject of a hound hunt that began July 21 when she slipped away from her owner at Greylock Glen. She had only been adopted a few days earlier, and didn't know her name or the way home.
So began a community-wide effort, with frequent sightings posted on a Facebook page and volunteers searching throughout the Adams and North Adams area. Maya was seen dozens of times, but always eluded capture.
The rescuers started referring to her playfully as Bigfoot.
Today Maya is in good shape, and perfectly content in the company of humans. She seems to be enjoying all the attention, although her current caregivers are very careful to keep her restrained and away from open doors.
Beebe said she is suffering from worms, Lyme disease and could use some food, but he said it is "surprising" that she was in such good shape, considering how long she's been on the run. Se has already gained four pounds since her capture.
Loholdt and Northern Berkshire County Animal Rescue volunteer Kaila Drosehn had been tracking Maya for months.
They would identify Maya's feeding locations through Facebook reports from spotters. They would set up deer cameras and feeding bowls at each location, then volunteers like Ann Klammer, Karen Foote, and Fran Gaule would check the cameras and leave food for Maya daily. Her feeders typically left her people food. She became especially fond of beef and salmon.
After a while, they began leaving stuffed dolls along with the food, which it seems Maya would take with her after she ate.
"We still don't know where she took them," Loholdt said.
Once she was seen eating at one spot consistently, Loholdt and Drosehn would set up a humane trap, bait it with food, and stake it out in the hope Maya would take the bait.
Loholdt and Drosehn spent many nights inside a car with no heat -- they couldn't spook Maya with a running engine. Beebe said he went on one stake out during the search with Loholdt and Drosehn.
"I didn't know how cold it was, but my bones were frozen," he said. "And these two were out there almost every night. I can't tell you how hard they worked on this."
Maya, a 1- to 2-year-old walker hound, came close to entering the trap a few times, but in the end would not enter the enclosed space. At one point they had her trapped in a backyard, but Maya leaped over the four-foot fence and eluded capture again.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, she got spooked out of her recent routine and habitat in Adams because a few coyotes and a black bear had moved into the area.
A week later, she was spotted in North Adams, near the airport. Her routine was quickly documented on deer cameras, and Loholdt and her crew set a new type of trap, one that involved spring loaded restraint collar -- a trap with no walls.
The first night staking out the trap was Tuesday night. After about four hours of freezing in the car, Loholdt and Drosehn spotted Maya headed for the bait. She walked right by the car, with the two women trying desperately not to make any noise.
"All of a sudden she comes around the corner," Loholdt said. "She was right in front of us. I smacked Kaila real hard."
"We started shaking because she was so close," recalled Drosehn. "We kept really still."
Ten minutes later Maya was safely contained in a doggie crate.
They took Maya to Beebe's office in Hinsdale, where he checked her over and they got her settled in with blankets and some more salmon.
"We took the muzzle off of her and she was OK with us touching her," Drosehn said.
For now, assuming she doesn't plot some ingenious escape, Maya will be kept at the vet's office for recuperation and further testing. She faces a long period of adjustment and evaluation before she can think about going home, Loholdt said.
"We're going to give her all the time she needs," Loholdt said. "She'll be OK."
And now she'll have warm nights and plenty of rest.
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