They know Drogo is out there – but where?
A final desperate attempt to catch a former stray dog who was plucked from the streets of Bosnia and brought to Scotland is being launched this weekend.
Seven months ago Drogo slipped from his owner’s grip on his first walk on the Isle of Arran. Ever since then he has been living free, fending for himself and roaming the countryside.
He has evaded capture despite regularly being caught on camera taking food left out for him. But now a fresh attempt is to be made to collar the reluctant pet before time runs out.
A specialist trap is due to arrive on the island tomorrow in the hope of finally bringing the stray home. The onset of the lambing season has raised fears that the fugitive may get desperate.
It is thought that so far the cross-breed German shepherd has survived on a diet of carrion and road kill. But owner Emma Campbell says Drogo’s adventures have to come to end for his own good.
The 43-year-old paramedic said: “We are trying to get a hold of him before lambing gets into full swing – that is imminent just now at the south end [of the island].
“As much as he’s not bothering any sheep, we would just rather he was caught. The farmers will get a lot more protective, understandably, of their livestock.
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“I have to say, though, the farmer whose land he is on now has been very, very helpful – and is quite keen for us to catch him.”
Locals have been doing all they can to help. Islanders have been reporting sightings and providing updates to a Facebook page called Finding Drogo.
An array of equipment has also been deployed to bring him home, including traps, drones, sensors, and bait. But despite sightings, photographs and several close encounters, the dog, who is about two years old, remains at large.
Drogo seems, however, to have taken a particular territory in the south of the island – and even has company.
“He was wandering and he has managed to cover quite a bit of the island – but he seems to have settled,” says Ms Campbell, who lives in Lamlash.
“However, he has competition from cats left behind by the last tenant farmers – and he’s got competition for food.
“The cats are now finding all of the traps and the food we are leaving out – they are being a pain. We’ve caught one cat twice – because he obviously decided ‘Actually I get let out here and I get a free meal’.”
Ms Campbell, her husband Alan and their children Shaila and Gordon have spent hundreds of hours trying to bring Drogo home. Almost everything that can be done has been done.
Old clothes from his former carer in Sarajevo were posted to Scotland, with the hope of providing a reassuring scent to lure him in. Emma and friends have also camped out overnight to entice him with food.
The family have even adopted Drogo’s sister, Goldie, in the hope that he will want to renew his family ties.
“It has taken literally taken hundreds and hundreds of hours of my time to get him back over the seven months,” Ms Campbell says. “I am very fortunate with the knowledge of friends – I have a really close friend who is a volunteer ranger.
“Another neighbour is a forensic scientist and she’s also got her own photography company here. So she’s used to using the wildlife cameras – we’ve had such a good team.”
She adds that the arrival of Drogo’s sister on the island was also designed to help him settle in better when he does return home.
“It might not happen that way because they’re both quite timid dogs – but I still have this idea in my head that as soon as they see each other they’re going to wave their tails and just be so happy to see each other,” she says. “But I don’t think that is going to happen somehow.”
While food has been left out for Drogo, it is thought he is has been supplementing his diet elsewhere. The harsh winter is thought to have provided a rich source of food from animals that have succumbed to the elements.
But some of his provisions are more basic than that. “We’ve got him on camera feeding off a carcass that he’d found – a deceased animal that had not been killed by him,” Ms Campbell says.
“We’d like to know how he’s survived and what he’s been eating – but they are omnivores as well. We think we was even eating cattle and sheep faeces – because we saw teeth marks in it.”
The most recent photos of the pet were taken just a couple of weeks ago. Volunteers with the Lost & Hound K9 capture team, a UK-wide network, have been assisting with the search.
Team co-ordinator Andy Tippins said the length of time Drogo has been free is not unusual – but his location certainly is.
“Drogo’s behaviour is normal for a foreign dog, or a rescue dog, or unsocialised dog,” he says. “They go into what we call a survival mode: they return to their primal instincts.
“And they believe every human is a threat. We usually get dogs missing in more built-up areas so we do get a lot more sightings than what we do with Drogo.
“I know dogs that have been on the streets for more than six years – and have been caught.”
He adds: “Dogs are very resilient. What we forget as humans is that dogs are a wild animal.”
The large trailer trap – so-called because it has wheels and can be towed – will be set up close to his current feeding station.
“Hopefully with a bit of luck, and we are praying, it will be a quick capture – and he’ll walk pretty much straight in,” Mr Tippins says.
“The trapdoor will shut – and then it will be a case of getting him out of the trap safely, into a crate.”
If and when Drogo is caught, his days on Arran may be numbered. The owner of the dog shelter in Sarajevo has said she will happily take him back if he does not settle.
“Whatever happens, he’s going to be happy – he’s going to have a happy wee life,” Ms Campbell says.