Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Leader of the Pack' Back with Owners

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Leader of the Pack' Back with Owners

Article excerpt

The "Princess" of Bergen County's Van Saun Park is no ordinary mutt.

The skittish 8-year-old border collie mix survived three months on her own in the county park, riding out superstorm Sandy and becoming the leader of a pack of two footloose coyotes.

She also inspired a community-wide effort to find her, including help from several county departments, Facebook posts, fliers and a bulk-mail postcard campaign by the Smith family of Paramus, her owners.

The Smiths even tried to spend a night in the park to coax her back. But in the end, all it took was a bowl of food in an animal control cage with a trap door to bring Princess back home for the holidays.

"We never thought we'd see the day when we'd see her alive again," Francine Smith said Wednesday after she brought her dog by the county administration building in Hackensack to meet with some of her rescuers. "Thanks to a lot of people, they brought her home to us."

Princess' big adventure began on Sept. 8, when a woman came to the door of the Smith home on Haywood Road and both the collie and her brother Oreo bolted.

The family quickly retrieved Oreo, but Princess was nowhere to be found.

Anthony and Francine Smith got the dogs when they were 6 months old from a rescue program in Virginia. Francine Smith said they suspected Princess had previously been mistreated because she was always afraid of people.

A company that had installed a microchip identifier in Princess notified all the veterinarians and shelters within a 50-mile radius of Paramus. But still no one saw her, and by Oct. 29 it was hard to get anyone to pay attention after superstorm Sandy hit and left much of Bergen County and the state devastated and without power.

Meanwhile the Smiths had launched their own direct-mail campaign. They did a targeted mailing to neighbors of a 6-by-9-inch postcard with a color picture of Princess and a headline that read, "Paramus Dog Missing -- Please Help Us Find Her!!!"

Francine Smith said a lot of "ghost sightings" resulted, some as far away as Ramsey.

One of the postcards, however, landed on the desk of Jimmy Parisi, a supervisor at Van Saun Park, a little more than a mile away from the Smiths' home. …

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