Together with Bloodhound Hubert on Zvoja’s Trail

A Panorama Collage of Zvoja’s tracking route – but this is just a part of it! She walked across the street (far right) and up to the top of the hill – and she was also seen on the other side of the hill.


Our 7 months old little Zvoja was wandering around for 3 weeks in an absolute unknown area for her in icy cold weather . . . .  Unfortunately after only 5 days in her new home, she had run away with her leash on – but after tree endless weeks were finally over – everyone was happy and relieved – Zvoja was found healthy and in a relatively good shape.

Brigitte, Hubert, Inken and Zvoja


Zvoja’s Story . . . .

End of July 2004 our I-litter v. Sölring Hüs was born. The second bitch of this litter was born (motionless, rather pale and almost dead – but I was able to reanimate her and bring her back to life. In this moment I knew: THAT was MY girl. It was like a sign – she should stay with me.

In the following weeks she matured to an absolutely delightful little female, full of charm, soft in her character, affectionate, sometimes a bit shy. She became prettier and prettier and took more and more space in our hearts. My husband fell in love with little Zvoja as much as I did.

However, we recognized more and more that Zvoja could not cope with our rough group. The situations accumulated where she was not really free and relaxed.

After many endless discussions and thoroughly thinking it over, we decided to give her into a more quiet home – maybe with one or maximum two Borzois.

It hurt my husband and me terrible to give her away; she was exactly the dog we always wanted, being so much in character like her grandmother Mogly (LeiCro´s Russian Zlodeika). It was very painful – we became so much attached to her - but sometimes it is better to let go . . . .

As soon as I had published the information, a friendly couple from the Southern Germany phoned. After 3 days of visiting and getting to know each other we all had the feeling, it works! Zvoja can move into her new home.

So on a Sunday in the beginning of March 2005, Mr. and Mrs. Strauss droved back South together with Zvoja, now 7 months old, and Ciri - her new companion -.

One week later, my sister and I were just having breakfast – I got a phone call that Zvoja had run away with her leash on and had been missing since Friday already.

I was totally shocked, thinking that our little darling, who has never been away from home before, was now all alone by herself, out there in a totally strange area.

Would she have a chance? It was still winter, minus 10° at night and lots of snow – dangerous for a little dog. Would she find any food? I did not even want to think about all this!


1: here Zvoja ran away/ 2: she was also there before she „settled down” in Schlat


I immediately called my friends in the area of Stuttgart and Göppingen. After that I went to the computer and searched for all kinds of information, phone numbers and other helpful datas. I also informed TASSO to publish her missing on their homepage. I also arranged publications in all Borzoi lists, Borzoi friends, Barsoi.Net and European-Borzoi asking to be so kind and spread the information around about Zvoja’s missing.

Then a never ending time for all of us began.   Again and again calls from Göppingen – no news. Nobody had seen her. Advertisements in news-papers, missing dog posters, search operations from the Family Strauss – everything without any success. The snow covered the tracks, then later rain and mud, did not make searching easier.

Finally, after about one week good news: Zvoja had been seen again and again in Schlat, about 10 km away from Göppingen. Most of the time at the outskirts of the village and the forest – and mostly in the evening. But all attempts of the police, other dog owners and helpers to catch her failed. She immediately ran away.

Again I sent e-mails to people in the area, different organisations and institutions like riding stables, airports, animal shelters and tracking clubs etc. – asking for help. Again they put up posters, placed ads in the newspapers, and citizens of Schlat were asked about Zvoja.

Slowly first success was shown. More phone calls came from observant people, who saw her. We marked the points were Zvoja was seen and so we were able to get a “moving profile” of Zvoja.

Our Swiss friends Emmi and Ernst Schorro helped us with ideas and contacted  Mrs. Peruzzi who does man trailing – but only for people, and also made contact to a Bloodhound Club in Switzerland. We got valuable tips from her and also from another person living in Switzerland who has an Otterhound doing searching.

In the meanwhile and to be well armed for any occasion I had organised 2 persons who could handle an anaesthetic gun and an anaesthetic blow-pipe. To use those weapons we had to be sure that Zvoja was at certain places at certain times.

Again, there were 2-3 days during which nobody had seen her. Not having a mutual trust to her new owners, I thought about driving down to Schlat, to look for her myself. But her moving profile was still not clear enough. At that time, she had been out there alone for more than 2 weeks in the wilderness – our poor little Zvoja. I worried a lot. Is she hurt? Will she find enough to eat? Was there enough water for her? What would happen, if the leash get caught in the under-growth? This would have been her death sentence for sure, and then she would have no chance.

The week after Easter my decision was made up - I will fly down to Stuttgart -. Some friends of mine offered me to pick me up and help me searching. Now I had to organise all here – to ask my friend Brigitte Döring (kennel v. Tollhaus) to take care of my dogs here (her husband and kids had holidays, so they could take care of her dogs), to take care of important things, getting all the stuff together which could be helpful for the searching etc. -

Everything was ready, tickets were bought, bag was packed, hotel was booked, flight and pick up was organised. Then I talked it all over once again with Brigitte and we had a much better idea. We decided to drive down together by car and take her Bloodhound Hubert with us. In case we would not see Zvoja, we could try to pick up her trail. The forecast promised sunny days. On raining days Hubert would have problems to pick up her trail.

Bloodhounds are mostly successfully used in USA as tracking dogs. They search with high precision – but in a quite different way than to here (Mrs. Döring can give you more information). Hubert is almost 3 years old and completes his training in Holland where they practice once a month. Here in Schlat it was the first time he went into action.

Our plan was fixed, but I still needed somebody for dog and house sitting. I called my friend Ingrid Lorenz in Baltrum who immediately agreed to come, and together with Brigitte’s daughter Anna she took care of our dogs here. So Brigitte, Hubert and I started on Thursday around 7:30am down South. Everything went fine, there was not much traffic on the freeway and we already arrived around 2pm at our hotel in Schlat. There we met with the “Zvoja-Searching-Team” that Petra Etzel had organized in the meanwhile.

Petra Etzel, the owner of Zvoja’s sister Ibushka, came together with two girlfriends and their children. Mr. Strauss also joined us. After working out a first search plan and having a little snack we went to the place where Zvoja had been seen two days before. The owner of the “Hotel zum Lamm” in Schlat kindly allowed us to make copies of the area maps. Everyone got a map, we divided the area that we wanted to search in and split up in several teams.


The fields Zvoja went through.


Each team was equipped with mobile phone, map, flashlight and field glasses – so we were able to communicate and see each other from time to time. Because of the good topographic situation we set up four spots: one team would watch from the top of the hills, one from down below, one from the left and one from the right side.

Depending on the area we adjusted our methods: one person walked, the other one drove around by car. And once again we asked the people in Schlat to watch out for Zvoja and handed out our mobile phone numbers.

At approx. 5pm we suddenly got a call: . . . .  Zvoja was seen! Brigitte and I immediately drove to the spot – my heart pondered because of all the excitement, I had tears in my eyes, I was shaking and I was completely exhausted - will we find her? Will she listen? Will she react? In which condition will we find her? All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. When we arrived on top of the hill we saw her running in the field – fast and save. From the distance she looked ok – thanks god - obviously she was not hurt.

We followed her by car on the reinforced trail – but she was too far away. I stopped and called her name – Zvoja paused for a moment – but then she ran away very fast. We drove to the end of the trail, but Zvoja had already disappeared into the forest.

Now it was Hubert’s time. Brigitte put on his search gear and an eight meter leash - let him quickly smell on Zvoja’s toy (it was in a small plastic bag, so the smell would last longer) and fast as the wind Hubert headed towards the forest with Brigitte behind him.



Hubert wearing his search gear


I drove back to the other side of the hill. About 30 minutes later Brigitte and Hubert arrived in a state of absolute exhaustion - they had lost Zvoja. There were too many trails of her in this area.

The „Petra-Team“ watched all this from another hill – they saw deers running away – but no Zvoja. We were all worn out. Hope was gone, after seeing in what kind of panic this little 7 months old bitch had run away. I remembered the words of another breeder: “especially Borzois get undomesticated very quickly – it is very uncertain if you will ever get her back.”


The fruit gardens Zvoja went through.


We kept on searching in that area for another little while placed some food in a hay barn and then went back to the hotel to plan the night and the next day. Everyone contributed with his helpful ideas. The teams could not meet before lunch time the next day. Petra and her friends Susanne and Sabine had already changed their plans for Thursday. Now they had to rearrange everything for Friday, organize their family and the sitting of their animals etc. – all for little Zvoja.

We arranged to meet for Friday around noon. Just when we wanted to leave someone came by to tell us that he had seen Zvoja walking at the edge of the forest. We went there immediately – but she was already gone.

Brigitte and I drove to my friend Uschi, who has a natural healing animal practice 3 km away in Eschenbach. I had sent her some hair from Zvoja at the beginning of this year to analyse it. Now we took those samples for spiritual healing. Zvoja “appeared“ in a very desolate frame of mind and we all hoped to get through to her this way, not knowing if it would work. Supernatural? – does not matter, if it only helps!

Brigitte, Hubert and I went for an evening walk through Schlat – going to the spots where Zvoja had been often seen in the evening or in the morning hours. But no sign of her – no marks, so we went back to the hotel – we were dog-tired and exhausted.

Mr. Strauss called us the next morning. He had checked the hay barn – but the food was still there. Then he drove back home to get a few hours sleep after a strenuous night duty, but he wanted to be back with us around lunch time.

After a long and good breakfast, I dropped off Brigitte and Hubert on one of the hills – she wanted to walk in the direction where Zvoja had been seen near the forest the day before. I was scheduled to drive around and to look for spots to place food.

Petra had organized some light anaesthetics – not dangerous – even not in a higher dose. We hoped that Zvoja would find one of the 4 spots and eat the prepared food. The “food” guards should just watch in which direction she would leave and to make sure no other animal would eat this food. After 15 minutes the effect of the anaesthetics would be active and then it would be Hubert’s turn. That was the only chance we saw to catch her.

Before we would meet again I had already marked the four food spots where we placed the prepared food. There were four teams with two persons each – one in the car – one walking around the area and two searching the town and surrounding area by car.

Suddenly, at around 5 pm I had a strange feeling – I had to drive to the spot where we had seen Zvoja on Thursday. At the same second Mr. Strauss phoned, he was very excited and told me that Zvoja was just laying down on a field below his observation post. I immediately went there, informed the other helpers and ask them to be more alert in case Zvoja would run away again.


Mr. & Mrs. Strauss with Ciri looking for Zvoja.


Nobody should try to catch or call her etc. – just watch what would happen.

I inspected the position from the higher point where Mr. Strauss was – then drove close to the field where I left my car about 50 m away from Zvoja. My heart was bumping like mad – my muscles were tensed – I almost stopped breathing – tears running . . . . what will happen? Will she recognize me? Will she run away again?   

She lay behind a small hill, her head in the other direction, so that she did not see me coming. I prayed, that everything would stay quiet, no loud car, no bang, no noise – the world should stand still . . .


And so it was!


When I saw Zvoja’s head, I bent down and slowly sneaked towards hear – hardly breathing – shaking -  . . .  now I had to call her. Very soft I started: grusch-grusch (this is our ‘puppy call’), Zvoooooja . .  . . Come to Mama . . . grusch-grusch . . . .

My voice was shaking – very thin and high -  I thought to myself: don’t dare to make a wrong sound.


Oh god – she is raising her head . . . . does she recognize me? Does she hear me? Does she remember?

She gets up – like in slow motion - - - - -  very carefully – always ready to jump off  . . .

I keep on talking: grusch-grusch, Zvoooooja . .  . . yes, this is Mama, come to Mama . . . grusch-grusch . . . . Zvoja . . .  . Püppilein – come . . .

The world is still quiet – nothing is moving – seems that nature knows how important this situation is. I think, not even the birds sang and the wind also died down. . ..

Zvoja moves very slowly, always towards my direction  . . . . She sets one foot before the other - she comes closer and closer. I have to pull myself together – no wrong move, no wrong sound - hopefully - - - - please, please, let her come to me  . . . .

I keep on talking – no, I am whispering: grusch-grusch, Zvoooooja . .  . . come to Mama . . . grusch-grusch . . . .yes, come  . . . .  come . . .  please Zvoja come.

She is one meter away from me, sits down to pipi and now I know: she recognized me!

She comes closer to me and just falls into my arms - - - I HAVE HER BACK . . .

. . . Oh god, WHAT a feeling. Tears are running down – I am so happy. And Zvoja as well – she jumps up and down, she clings to me, she smiles, I hug her – it is an overwhelming feeling – it cannot be described  – no – THAT must be felt.


Zvoja lay on a meadow near the forest where I found her and called her


And the world starts living again, the birds are singing, the wind is blowing – everything around us comes back to life – it seems.

I immediately called everybody that I had her back. Mrs. Strauss is the first one meeting us at my car – she greets Zvoja heartily with tears in her eyes and we hug each other. Zvoja jumps into my car without hesitating. Then I drive to the outskirts of the village where the others are eagerly waiting for us. We are all very happy and hug each other.

Now we need some refreshment – in our hotel we sit together for a while with a good dinner, reviewing the past two days – we laugh and are so happy. Zvoja does not want to leave the car; she is knocked out, completely exhausted and tired. She lets herself fall pleasantly and happy to sleep – perhaps the first time in three weeks without being afraid and with a safe feeling.

Saturday Brigitte, Hubert, Zvoja and I drove up North - back home. Arriving at our house

Zvoja felt at home in one second – she wanted to go to the rest of her old gang, played and ran around, then fell totally exhausted into her basket.


A terrible time for all of us ended – a happy end!

                                     Thanks to all!




A panorama collage of Zvoja’s long route – but this is only part of it – showing the village in my back - the forest continues to the left.


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