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Raven's Call Home

“She has a little grey between the toes of her back feet and her nose is reddish,” the record reads. “She has slightly swollen nipples and a red sore on her right front leg.”

© Humane Society of Boulder Valley
Raven with volunteer Erin Sutherland.

To Erin Sutherland, a volunteer at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Colorado, the “found animal” description seemed normal enough. But the detailed narratives she was posting to Petfinder on behalf of the shelter’s Katrina animals were anything but typical.

“I didn’t notice until somebody had read a couple of them and said, ‘You know, Erin, these are really weird,’ ” Sutherland says with a laugh. “I’m an art historian, so I study objects and I describe objects for 15 pages at a time, and I realized that I had these long elaborate explanations of everything.”

The attention to detail was not lost on Linda Levert. Searching for her dog Raven, Levert stumbled across the description of the yellow Lab known in Boulder as Wendy. “[She] found it at 11 o’clock at night … and she thought it was really her dog but couldn’t get through,” says Sutherland. “So she must have left four messages first thing in the morning for me.”

Levert’s large family didn’t have room for Raven when they evacuated New Orleans, but the dog was resourceful. “Apparently she climbed up on the roof of their house, and her elbow and the front of her chest were all scraped up; they looked like they were chemical burns or road rash or something,” says Sutherland.

After Sutherland and Levert spoke, the volunteer thought she might have a happy ending on her hands. “I thought, all right, I’ll take her out for a walk, see what’s going on. … So I’m talking to her and I’m calling her ‘Wendy’ and ‘Muffin’ and ‘Precious,’ just kind of rattling off names as she was walking in front of me, and I was like, ‘Hmm, Sara, Carol, Raven.’ And when I said ‘Raven,’ she just stopped dead and stared at me. She turned around like, ‘Nobody here knows that.’ ”

Sutherland and Levert traded e-mails and spoke again. Raven wasn’t in foster care like some of the other Katrina dogs, so Sutherland was able to bring her upstairs to her makeshift office, where she worked 40 hours a week on reunion efforts. While Raven’s family was on the phone, they suggested that Sutherland experiment with a trick they’d taught her—catching a coin in her mouth. Raven passed the test (under careful watch to make sure she didn’t swallow the coin).

Next, Raven did something to erase anyone’s doubts. Sutherland turned on the speakerphone so Raven could hear the kids in the family making a ruckus. “This dog was just so excited and so keyed into this that she’s looking under the phone and behind the desk, and it was really obvious,” says Sutherland.

Shelter staff heard the commotion and came to watch. Raven was performing tricks and sniffing the phone, but still, one family member came through loud and clear. “This older gentleman got on the phone, and he says, ‘Raven, sit!’ and she just sat down,” says Sutherland. “It was so funny.”

The young children were as confused as Raven was. “They said, ‘She won’t say anything. Where is she?’ ” says Sutherland.

Raven is now reunited with her family in Baton Rouge, but memories of her and her story linger at Boulder Valley. “She was the best dog—and it was really nice that everybody at the shelter got to see this really happy reunion,” says Sutherland. “And just everybody was bawling, watching this dog try to jump inside the phone.”


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