Missing dog in Virginia captured after 6 months on the run: 'Almost lost hope'

When Samantha Paulino of Arlington, Virginia, adopted a rescue dog from South Korea, she had no idea that her new pet would survive for six months on the run by herself, eluding attempts to rescue her along the way.

Paulino's dog, Autumn, arrived in the United States in Sept. 2023. From the beginning, it was clear to the owner that Autumn had anxiety and "a tendency to let loose and just wanting to be independent."

Much of Autumn's history before her rescue is unknown, Paulino told Fox News Digital in an on-camera interview. (See the video at the top of this article.)

LOST DOG IS SAFELY RESCUED AFTER IT SURVIVED ALONE IN THE WOODS FOR MORE THAN 6 YEARS

The dog was estimated to be about 2 or 3 years old when she was adopted, and her breed is described as a "Finnish spitz mix."

"They knew that she was found in the streets [of South Korea]," Paulino said.

READ ON THE FOX NEWS APP

cute dog smiling at camera
Autumn was adopted by Samantha Paulino of Arlington, Virginia, after the dog was rescued from the streets of South Korea.

While Paulino experienced some of the typical growing pains associated with new dog ownership, she thought things had improved considerably by Dec. 2023.

"She was starting to lick me, show affection. She was starting to follow me and wanting to go on walks with me," Paulino said.

Yet on Dec. 28, 2023, something spooked Autumn while on a walk in Arlington's Virginia Square neighborhood — and she took off.

Despite her small size and weight – only about 12 pounds – nobody could catch her after that.

"She's a speedster. She very much runs and speeds through everything," Paulino said.

"So, if she gets loose and you try to chase her, she gets more frantic and just runs faster."

Woman talking about dog
Samantha Paulino of Arlington, Virginia jumped into action once her dog went missing. She printed flyers, alerted animal control authorities and posted about her missing dog on Instagram.

With the dog gone, Paulino jumped into action immediately — printing flyers, alerting animal control authorities and posting about her missing dog on the Instagram account @findingAutumn_.

Sightings of Autumn were reported within days of her escape, but clever and speedy Autumn was always able to stay just out of reach of her would-be rescuers.

NEW YORK CITY AUTHOR'S BOOK PROMOTES THE 'LIFE-CHANGING' BENEFITS OF ADOPTING A SENIOR DOG

At the end of December, Autumn was spotted near Arlington National Cemetery, and after that, there were basically no sightings for about a month.

"I can't lie," said Paulino. "I almost, you know, lost hope at that point."

But then, in early February, a woman named Katie contacted Paulino to say that she thought she'd spotted Autumn at Arlington National Cemetery. The woman had been performing in a military band.

Picture of Autumn split with a picture of her looking at a trap
Autumn is shown here in both images. In early February, a woman said she thought she spotted Autumn at Arlington National Cemetery.

Katie told Paulino she'd seen one of the lost dog flyers and was "100% sure" the dog she spotted was Autumn.

As it turns out, Autumn had made a home for herself at nearby Fort Myer, an Army post near Arlington National Cemetery.

Katie, a member of the military, was able to post Autumn's lost dog flyers throughout Fort Myer because Paulino, a civilian, was not able to get on the base to do so.

MISSING DOG RESCUED AFTER SPENDING 18 HOURS STRANDED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY: OWNER WAS 'PANICKED’

"By the time Katie started posting flyers on the base, people on the base had started figuring out that, 'Oh, she's not a base dog,'" Paulino said.

"People from the military live there, so they thought that maybe she was just a dog being let loose," she said.

Once it was clear to residents of Fort Myer that Autumn was a lost dog with an owner who very much missed her, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) and its animal control team got involved.

dog looking at trap
After AWLA officials determined Autumn's patterns and habits, they tried to lure her into a trap. Autumn, however, was too smart for their tactics.

"They wouldn't be able to invest their resources if there haven't been accurate sightings of her," Paulino said.

With the consistent sightings, the AWLA was able to establish Autumn's patterns and habits and work from there to try to bring her home.

A representative from the AWLA told Fox News Digital in an email about the lengths the organization went to rescue Autumn.

"We dedicated ourselves to tending to Autumn's needs twice a day, going on-base (with permission) to feed her at her established feeding station, observing the area for her footprints and further familiarizing ourselves with her routines," animal control services coordinator Anna Barrett said on behalf of the AWLA.

DOG RESCUED AFTER BEING CHASED OFF ‘STEEP CLIFFSIDE’ BY RACCOONS: VIDEO 

After nearly six months of tracking and observing Autumn, "we reached that critical point when we felt confident that we could confine her," Barrett said.

Trapping Autumn, despite her fairly small size, posed a challenge.

"Autumn would not be tricked into going inside a trap no matter what delicious treat sat just beyond the trip plate," Barrett said. Instead, Autumn would sit on "her hill" and watch as her rescuers tried in vain to get her to (quite literally) take the bait.

"Often, we'd sit quietly in our vehicles from afar and watch each other," Barrett said.

The AWLA tried almost everything to catch Autumn — with no success.

Autumn even managed to evade "prototype traps that haven't been commercially produced yet," Paulino said.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

Finally, using a "trap inside a trap," Autumn fell for it on June 11, Paulino said.

A regular "box trap" was placed inside a "playpen type" of trap, she said, and her dog was finally captured.

Dog looking very tired but cute
Autumn is seen here after her long-awaited homecoming after spending months on the run.

And despite Autumn's reticence to be captured, "once trapped, Autumn settled near to her rescuers, seemingly relieved that the long, lonely struggle had finally come to an end," Barrett told Fox News Digital.

Autumn spent the night with the AWLA to — as Paulino described it — "decompress" from her six months on the run and then was finally reunited with her on Wednesday, June 12.

"It's been a real process," Paulino said. "It took a village to really get to the point where we are now."

Even though Autumn spent nearly six months away from home, a veterinarian checked her out and found she was no worse for wear, Paulino said.

The next couple of weeks, as Autumn gets reacquainted to living in a house and with an owner, will be crucial, Paulino said. She is continuing to work with the AWLA to help Autumn transition into being a pet again.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle

"She was the hardest, most difficult catch that they've ever had in [AWLA Chief of Animal Control] Jen [Toussaint]'s career," said Paulino. "So they're very invested in making sure that she doesn't escape again because, especially for this next two weeks, she might really want to be out again."

Autumn is now wearing a GPS tracker, just in case, and will be double-leashed for her walks going forward, she said.


Original article source: Missing dog in Virginia captured after 6 months on the run: 'Almost lost hope'

Advertisement