Montclair animal control officer hangs out window to rescue dog
Watchung School technology teacher Ravan Magrath was grabbing a bagel after an appointment Friday when she received a text from her neighbor — Magrath’s dog needed rescuing. Again.
Magrath’s dog, Tobie, an 80-pound, 3-year-old, rescue pit bull mix, was stuck on the roof of her apartment on Valley Road. It wasn’t the first time Tobie had staged a great escape.
Magrath took Tobie in as an emergency foster in early 2020, and more than two years later, he remains with her.
“When you do a pandemic with a dog, you can't really give them up,” Magrath said.
Tobie previously lived outside in a bus yard, but much of his background is unknown, Magrath said. It’s not always clear what his triggers are, but one Magrath has identified is wind, especially when it causes doors to slam shut or bang back and forth.
Two weeks ago, Tobie jumped out a window in Magrath’s apartment, but she was able to get him back inside safely. To avoid it happening again, she installed baby gates on the windows, part of a process she calls “Tobie-proofing” her apartment.
But on Friday, when it was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside, Magrath left a few windows partially open. The baby gates were up, and she placed a small box next to the bathroom door so it wouldn’t slam shut if a breeze did move through the apartment.
One of Magrath’s neighbors, Norm Solomon, was sitting across the street from her apartment when he heard a crash and watched Tobie squeeze out the window. It was “like toothpaste from a tube between the sill and the air conditioner,” he said.
Solomon called 911 and knocked on the apartment building door to get the attention of Magrath’s downstairs neighbor, who then reached out to Magrath.
When Magrath pulled up in front of her building, she saw animal control officers and Montclair police already on site. But she couldn’t see Tobie.
They entered her apartment and the animal control officers — Ryan Urbano and Michele Shiber, the township’s animal control supervisor — began their rescue mission.
Tobie was standing on a sloped portion of the roof below a window, scrambling upward and then sliding down, catching his feet on the gutter and starting the process over. He had managed to squeeze his way around an air conditioning unit that sat in the window. The window had fallen inside, breaking on the floor, though Magrath isn’t sure if they happened prior to or during Tobie’s escape.
“I don't know if he's Evil Knievel or if he's Houdini, but he's one of the two,” Magrath said.
Shiber and Urbano removed the air conditioner and began to brainstorm how to get Tobie into the apartment safely.
“It was a pretty intense couple of minutes until we figured out what we were doing and the best course of action before the dog lost his grip and slid down the shambles,” Shiber said.
Within 10 minutes of arriving, they had a plan. Shiber stood inside the apartment and held Urbano’s legs as he slid headfirst out of the window. He was able to loop a leash around Tobie’s neck and pull him back through the window, “in one big swoop,” Shiber said.
And after all the worry and stress, Tobie was unphased.
“He's totally fine,” Magrath said. “I don't understand how it’s possible.”
Calls about pets on roofs are not common in Montclair, but they do happen, Shiber said. She said she’s helped save other dogs and cats who escaped through windows and found themselves stuck.
“That's the great thing about being an animal control officer, is when that phone rings you never know what's gonna happen,” Shiber said. “There are all kinds of crazy calls.”
Since Tobie’s escape Friday, Magrath has been keeping a close eye on him. She is continuing to Tobie-proof her apartment, figuring out how best to secure her windows to keep him safe.