Missing German dog survives monthslong trek to Switzerland

A German shepherd who vanished from her home in western Germany last August has resurfaced hundreds of kilometers away. Rapunzel was found in bad shape on a Swiss highway, but paramedics say she'll survive.

An overnight ambulance crew came across the bedraggled dog lying on the side of a motorway outside Zurich, around 400 kilometers (248 miles) from her German home, Swiss authorities said Tuesday. 

The adventure-seeking canine appeared to be in a bad way and suffering from hypothermia, so they drove her to a nearby animal hospital for treatment.

"They administered oxygen with an oxygen mask and wrapped her in blankets to warm her up," ambulance service spokesman Roland Portmann said.

Authorities were able to learn from an implanted chip that she was Rapunzel, a 9-year-old German shepherd who was reported missing in mid-August from the town of Hösbach, near Frankfurt, western Germany.

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Schweiz Schäferhündin Rapunzel gerettet

Rapunzel is recovering in hospital after being found on the side of the road with a range of serious injuries

Mammoth trek

The dog's owner, Jasmin Ehret-Väth, told German news agency dpa she couldn't believe her pet was capable of such an epic journey.

"She is really not athletic at all and lazy as anything," she said.

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Rapunzel apparently skipped town during a visit to a local vet six months ago. Ehret-Väth said her family had posted missing notices in newspapers, and although there were reported sightings along her dog's likely travel route, they hadn't managed to pin down her whereabouts.

"Every time we gave up on the dog, someone saw it," Ehret-Väth said, adding that she had visited Rapunzel in hospital and hoped to take her back home in a few weeks.

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"She was completely stoned from the pain medication, but she recognized me immediately," she said.

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Schweiz Schäferhündin Rapunzel gerettet

Rapunzel will soon be reunited with her family in Hösbach

'Brave Rapunzel'

Rapunzel was emaciated when paramedics discovered her on Saturday on the side of the highway. She has since undergone multiple surgeries for broken bones and internal bleeding — injuries that suggest she was hit by a car.

Philipp Schmierer, head of surgery at the Zurich University Animal Hospital, said the Alsatian was an extremely well-behaved patient.

"Rapunzel is such a dear," he said. "She has obediently put up with everything."

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The dog is still in intensive care and is expected to remain at the hospital for at least the next 10 days. Portmann of the ambulance service said that although she was not yet stable, "there's a good chance brave Rapunzel will survive and her owners will be able to pick her up soon."


Great Dane

No, not Danish. These gentle giants are actually German. They're the result of German royals breeding ever-larger hunting companions in the 17th century. Great Danes are the world's largest dog breed — pictured above is the world's tallest dog from 2013. Germans today call them "Deutsche Dogge," a linguistic reference to the canine's British ancestors from the 16th century.


American Eskimo

This dog suddenly became "American" after World War I, when the US dropped all references to its German origin. A territorial yapper, it became famous as a comic sidekick in US circus acts. Though the American Kennel Club calls this dog a unique breed, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in Belgium disagrees. They say it remains what it has always been: a German Spitz.



In the 1800s, three men in Munich bred a bulldog with a breed of unknown origin, and continued that experiment for a few more generations. The result is a dog with one of the most instantly recognizable faces in the canine world, one still defined by German guidelines written in 1902. The origin of the name "boxer" remains a mystery, though.



"Dachs" means badger, while dachshund dogs were bred to hunt. Even today, these canines, often called wiener dogs in English, still enjoy burrowing — but also biting. A 2008 study showed 20 percent of domesticated dachshunds have bitten strangers. German Emperor Wilhelm II owned one, and when he visited Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it attacked and killed the archduke's golden pheasant.


Munsterlander (small and large)

Small Munsterlanders (pictured) owe their revival in 1902 to a German named Edmund Löns, who saw in the neglected breed a fine-tuned hunting ability and a beautiful coat. They're the smallest of the German pointer/setter dogs, but, confusingly, are not at all related to large Munsterlanders. Small Munsterlanders are hard to come by, as high breeding standards keep them relatively scarce.



With their silver coats, piercing eyes and biological need for human affection, what's not to love about Weimaraners? They were first bred in Weimar, the city of thinkers and poets, as a gun dog that was also family-friendly — a rarity. So beloved was the breed that, prior to shipping them abroad, they were sterilized in the hope that they'd remain exclusive to the German empire. But they didn't.


Doberman pinscher

A half-day's walk from Weimar, in the town of Apolda, a court clerk named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann had a problem. It was the late 1800s, and as a tax collector and officer, he needed protection during his night duties. Fortunately, he also ran the local pound. Through the crossbreeding of Weimaraners, pinschers and pointer dogs, he created the guard dog we now call the Doberman pinscher.



Schnauzers are so closely related to pinschers that the two are considered a single group by the international dog authority, the FCI. In southern Germany, schnauzers served primarily as stall dogs, catching rats and mice. Since rodents have sharp teeth, the dogs' ears and tails were trimmed to protect them from bites. Today, "cropping" and "docking" are illegal in much of the EU and in Australia.



They protected cattle and wagons carrying meat, scared away thieves and wild animals — rottweilers were a medieval trader's fiercely loyal companion. And they were fierce. They were bred in Rottweil, Germany, a former trade center, to protect goods at all cost. Their jaws are the strongest of any dog, with 328 pounds of bite pressure (149 kilograms).


German shepherd

A dog named "Horand von Grafrath" is the pretentious first entry in the Breed Registry of the Club of German Shepherds in 1899. After World War I, the English rechristened them Alsatians, the US dropped the word German altogether, and for decades Australia banned them on fears they'd breed with dingoes. Their use by the Nazis further darkened their reputation: Over his lifetime, Hitler owned six.

nm/kms (AP, dpa)