DEBBIE Snyder is like a magnet for dogs in distress.
She has helped rescue many dogs, and she has tracked and found two lost dogs with the help of her 6-year-old giant schnauzer Stryker, who is a breed champion, has a Companion Dog title in obedience and is trained in tracking.
Their first success was a standard schnauzer who had slipped its leash from a new owner and was lost in Oxen Hill.
''I told them that Stryker was trained to track humans, not dogs, but I agreed to try," Snyder said. "For a scent of the dog they gave me its grooming brush.
''Stryker picked up its scent at the spot where the dog was last seen. From there we went miles, I don't know how many. I was so proud that during the track, we passed a cat and kittens, a groundhog and several other small animals but Stryker never waivered.
''We reached the Washington beltway," she explained, "and he went through a hole in the fence into grass so dense I could only see his tail, which began to wave furiously. He was sniffing the lost dog, which was leaning against the fence.
''Afraid the dog would -- to the beltway," Snyder explained, "I crouched down to its level and slowly began easing toward it with food and talking in a soft monotone, such as 'what's the matter puppy?' or 'good girl.' I edged closer and closer, holding out food. As she took it, I quickly slipped my hand under her collar. She bit me," Snyder recalled, "but I didn't let go.''
Snyder, who with her husband Dan, a snack foods driver/salesman for Herr's Food Inc., live in Millersville and have three children (Daniel, 4, Mary Beth, 7 and Jessica, 8). Debbie drives the school bus for Calvary Baptist Christian Academy.
The family also owns an 8-year-old Doberman pinscher named Gretchen who has her CDX, a Companion Dog Excellent title in obedience, but does not track.
Last June, Stryker and Snyder tracked a mix Labrador retriever which a kennel had lost while her owners were on vacation. A previous owner had abused the dog and its present owners were doubly frantic because, although she was now loved, she remained shy of others. They had heard about Snyder and asked for help.
''From sightings and a scent, Stryker and I tracked [the dog] to a spot deep in the woods," Snyder said, "where we found crushed foliage she was sleeping on . . . and trash from garbage cans.
''She was so shy I decided to trap her, so I baited a safe trap with her owner's tennis shoe, a bone and her blanket and I covered it with a tarp because we were having heavy rains. That evening at dusk, my 4-year-old Daniel and I went to check.
''The dog had torn off the tarp and was lying on one side of the lTC trap. We sat down . . . and we talked and ignored her and every now and then I tossed food over the trap. Then I made a noose out of a leash, put it up high on my right arm, opened a can of dog food and reached around offering it to her. She came up to eat out of the can and I let the noose slip over her neck,'' said Snyder, who was amazed at what followed:
''As soon as she knew I had her on a leash, she began to kiss me and jump up and down so happy. When her owners came for her that evening, the dog went crazy with joy."