boy has this been a lifesaver the last couple of weeks! there has been lots of adventure around here, both scary and exciting, which is why we’ve been pretty quiet for a little while.
back on st. patrick’s day, our little stray pal, cardigan, went missing and didn’t come by for his normal meals—usually we could expect him to show up several times each day to eat and play about the yard.
i got anxious right away and started calling the pound and the humane society on saturday, but neither one reported any sightings. we went down to the pound on monday morning, but no one had seen the dog. when i finally posted the disappearance on the lost and found pets page, i began to get a flurry of messages—”he” was actually a she and had been picked up by the pound early on the morning of the 17th. she was even able to have a visit with her natural dad, herman, because someone who works at the pound had adopted him last summer (herman is on the right below, cardigan on the left).
apparently they had both come to the pound last august with a pack of feral dogs that was rounded up in a nearby town. she was spayed, microchipped, and vaccinated, then quickly adopted out, but herman has some socialization issues and did not get lucky until melody decided to take him home.
when they called cardigan’s owner on st. patrick’s day, she said the dog had been gone for three and a half months and she didn’t want her back; maybe she was not prepared for the challenges of working with feral dog. so with that clearance, cardigan ended up getting adopted out within a few hours. RUH-roh.
her new family brought her home to a rural town about twenty miles away and she seems fine in the house for a few hours, but when they tried to put her in a truck to go to the vet, she ran under the truck, started squirming like crazy, and slipped out of her collar to run away. oh no!—now she was lost in a place where she didn’t know anyone or have a familiar environment at all.
see? as far from our neighborhood streets as a place can be!
i found all of this out on monday and i felt just awful—we knew she was super skittish; that’s one reason we hadn’t gotten hold of her ourselves in all the time she was here. and then, we were doing so well at making friends and luring her toward the house—she was within a few feet of me several times, taking food. now she was lost, scared, and on the run again. i won’t kid you—i sobbed my eyes out to david over that; i was distraught for her safety and also because i wasn’t sure we would see her again.
i offered to help find her in any way i could and we kept in contact with the new owner; over the next day or so however, it became clear that the search wasn’t going well. we got to know the new owner, kathy a bit and after spending time working with us, she decided that if we could recover the dog, cardigan should come home with us. i really appreciated her understanding and empathy over this; she was awesome.
thankfully, the town where cardigan was lost has a very active Facebook community; everyone pitched in to keep an eye out and post sightings as soon as they happened. we went up there every evening (which is a dog’s time to roam) to follow the clues and get a sense of where she might be bedding down and getting food.
during the days when she was laying low and there wasn’t any point in searching, i could hardly focus on desk work, between worrying and keeping track of messages. i did however use the time to knit on my secret club projects for the month and make way on my second birches sample in cabècou sport.
i don’t have to tell you how soothing and comforting it is to knit when you have things on your mind. and it made me feel productive, instead of useless. i finished up the second sleeve and began the left front, which has that gorgeous cabled panel. this version will be nice and light and cozy-warm, a little fuzzy. i am constantly admiring the golden patina that is more apparent in this batch of the sel gris shade—the tussah silk used in this batch is a deeper honey color than in previous runs.
to ratchet up the odds of finding our little friend, i contacted a wonderful rescue expert named ramona, of jj’s ruff roads, who lives near us and specializes in recovering lost dogs to their owners. she was available to get involved and we started meeting to work on the case together (by now cardigan had been gone for five or six days).
working with ramona was fascinating. first, we just tried to figure out where she might be, based on the habits of most dogs who run. we looked for paw prints in places that were near the sightings—ramona was able to guess by her known weight which prints might be hers—then placed food bowls in likely places near those tracks, with a trail cam nearby. if she came along in the night and ate from the bowl, we’d see it on the cam.
once we could establish a food source she was using, we could set up a trap nearby. now, i know that sounds bad, but ramona (and my friend kade, a kitty rescuer) assured me it was better than being out in a dangerous place, where she could get hit by a car or attacked by coyotes. believe me, i was kicking myself for not trying this earlier when she was safe at our house; i just didn’t know where to turn for that help.
unfortunately, the place we thought were likely only turned up some possum and cats—no more paw prints. after a few more days i sat down and mapped out every sighting on paper and we met up on sunday to walk the route we knew she’d taken. ramona knew the dog would bed down near a water source, but there were several in the area. we hiked around each one, talked to several households, and left more food bowls in different spots. everyone was looking for cardigan at this point; some people already knew the story and were helping with regular posts. we just kept missing her . . .
we were walking back to the truck at the end of the afternoon and came upon a very small pond situated just behind a few houses, both of which had dogs in the yard. we were chatting away and making all kinds of noise in the field straw, when suddenly i saw her! there she was, sleeping like a baby near the pond. and of course we had no way of catching her—no trap, no blanket, just food and a bowl. ach.
we decided to wake her and see what she did—if we couldn’t catch her, we could at least see where she ran to and follow, then put food down and an open trap to get her interest. we roused her gently and she got up slowly, very groggy looking. when she saw me with some hot dog treats she hesitated but turned and trotted away toward the houses and neighborhood. we followed and sighted her several more times, weaving in and out of back yards until we lost her. we got back in the truck and went in her direction, hoping to catch another glimpse. we checked in at a house where she was seen twice and sure enough, she was curled up atop of a pile of leaves there. again she got up, hesitated when she saw us, but then trotted off.
by now it was getting dark and rainy; we took one more turn around the town, placed the open trap up near the pond (not set to spring, just to lure her), and then headed home. then i saw her again as we were leaving town! sleeping in the grass in a field near one of the food sources. obviously she was tired; i hoped this would help us. we decided that since we knew she had plenty of food and she had certain places to sleep, we could let her relax and come back the next day.
omg, do you think i slept that night?
i was so anxious to get going the next day that i got into the car the minute ramona called to say she was ready. we hardly had time to check the food in the trap when we saw cardigan again, sleeping near the pond (thank you, mother nature for giving dogs predictable habits!). ramona set the trap and we laid out lots of yummy goodies in a trail leading to it. then we sat in the wet grass on a nice man’s lawn and watched from a little distance.
haha, and she slept on like a hog. after an hour and a half, during which we got to talk about dogs and working with feral ones, we decided we could probably rouse her gently and encourage her toward the food. we walked around near the pond talking to each other and mentioning her name a lot; she stirred but didn’t really move. then we got a little more assertive; i moved closer with some hot dog chunks and started tossing them while ramona quietly closed in from the back. cardigan got up and showed interest in me and the food, but was indecisive and hesitant. at one point she turned to go in the other direction but ramona rose up out of the grass and the dog ditched that idea to begin moving toward the trap, which was placed near her escape route of the day before.
she went right to it and faster than we figured she was inside and the trap was sprung. omg, BIG adrenaline rush for all three of us. poor baby was shaking like a leaf and trying to nose out of it when we got to her. ramona and i just talked and talked to her with calming words and tone but we were shaking too.
ramona went to get the truck ready and i stayed with cardigan, trying to soothe her. this dog has never shown any aggression in my presence and she didn’t now; she was just scared. we cleaned up the area of debris and carried the crate to the truck to take her home, then thanked the homeowners for allowing us to work in their yard. next stop, home!
as a precaution, she rode home in the trap so ramona could drive while i followed in my car. when we got there, david was on hand to help get the cage in the house and finally cardigan could come out. she was really very docile and stoic, though very scared. thankfully, not aggressive at all.
we all sat around her stroking and calming her as much as possible and after a while she relaxed some.
then a little more . . .
the first night and the next day she did not care to eat or drink, though she seemed a bit dehydrated. when ramona came by the next day, cardigan finally ate some peanut butter from my hand, followed by some food. she let us scratch her belly and ramona (AKA the dog whisperer, haha) checked her over a bit. i went to the pound that day to pick up some papers for her and talk to the vet there; they had administered flea meds and otherwise gave her a clean bill of health—negative for heartworm and parasites. so, no traumatic vet visits needed right now.
we spent the rest of this week figuring out what her schedule should be, what she likes, and how we can best help her adjust. i am finding that a drop of lavender oil on the back of her neck will calm her when she’s shaky; her bed is sprayed lightly with lavender patchouli deodorant that i use. i thought for sure she’d be thrilled to see our yard again, but she was visibly less relaxed outside than in the house. i suspect that being leashed made her feel limited in the face of danger—no ability to run from a threat. and that harness was uncomfortable too; we exchanged that for a martingale collar after two days. much simpler and very effective. david also bought a whistle 3 tracker suggested by ramona for dogs with flight risk; haha, she’s got her own fitbit now. not that she needs to lose weight—she came home a little lighter than she was before.
for this first few weeks, ramona recommends that we just work on building a bond with our dog and not push her too much into training and outings. she thinks that the risk of flight is greatly reduced in dogs who have a solid bond with their humans. being a feral dog most of her life, she does not usually engage visibly (usually looking away or down, even when interested) and doesn’t seem to recognize rewards as we think of them. food isn’t always of interest and she doesn’t seem to know what a toy is for; finding playful ways to interact is taking time. i’ve been reading like crazy and getting advice from ramona about what to try.
so far, peanut butter and long walks are very enjoyable and for that she has ended up with the right human—i love long walks. plus, she is now famous in the neighborhood; everyone wants to meet her. so far she is a champion distance walker; we can’t stay out long enough for her and i have great faith that she’ll enjoy running, once we know each other a bit better. even when it’s pouring rain, she really doesn’t like the walk to end and has begun showing resistance about coming in when we get to the back door, haha. i’ve ordered a waterproof jacket; i already know she’s not going to let me off the hook for a little rain—or even a lot.
the first day out, i took her on one of my usual running routes and realized that from her point of view, this option held danger at every turn—noise, traffic, runners, kids, deliveries, etc were triggering her run reflex from every turn. so the next time, i took her at quieter time of day to the less traveled spots nearby. the cemetery was perfect (we are very respectful at all times when visiting and we take care of all other business before entering).
she’s a shar pei mix (maybe shepherd?), so she’s very stoic and doesn’t bark at all. seriously, i have never heard it personally, though david heard it once when she still lived on the compost pile.
earlier today i had to wind some yarn and she enjoyed watching that, along with the great view from my workroom door. she’s starting to perk up a lot and once in a while she watches my face with that cute tilted head look that doggies give us.
it’s the little things . . .
yesterday we went to visit erica in the office; she did really well, so later this week we might go to a meeting with doug there. maybe one day this week we’ll try doing a bath—she hasn’t had one yet and it’s allergy season for us, haha. this morning we had our usual three mile walk, followed by some touching and cuddling before breakfast (still learning to accept touch and handling). this afternoon we’re having some serious work time in my office because i have so much to catch up on. you can see that she’s great help with this. we’ll go for another long walk this evening.
you know, i’ve never had a house pet—i grew up on a farm and while we always had dogs, they lived outside. then during my years in NYC, it was not really practical from the dog’s standpoint. since we’ve settled here in the house, i’ve secretly been wanting a dog for a while, but i know david doesn’t believe in caging animals. then, when cardigan picked our house to take up residence, we began to talk about it and he thought that if someone actually abandoned an animal, then in all fairness we should find a way to open our home to her. and so we are living with a bit of dog hair on the sofa, a new set of accessories strewn about, and lots of great companionship.
i can’t thank ramona enough for all that’s she’s done to help us recover and adopt this adorable dog, as well as her continued coaching and guidance! in addition to working full time and parenting five dogs and four foster dogs, her non-profit organization, jj’s ruff roads is helping rescue community dogs in a variety of ways, restoring them to owners, rescuing and rehoming strays and unwanted souls, and partnering with similar organizations to meet joint goals (check out some of her cool rescue videos here, especially this one). if you have a few spare bucks and would like to support her mission, please consider a tax-deductible gift in any amount (click here for information on giving). and if you live locally, they have a big fundraiser event coming up on may 7, in partnership with pitties and kitties.
one last irresistible cuteness injection . . .