This is the story of Tasha’s wild dog pack and her journey to becoming a domesticated dog
In 2010 a three dog dog pack was reported to animal services as roaming several neighborhoods killing cats. Their aggressive nature and repeated attacks earned them a “dangerous dog pack” designation from the city. In 2011, the three dog pack had grown to a six or seven dog dog pack. If you have never had the pleasure of standing in the middle of a dog pack when they are hunting a cat, it is quite frightening. They mean business and they are not concerned with you trying to stop them. Several neighbors had the misfortune to see the pack in action.
In September/ October of 2011 the pack leader, a large husky, came into heat and started spending significant time on South Rosemont. Simultaneously, a South Rosemont resident who consistently violated animal confinement laws and spay and neuter laws had a Chihuahua that came into heat. These two events caused the dog pack to grow to 15 dogs and for the pack to spend excessive time on South Rosemont.
Neighbors found themselves coming out at 3 o’clock in the morning to defend their cats against these large packs of dogs. The dogs generally did not want any human interaction, but they were bold as five to six dogs at a time would get with feet of people’s front doors while scavenging for cat food bowls left out on porches. They would lay in dark yards and sit on point watching and calling to each other at night. When it came to mating, they were shameless. They would fight and mate on people’s front porches, in the road stopping traffic, where ever it suited them. As the pack leader and the Chihuahua came into full season, the dog pack grew in numbers, the fighting grew exponentially, and the pack was become increasingly dangerous due to their large size.
The neighbors tried to work with animal control to have the dogs trapped and picked up. Getting the traps was quite the effort. Apparently it was not enough for half the neighborhood to see and report the dogs, it was not enough to have pictures of the pack, the “sweep team” or an animal control officer had to see them and verify the pack before you could get a response. Animal control had difficulty making a visual on the dog pack for quite some time.
It was also very difficult over the three year period to communicate well with the city and with animal control. Reference numbers were given, special phone numbers, priority status, but no one with the city ever seemed to know anything about the dog pack. Each call was like we were starting over. The special phone numbers they gave out were not manned at nights or weekends, which was the time that the pack was usually the most active and the neighborhood was home to see them. It was very difficult to establish what was proper protocol with one exception: we were all made very aware that the city had 1-72 hours to respond to just about anything animal related in the field. So while we waited for the pack to be validated and for special phone number and reference numbers to have meaning, the neighbors went to work problem solving.
The neighbors spent a considerable amount of time watching the dogs and sitting in the pack as it moved around the street. Using information about their behavior, we recommended places for the traps to be set. Two traps were set, one location used our recommendation, one did not.
Against the recommendation of animal control, we started feeding the pack dry food at a regular time in a regular place to help keep them in the area. The dry food was low value compared to what was baiting the traps. Feeding the group small amounts of dry food was not stopping them from going in the traps. It was helping keep them in the vicinity of the traps on a daily basis and it was keeping them in the area when one of their friends was in the trap. A simple analogy to animal control’s complaint against feeding the dogs would be to say that you wouldn’t eat dessert from the buffet – that’s pretty ridiculous. There is always room for Jello. The bait in the trap just needed to have a high enough value to be equivalent to dessert. Also, the pack was not a pack of lost house dogs. They were a feral dog pack – completely capable of finding their own food source. True street dogs are not going to be starved into a trap.
It took some time to get the dogs comfortable eating close to the traps. A strange dog pack behavior was that the dogs did not like to eat in front on anyone or in the light. Every night the dog bowl would disappear. It would show up in the alley, in the neighbor’s yard, three houses down. The Husky would pick up the dog bowl in her mouth, just like Snoopy, and carry it off to a dark place and share it with the other less confident dogs.
Eventually, the husky would come close enough to eat Bologna and hot dogs. Nitrates turned out to be the pack’s downfall. Street dogs love their nitrates and Oscar Meyer allowed us to start to habituate the dogs to me and to the traps. After two years of field research, dog catchers – write this down: garlic bologna is especially irresistible to street dogs.
The first dog trapped
The first trap caught a dog on the first morning! But the first dog was accidentally let go by the animal control officer and this set the bar for the success rate with animal control for the next two years.
The first trapped dog was nick-named Boo-Boo. He got his nick name because he was shaped and moved like the cartoon character Boo Boo Bear. His name quickly changed to Houdini after he escaped from the animal control officer. His name changed a third time after he broke and escaped from 2 city animal control traps.
A point about “Boo-Boo Houdini Trap Breaker”: although he was physically strong, smart, bull headed and very determined – no city animal trap is designed to hold a feral animal for more than an hour or two. Any expectation beyond that is an unrealistic on the side of the capabilities of the trap. Boo Boo Houdini Trap Breaker broke 3 city traps in total. He probably spent a collective 12 hours in the city traps – slowly destroying each of them while waiting to be picked up and working on breaking out. At a cost of $300-$500 a trap, to allow this dog to sit in a trap with the expectation of a “1 – 72 hour response time ” for a pick up window was to simply burn tax payer money on a replacement trap – or two, or three traps in his case.
When we finally caught Trap Breaker and succeeded in having him picked up in 2012, a human sat next to the trap for almost 7 hours preventing him from breaking out. He still managed to mangle and break the trap. We’ll come back to that….
After Trap Breaker broke the first trap, no dogs were successfully trapped in the broken trap as it was broken and would not confine the dogs. The trap was reported broken, but the city did nothing about it until they decided that we had to the trap “too long” and picked up the trap. Apparently, the trap was needed in other parts of the city. This was our first big “seriously?” moment with the city. Does someone else have a 15 dog dog pack that they are successfully trapping that needs the trap equally or more than we do?
The second of the two traps caught 5 (? ) dogs and one cat that “mysteriously” kept getting in and out of the trap (read more about Honey the Cat on our success stories page).
When the traps were set out on the private property, animal control told the home owners that the dogs would be picked up within an hour of the 311 call. These dogs sat in these trap for hours. 2011 trap times were surprisingly much better than 2012 times. In 2011, the dogs averaged about 6 hours.
The dogs tended to go in the traps at dark. As fast as we could empty the trap, (at night) we could get another dog. But the traps were not being emptied fast enough before the sun would come up. So the traps would sit full with the dog’s distressed friends near by for hours and the other dogs would learn to associate bad things with the traps. The dogs would disappear during the day.
The husky was watching her friends get trapped and hauled away, Boo Boo Houdini Trap Breaker would no longer come in the yard, larger dogs were attacking the Chihuahua, the animal control officers were getting testy because we were feeding the dogs, they wouldn’t fix the broken trap, dogs were increasingly fighting for the females, things were getting a little tense. We knew we had a potentially pregnant dog on our hands in the husky and we knew our time to catch the husky was closing in …so I made some calls to a vet and ordered up some “magic cheese” – no, not that kind – the legal kind you put in a cheese ball or a hot dog to make the doggie want sleepy sleepy time. We thought maybe this could help us confine the husky if she went all the way in the trap. We knew animal control was going to take a long time to pick her up, so we were hoping sedation would help keep her confined in the trap. She kept teasing us, getting ¾ of the way in the trap and then backing out w/out setting off the trigger.
Magic cheese turned out to be too stressful. It started with an incident at the pharmacy that made me look like a total junky – not a perfectly normal person who is in a hurry to pick up a prescription for the wild dog trap before time ran out and the city picked up the dog trap. The incident came complete with reasonable questions from the substitute pharmacist,
“Which dog is it for?”
“I don’t know which dog the vet called it in under…er uh, I can call and find out. Do you know how many dogs I have on file – it’s a lot!” …more suspicion.
“Where is Chuck? (the regular pharmacist)
Internal conversation: “Chuck would understand this seemingly suspicious but perfectly normal request for dog tranquilizers. Stop looking at me like that – I don’t need to get a prescription for myself through dogs! I am totally hooked up for my controlled substances through legal means, thank you very much. It’s purely for the dog whose name I don’t know – so check the answering machine – I know it’s been called in and I need it tonight!”
After getting the tranquilizers, there was more stress. There were too many other animals of varying size wandering around and trying to steal food from the traps. The Chihuahua and Honey the cat kept trying to get it in the trap. It nerved me out. What if someone small ate the magic cheese, which was actually a magic hot dog? We called off operation magic cheese. And I swore it off as a method to help catch dogs. I just didn’t have the constitution for it.
Soon after, one day when the animal control officers came to take a dog out of the trap, they decided to chase the pack leader, the husky, with the catch pole. And when I say chase – I do mean chase. If I was a dog – and some menacing person with a giant 5 foot stick was chasing me, I would run too. And run she did. She ran for her life.
As it turns out, animal control officers are not good long distance runners. And by long distance, I mean a block at best. They tend to run a little and then get in the van and drive around chasing the dog. I’ve seen them drive in reverse down an entire street block over speed bumps…but I digress. Surprise, they didn’t catch her. And surprise, she didn’t come back to the dangerous traumatic place. Neither did any of the other dogs. From this action, we lost the opportunity to catch the rest of the pack with the traps and reinforced the pack leaders learned fear of men, vans, idling vehicles, catch poles like objects, and approaching humans. Animal control’s approach was the complete opposite of acceptable behavior. In no world would their actions be viewed as anything less than aggressive and dangerous to a dog or a human. We’ll come back to that…
After we went a few days without catching any dogs, the city decided they should pick up the remaining trap. They did not follow up and place the trap on the other side of 12th where we let them know that the mailman had identified the pack to have resettling. Nor did they follow up with the Chihuahua’s owners who were clearly letting their dog wander around in heat. Animal control officers were also made aware that the Chihuahua’s owners were in possession of intact chained up pit bulls in in their back yard. They did not follow up on that either.
You can’t save them all…but every one counts
After all the dogs ran off, there was one additional catch and rehabilitation. Late one night on my walk, I was just about a block from home when a dog ran up to me and then ran back to some neighbors that I didn’t know. I asked them if she was their dog and they said no but that they were taking care of catching her. I said she looked like one of the dog pack dogs and I asked them if they needed any help. They said no, that their neighbor Andy, who I did know, had gone back into the house to call someone he knew -some dog person. Hmmm, Andy?
I stalled for a minute waiting for my phone to ring. They didn’t seem to want my help, I had insulted the dog by calling it a dog pack dog. They started to walk back towards their house and I kept stalling them a little long waiting for the inevitable phone call. Nothing. I slowly started walking towards my house. Surely Andy would call me. Who else would he be calling? But I made it all the way back to my house – no phone calls. With great relief, I started to put my feet up on the couch and call it a night, then there was a knock on the front door. It was Andy. He couldn’t find my number – could I help with a dog they had found?
I walked back to his house with him. To his neighbor’s great surprise, the “dog person” was the person that had seemingly insulted the dog. I never meant it as an insult, merely an observation. It wasn’t going to stop me from helping her, and so began Mija’s journey to becoming a domesticated dog. We named her Mija as we believed, and still believe, she is the daughter of the husky. You can read more about her story on Mija/ Mika’s page. Finding Mija’s forever family is a beautiful story of love, trust, and acceptance.
2012 Dog Pack
With the placement of Mija in her new home, we thought that was the end of the dog pack problem. But almost exactly 1 year later, in the middle of the night, I heard a loud primal howl under my window. I thought to myself – that sounds like the husky, and I went back to sleep. The next morning when I went to take out my trash – who was in my back driveway but Husky, Trap Breaker, and 5 of the husky’s puppies. The puppies were about 7 months old. Don’t let the word puppy fool you – they were big enough dogs that when they barked and growled at you, you would not want to be close enough to check their puppy breath. The next night when the pack arrived at the house, the Husky howled and howled under my window until I came out and fed them. I guess she remembered and trusted something about me from the year before…even if it was only that I was a dog food and bologna Pez machine. They came every night and howled, played, fought, and partied in the front yard.
What quickly became obvious was that the husky was most likely in heat again and this situation put some urgency on efforts to trap the pack. Anxious to avoid a repeat of the 2011 animal control fiasco, several of the neighbors and I called Scott Griggs’ office to make sure this pack was identified properly and given a priority status for a trap, rapid response, and pick up services. And no chasing the Husky with a catch pole!
On paper we were off to a great start. We had the support, cooperation, and priority authorization from a city councilman’s office. A trap was delivered and our trapping initiative began.
Picture of dog pack sent to city councilman Griggs’ office
The first dog trapped was injured by the improperly set cat food bait can and the dog sat injured and bleeding in the trap while its 6 friends becoming increasingly upset close by. This first dog took 14-15 hours to pick up. Several calls were placed to 311 to let them know that the animal was injured and to ask if they could relay that to the field officers. The standard “we have between 1-72 hours to respond” answer was given over and over. Really? The city policy is that animal control has 3 DAYS to come pick up a dog out of a live animal trap? And they can’t relay any pertinent information to the field officers? We’ll come back to that later…
Animal control officers had been given specific instruction from me, their supervisors, and from Scott Griggs’ office NOT to chase the pack leader, the husky, with a catch pole. After not sleeping a wink because the pack was howling and crying all night because their friend was in the trap, I got a phone call around 9am from one of my neighbors while I was at work. She said there was a huge commotion, animal control officers running down the street, dogs everywhere and animal control was chasing the Husky with a catch pole a block and a half away from my house.
Yup, the first thing that arriving officers did on the first call was to get out of the van and chase the husky with a catch pole. They reported that chasing the dog was for their own safety, that they needed to get her out of their work area to get the other dog out of the trap. I support them having a safe space around their work area, but they were chasing her a block and half away out into a 4 lane road. Additionally, when they took other dogs out of the trap, I stood by and kept her at bay by merely standing between her and the animal control officer – no chasing necessary.
So more unnecessarily stressful and uncooperative animal control “collaboration” ensued. Dogs sat in the trap for hours, animal control officers lost dogs loading them into the van, animal control officers were not setting, baiting or checking the traps, we were told that “high priority dangerous dog designation” from Scott Griggs’ office meant the same thing as everything else: “between 1-72 hours to respond” over and over. We had a dog “arrested” (confined) by NOCCUP while waiting for animal control to RE-pick up the a dog. (They accidentally let the dog go the night before while loading it in the animal control van). One of the officers, after catch pole-ing one of the Chiuhauah’s into a bloody mess, reported me back to their supervisor as “obstructionist” for feeding the dogs and for requesting that he not chase the husky with a pole. Seriously, I helped capture 10 feral dogs in my front yard over a three week period! Then he proceeded to leave without resetting the trap. Obstructionist?
It was weeks of great sleepless fun. Dogs in traps are not quiet, neither are their friends. This went on until animal control decide that they need to pick up the trap because we “had it too long”. At this point we had reported the trap broken (Trap Breaker had broken the trap while sitting it for approximately 9 hours) and the trap had released two dogs due to it being broken.
- Romeo being “arrested” / confined by DPD/NOCCUP until animal control could arrive
More phone calls were placed and someone tried explaining to themselves and to me what “too long” meant after catching 9 dogs in three weeks. Realizing during that discussion that trap removal wasn’t justified, they instead insist on moving the trap to make it more effective. Effective? It was just broken – just replace or repair it! What was unclear about this?
Before they made the brilliant decision to move the trap, we had also reported an aggressive male dog that had joined the pack. He had been charging me at my front door and the neighbors on their front porches. I had to mace him one night just to get to my front door and he had trapped me in the house one morning. NOW – with this aggressive dog charging people in their yards and on their front porches, the animal control officers made an executive decision in the field to put the trap in my 86 year old neighbor’s yard – when it was just fine to leave it where it was – it just needed to be swapped out for a working one!
I made a super polite phone call and let the supervisor know that the trap needed to be moved out of my senior neighbor’s yard for safety reason – she agreed and so the trap sat there for over a week, maybe close to two weeks, until we called again to have it permanently picked up.
On this same call, I also told the supervisor that I was confident that I could get the Husky in my back yard to confine her if they want to dart her. I knew that darting was not something that should not be done unless the animal was confined; I let her know that I would be happy to leverage my relationship with the Husky to help the rapid response team catch her.
Next thing that happened, the Husky showed up injured. It looked like maybe she got in a fight with the aggressive dog, maybe someone shot her (as there had been neighborhood wide communications about the aggressive dog), – who knew, but day by day she was getting worse. It started to look like she had been shot. I could see that she was really suffering and going down hill past. She really needed medical intervention, so I set out to see if she would follow me into my back yard.
I lured her and the remaining puppy into the back yard. She walked around, cased the fence, got nervous and decided it was time to leave. She started to climb the 6 foot chain link fence that separates my yard from the neighbor’s yard. It was obvious that she was in a lot of pain. She had to use her teeth to help climb the fence to compensate for her shoulder. I got her attention and showed her the open gate. She stopped climbing the fence and zoomed out the gate with puppy in tow.
I call up my friend the vet and told her that “it was time”. I arrange to take a day off on her day off and we made a finalized plan to capture the Husky.
The return of Magic Cheese
There was a lot of speculating and planning. The husky is a smart dog. She had evaded capture and lived on the streets for at least 3 years because she is top of the line cognitive. If we had any hope of capturing her it was going to involve me giving up my ban on magic cheese. This time, I forewarned the pharmacist.
The Rodeo Sideshow of Capturing a Husky
It was suppose to be easy. Make the magic cheese and hot dogs balls. Get the dogs in the back yard. Feed them magic stuff, keep them in the yard, and wait for Dr. Jacky to show up with the syringe and catch pole. Easy right? Ha!
Tasha the husky would eat from my hand, but she would never let the puppies get close enough to eat from my hand. I had to throw them their treats. In my head, the worst case scenario was that we would slow down Mama first and then throw some magic cheese to the puppy. The worst thing that might happen is the big Mama dog would eat one of the puppy’s hot dogs. I was mentally ready for operation Cheese.
The dogs followed me into the yard. Everything seemed off to a smooth start. They were very nervous about being confined, Tasha started looking for her way out. I called her and started tossing bologna at her. It calmed her down and distracted her from trying to escape.
I took out the magic cheese. Valium first, ace second. Valium first, ace second. I had even labeled the little baggies. I tossed a magic Valium cheese ball toward Mama. She was so busy being suspicious and calculating, the puppy rushed in and ate it. #$%! Of course he did.
So catching wild dogs required dynamic planning, and I decided since he was one up on us, I should give him another one. If he was chilled out in the corner, maybe it would help calm Tasha down too. He ate it up.
Then I took out a pile of three cheese balls, Mama came over and was very interested. I put out my hand with all three cheese balls. I didn’t expect her to take ALL three, but she did. Then as if she suddenly understood what was going on – she spit all three of the cheese balls out. Like she knew it was the poison apple.
Tasha was starring me down and sizing me up – I was shocked and amazed. And while we were debating each other’s level of betrayal – in zooms the baby. Eats all three cheese balls in one snap. Now I know that I can not start to project the emotions that are going off in my head or the big dog will bolt over the fence. She is seriously sizing me up, but OMG I’ve just OD-ed the baby! OD-ed the baby!!
I slowly got out the cell phone and called Dr Jacky. I calmly told her to
“hurry the #$$% up! I’ve OD-ed the baby”
We then had a conversation about how the baby would probably be fine – it was NOT enough to OD or kill him. I re declared my hatred for magic cheese and tried to keep the dogs calm and occupied while we waited for Dr May to arrive with the rest of our supplies.
When Dr May arrived she brought some delicious hot fried chicken to tried to lure the big dog into eating some pieces of magic chicken. Again, Mama dog would have nothing to do with our bribes. That dog had will power. That chicken smelled soo good. But baby dog had a bad case of magic cheese munchies. That dog had no inhibitions and was eating everything in site. He was sneaking around trying to steal the chicken while we were trying to work with Tasha. A stoned little dog wild dog is a strange little creature.
From the time after Dr. Jacky arrives, I will turn the story over to her. Here is her perspective on the sideshow rodeo that was the husky capture.
I made a make shift, home made pole syringe and we loaded it up with the drug. This feat of engineering involved a small syringe from the office, a broom handle from Fran’s house, and, of course the magic ingredient of all redneck endeavors…duct tape. I arrived and came in through the side gate, we left the catch pole outside as well as the large looped leash we had made up for the effort, as the Husky most definitely knew what a catch pole looked like. I just came in and sat down without paying a great deal of attention to her, and kept the pole syringe in my hand. She looked directly at both ends of the pole very tensely once the gate back outside the yard was closed, but she relaxed marginally when she did not see a catch loop on the end of the pole.
Even the most minute fidget from me made the dog extremely nervous. She had stopped even looking at any of the food bribes that Fran had been trying for her, and in fact, we had some sedatives she had tried to feed to the Husky, but she got suspicious early on to that and refused to eat them. We only succeeded in sedating the young puppy of hers that was still traveling with her (at this point at least a 5 month old dog). So I spent the next hour or so fidgeting a lot, and using a make believe cough to get her to relax a little more and quit leaping back from my every slightest movement.
Something was obviously wrong with her right shoulder, Fran said she had been gone for a day and come back with some sort of injury, but it was difficult to tell what had happened without being able to lay hands on her and through all the thick hair. All we could really tell is that she was obviously no longer feeling well, the shoulder had some sort of open draining wound, and she was limping profoundly on that leg. This had contributed to our decision to make a serious effort to get hold of her, since the wound appeared to be causing a worse problem every day.
The fake fidgeting worked, she gradually ignored most minor to moderate movements on my part, but she was reluctant to come close enough for me to be certain I could get the pole syringe to work. Once the needle touched her, I knew that she would swing away rapidly, and then likely I would never get near her again, so I needed the best chance possible to get a good opportunity to plant that needle firmly in her rear leg.
She continued to be willing to come close to Fran, but always ready to bolt, and Fran noted that she was likely more interested in getting out the gate behind her than actually interacting. I proposed that we tie the gate partially open, so that she could see it was open, but could not be opened far enough to get her head entirely out of the crack that we left. I suspected the minute she saw the crack she would jam herself to it and try to leave, and that would give me the long distracted moment I needed to lunge the pole forward and get the drug in her leg.
Sure enough as soon as she saw the gate cracked and we stepped away from it, she flew over there and pulled the gate open as far as she could with her paw. When she shoved her head into the crack, I leaned in and smacked her leg with the fantastic home made pole syringe. She promptly yanked back from the gate turned around and ran to the back side of the yard and started trying to climb the chain link. Alas, the make shift pole syringe did not work worth a darn and had not delivered the dose after all that perfect planning for the perfect moment. I jumped over to the chair and loaded up another syringe just in case she had gotten enough to slow her down. The husky had managed to heave herself up and over the chain link despite the injured leg in about all of 45 seconds. Fran had instantly taken off out of her yard to run across to the neighbor’s yard which the dog had climbed herself into. I got the plain syringe loaded and Fran yelled to come quick with the catch pole. I sprinted, and I had not thought that possible any longer due to age, lack of exercise, and too much food.
I got to the neighbor’s side yard, and found that the Husky had immediately identified that his gate was loosely attached to the side of his house and so she had tried to work her way through it. Fran had managed to get the thick rope leash on her head and so we had her !! Now if we could only keep her before she managed to bite the rope in two, but the gate into the yard with her was locked!!!. So her head was stuck on the outside of the fence and her body was still in the neighbor’s back yard. I put the catch pole loop on her, and gave the pole to Fran to hold along with the big rope leash. In the mean time I ran to the front door and made a very hasty introduction of myself to the neighbor as well as explained quickly the unfolding drama going on in their back yard. They graciously let me sprint through their house.
I got to the back yard and the rear end of the dog, and told Fran to hold on tight to the pole. I grabbed the dog’s rear leg and got the injection in directly by hand this time. The only problem with this part of the operation was that as the Husky violently flopped around protesting my touching her leg, she was steadily dragging Fran back through the gap in the fence. The assistant on the other end of the 80 pound dog might possibly need to weigh more than the dog itself for more efficient holding to occur.
Once the drug was in we relaxed the hold on the dog and let it take effect which it does quickly, usually within two minutes or so at most. Once she was down and out, we brought over a sheet and loaded it her on it and used it to carry her to the back of my car and we were off to the clinic.
The drug kept her down for the ride but she was almost awake by the time we made it back to Richardson so I had to re-dose her once more. We got her into the clinic and started to work on her right away, drawing blood to check for heartworms, getting a stool sample to check what sort of parasites she had, and getting her properly vaccinated.
Most importantly we shaved up the injured shoulder so I could have a look at the draining wound. Once the hair was out of the way and I could get a closer look I could see something metal glinting at me from deeper in the wound.
I took a pair of hemostats and reached down into the wound and found the end of the the object, and was able to pull it upward into the light.
It looked like the end to some sort of dart. I was unable to get it free, it had actually gone through the skin and muscle and buried itself deeply into the bone. I had my assistant help me, and finally we were able to get the dart pulled free from her bone. Sadly it looked as though Animal control had tried to dart the dog unsuccessfully and managed only to bury the dart end into her bone, leaving it there to become infected. I was not happy to see that at all.
Accidents can always happen when trying to dart any animal, that is why it should never be undertaken lightly. But why had they tried to dart the dog while she was loose for one? Once struck by a dart she was going to run, fast and furiously and most likely, well obviously since they did not catch her, escape them with ease. I cannot imagine why they would even risk the procedure on the dog without having tried to get her in a more confined space where they would at least have a hope of getting her when she went down. Secondly why on earth had they aimed for the dog’s shoulder? You -always- aim for a rear leg, it has the most muscle covering the bone, and you are least likely to send a dart accidentally through a vital cavity if aiming for the rear leg. They hit the dog in the point of the shoulder which has hardly any muscle, thus one of the reasons the dart buried into her bone. Had the dog moved, with the force that this dart was shot with, it could easily have buried into her chest proving to be a fatal heart or lung shot. And lastly why on earth was the dart gun loaded so strongly as to be able to send an 1.5 inch metal dart deep enough to bury completely into the dog’s bone?? Too many questions with only bad answers as far as I could see. A much smaller dart should be used for small animals so that it is very unlikely to be able to bury into bone, and only connect with muscle, which it can easily work free from and fall away if catch attempt is unsuccessful.
As it was this dog was running a fever, and had an infection in the bone which was rapidly getting worse. Had we not been able to successfully catch her she would have died a miserable death from the systemic infection that was steadily building up. It would honestly have been more humane to simply shoot the dog fatally than to have so poorly gone about the dart attempt and left her to die in such a manner.
We got the dart out, and cleaned up the wound and got antibiotic injections into her. She needed to be spayed but we wanted her to wake up and see if we could get the bone infection in her leg under control or not first. I had no idea if I would be able to get medication in the dog reliably or not once she was awake. But at least we had her now and we could give it a try. We also identified that she had fractured her lower canine tooth at some time in the past and again recently, possibly while climbing the fence during her capture episode.
I set about trying to get in touch with various people to see what organizations might be able to help with the dog if she proved to be workable when awake and confined. I could keep her for awhile, but I knew that a free feral dog was not going to remain sane in an indoor run for overly long and the time to start planning for later was now. Fran send an email out to her rescue connections, and I called two local clients of mine, one a long time husky owner, Katheryn Kramer, and the other, a member of Animal Guardians of America, Simba Batte. The email response was tremendous and introduce us to Courtney Cochran of Texas Huksy Rescue and in turn to behaviorist, Nelson Hodges. Mrs. Kramer told me that she had an escape proof backyard that the dog could be moved to if we lacked any other place to move her when it became necessary. Mrs. Batte, of Animal Guardians, called me back and got me in touch with Annette Lambert, the President of Animal Guardians of America, and they said they would come and look the dog over the next day and see if they thought they could deal with her in their facility. So I relaxed some, with at least two good leads on places that she could be settled more permanently if needed.
The next day she was withdrawn and obviously feeling poorly physically as well as distressed to be locked up with no clear exit. We did not attempt to interact with her, instead choosing to let her equilibrate and spend the day seeing that no one tried to force her to do anything. The only good news of the day came in that I found out which pill pocket she liked the most and she readily took a pill in them, which meant that I could get her the needed medicine reliably. In the mean time Nelson Hodges, a local behaviorist that has a long time love of Huskies had gotten in contact with Fran and made arrangements to come evaluate the dog.
This is the natural point to end Dr. May’s telling of the day we capture Tasha and to transition our pack story to the beginning of Tasha’s new journey to becoming a domesticated dog.
From this point, we continue our story on Tasha’s blog. Her blog documents events like her evaluation period at the vet clinic, how she spent her Thanksgiving, her evaluation with Nelson, meeting her future roommates, her first walk out on a leash, her first ride in a car, building a fence that would hold her, her first snow day, and many other unique quirky things that come with domesticating a wild husky.
If you are moved by Tasha’s pack’s story, so were we. The night after her surgery, no one slept. The next day, we were so moved and disturbed by the collective results of the city that we had no other choice than to started down a path towards petitioning the city to change Animal Services policies and best practices.
When you summarize the 2012 dog pack story, it starts with concerned neighbors communicating and cooperating to get the dog pack priority status from a city councilman’s office. It moves on to find the first dog trapped injured and left in a trap for 14 hours. The story is filled with endless mishandled communication, inappropriate approaches to feral dogs, untrained field officers, and inhumane treatment of dogs, and then concludes with the last dog inappropriately and inhumanely shot, critically injured and still evading capture – it is a clear signal that change is needed. If this is the best we can do when we are trying – we must work towards immediate change. Check back with our site mid March for updates on how you can help enact change.