Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's been a while, hasn't it? I have four or five blog drafts that I just never published because I never got the pictures attached. I'm here tonight to remedy (at least in part) that issue.

Let's start with the most recent story: Little Red Riding Hood/Brenda/Princess, the esacpe artist Shetland Sheepdog.

Roger and I were getting into our van (that's a story I'll tell later--remember, I'm going backwards here) after dinner out, and we noticed this little dog moving at a pretty good clip across the parking lot. We decided to follow her, to see if we could find a collar or other indication that she had a home. I got out of the van when she stopped by the sports bar. I started talking to her--you know how you do with animals you don't know and think might be inclined to react violently to your approach. At first, I thought she was going to come to me--she took a few steps in my direction. Then she decided not to, and turned in the other direction: up the steps to the sport bar deck.

She must know the territory pretty well; she knew there was a gate at the other end of the deck. Unfortunately, she didn't know that they'd closed it for the night. She lay down and started trembling, awaiting her fate at our hands. By this time, Roger was with me, reaching down to check for that identification. He found a tattoo in her ear.

We took her home with us, where we set her up in the kitchen in the big box the grill came in. We gave her a small dish of rice and a bowl of water and turned on the radio for her, then we called a few animal tattoo registration places and left the tattoo info and our phone number. At the urging of the answering service for a local vet's office, I called the local animal rescue group (which Roger wasn't thrilled with because the group actually has a reputation for being more of a pain in the ass than helpful). As we made these phone calls, we would wander into the kitchen to look at the dog and croon to her about what a stinky dog she was and how good she was being (she hadn't made a sound or had a fit or an escape attempt yet) and how she was making our little cottage stinky, too, and how for such a little, albeit fluffy, critter, she was a pretty potent presence. I don't know what she rolled in, or what animal it came from, but I imagine that her smell helped her stay alive. I began telling her she smelled like a bear.

Roger called some Sheltie breeders in the province to see if they could help us track down the breeder, and hence the owner. Our first return call was Judy. She told us that she'd be happy to look up the breeder's number in her register of breeders, but that the tattoo number in the ear wasn't the breeder number, so we had to look on the insides of her legs. Smart dog that she was, she knew that since she was outnumbered and stuck in the box her best option was to behave, so she let us roll her over. We saw that she was indeed a she, and a spayed she at that. We clipped away the matted fur from the tattoo Roger found on her belly, and tried to read the six numbers/letters there. One of them had been tattooed over her nipple, it looked like, so we weren't sure whether it was a 1, 7, or 9.

When the animal rescue group woman called fifteen minutes later, she was confused and astounded when Roger told her we were already well on our way to tracking down the breeder and owner. (I think she thought he was lying just so that he wouldn't have to deal with her--she must know her reputation.)

We took the dog for a walk before we went to bed, thinking that she would probably like to relieve herself now that she'd settled down. (We were both impressed that she hadn't done so while we were carrying her.) It was a crisp night, clear and starry. Not that the dog noticed that. What she noticed were the cars and people that went by (she hid by crouching down) and the big, loud dog that lives a few houses down the street. We got all the way to the end of the street, to the parking lot just before the park and campground, before she tried to escape. We heard the rushing of one of the streams that empties into the ocean. We think that's what set her off. She turned into the parking lot, toward the sound of the water, and when she realized she was still on the harness Roger had fashioned for her out of strips of an old tee shirt, so she turned around and attacked the leash. Roger, being used to much bigger dogs, simply took hold of her behind the neck and pinned her down, eventually forcing her to relinquish her hold on the harness (she had, in a few short seconds, managed to bite through part of the leash). We re-secured the harness and took her home again.

Roger and I both thought it likely that the dog was actually the pet of people who had vacationed on the beach during the summer, and who had probably had to leave without her. We envisioned being able to reunite this dog with her family, who had probably given her up for dead. We have a number of cougars and black bears here, after all. Our theory of the dog belonging to a visiting family was supported by the identification of both the breeder and the ear tattooist (identified by a local vet's office as a Victoria animal hospital). Judy called us back to tell us that she didn't want to tell the dog's breeder that she had located one of her dogs, because the breeder of the dog was known to be an irresponsible one. Eventually, though, she called the dog's breeder and found out that the dog's name had been Little Red Riding Hood, but the owner had lost the receipt of sale and couldn't recall the buyer. Roger immediately took to calling the dog Red. Stinky Red.

Roger went out to run some errands, including picking up some shampoo for the dog. While he was out, the animal rescue lady called again. She felt remiss about having taken so long to return my phone call the night before, and in Roger's insistance that we were well on our way to finding the owner, she hadn't mentioned that a local realtor had reported a Sheltie missing in June of 2005. There had been reports of people seeing the dog ever since, and once someone had caught her, but she was a quick and determined dog. The animal rescue lady was amazed that we'd kept a hold of her. And still, she was confused as to how Roger could figure out how to find the breeder information and try to track down the dog that way.

The realtor (we'll call him Sam) was equally, if not more so, stunned that we'd caught and kept his lost Sheltie. We met him in front of his office to let him identify her--he brought a picture from his fliers, so that we could verify that this was his dog. We hadn't taken her out of the box so that she wouldn't have this one last chance to flee before being returned. Sam, as it turned out, hadn't had the dog for long before she found her chance to escape (she'd gotten her harness caught on the lawnmower and backed out of the restrictive contraption). He'd been putting food out for her ever since--17 months.

We gave Sam the shampoo we'd bought (I'll say it again--she was one smelly, smelly dog), plus the harness and leash and dog treats and food that Roger had picked up, before we knew about Sam. Roger and I like to think it was a good bonding experience, Sam giving Princess a bath--probably two shampoos.

This picture isn't of Little Red Riding Hood/Brenda/Princess, but it's about what she'd look like if she were a happy dog. Less white on the chest. And she won't be this fluffy for a while--she's probably had a lot of matted fur cut away. (Brenda is one of the names that was given to the dog before Sam got her; she didn't respond to it, so he renamed her Princess.)

No comments: