I visit the local animal shelter by myself because, if the missus went with me, we might end up taking a number of the waifs home with us. I went the first week in January and was impressed with several dogs, especially Balto, a large healthy young black German Shepherd pup, but after tending to the infirm Ernie, our days of carrying an elderly dog over 70 pounds up and down the stairs are probably over.
There were several sweet dogs that caught my eye, so I took Mrs. Ombud to the shelter, and we liked an Anatolian shepherd named Roxy. She had been a stray for several months before she was captured in October, and had been nursed back to health. She was a favorite of the animal shelter staff. They guessed she was six years old, and she was shy, but I first met her while she was being walked in the neighborhood, and she was quite cheerful and curious, happy to be out on patrol. So we returned the next day and adopted her.
When we got home I helped Edie down from the tall back of our CR-V, and at the same time Roxy leapt out, too. I grabbed her leash and came away with the slip leash in my hand. She was loose in the neighborhood, with absolutely no bond to our house. I followed her a block to the south, where she stopped to sniff a Christmas tree abandoned on the curb. When I got close to her she doubled back and ran to the intersection by our house. Then turned right and ran a block and a half to the east.
I don’t mind telling you I was sweating bullets at this point. This dog had spent three months eluding capture in the Franklin park neighborhood. A kindly woman driving by offered to give me a ride to chase her, but I thanked her and declined. I kept an eye on Roxy and she doubled back again, this time running across a wide boulevard where it merged with our street, in front of a car.
My heart attack had a heart attack.
Well, if she had lived on the street for so long, she must have had some urban survival skills. Fortunately, she continued on the sidewalk toward our house. Maybe she focused on the vehicle, as the only thing familiar to her. She went up the walkway between our fence and house, closed off by our gate. I crouched low as I approached her in the cul de sac. She could probably have leapt over the low fence to our neighbor’s yard, but she may also have been tired of life on the lam, and let me touch her head, then gently grasp her collar. Whew.
We locked the doors and let her explore the house. She remained very skittish, but curious, and was quite insistent that she be allowed to lounge on the bed. Au contraire. Still, it only took one rebuke each for Ernie and Edie to learn to stay off the bed; I noticed her insistence, as I pushed her off several times.
I took her and Edie for a walk that evening, and she finally settled down by the window in our front bedroom, still shy and nervous. I lie down next to her for a while, before going to bed. We let our semi-feral mouser cats out of the garage at night, and as they came upstairs (they snuggle by the missus) Roxy and the cats clearly sensed each other, but neither side made an issue of it.
On Friday I took her for three separate walks, morning, noon and night, with Edie insistent on joining us, circling around the neighborhood and back to our house, so Roxy would get a sense for where home was. Her appetite was good, and she seemed to get along well with Edie. She was bonding well and kept an eye on me as I moved around the house, already associating me with dinner and with walks. We discussed changing her name. She was clearly stubborn, however, and both times I brought her out to our back deck, with access to the yard, I had to pick her up and carry her out the backdoor. She loved it when she was out there, but would lie down and refuse to budge when I tried to bring her out on the leash.
Unfortunately, that night, she really wanted a piece of the cats. When Pippi and Pauline came upstairs to our kitchen and living room, they pretty much freaked. Yet they were trying to get upstairs, as they were accustomed. I scolded Roxy and kept her separate, but she began stalking the cats, head down, body level, stepping stealthily forward, one paw at a time.
This was a bad sign. Allergic, I’ve never touched the cats, and they only let Mrs. O pick them up when she has to remove them from her lap to get off the couch. The cats came upstairs to bed with us and we tried to keep them separate—and so long as the cats can get under the bed, they are safe—but at 2 AM Roxy saw her chance and lunged at Pippi on the bed. I woke to the realization that Pippi had sprung up in the air, landing on the bed stand next to me and sending various items scattering in her dash to get under the bed.
That did it. We scolded Roxy and she fled, but she kept circling back, wanting to return to us. We got her into the front bedroom, where Mrs. O held her, and I conducted the tuna parade several hours earlier than usual.
To get the cats downstairs, we call “tuna, tuna, tuna!” and go down two flights to the garage, cats scurrying along with us, bouncing around like pinballs, eager for the tuna to hit the food dishes. I closed the door at the bottom of the stairs around 3, 3:30 AM, so the cats were safe. But we knew that was it for Roxy.
It wasn’t easy. The vet tech at the animal shelter had been very helpful, informing us of all they had done for Roxy in the three months after she was rescued off the street in October. She had been flea-bitten, starved, and in pretty bad shape. The staff at the shelter had grown very fond of her—she was a sweetheart, for two-leggeds. He was the first person I saw when we returned, and had a lot of questions for me. I told him we would have been willing to work with a lot of the behavioral issues, but hunting the cats wasn’t one of them, and he understood we were resolute. (I could tell he hoped to talk us through the issues.)
What made us feel better was how happy Roxy was to see him. She greeted him effusively, and over the course of talking to him about our two days spent with Roxy, he mentioned that he might take her home. She is a bigger dog, and approaching seven years old now, graying around the muzzle. She deserves security and comfort in her remaining years. We wished her well, and said our goodbyes. We only knew her two days, but I felt so sad.
We had talked of perhaps checking out the east bay SPCA, and we went there next. The place was busy, mid-Saturday, and we spent a couple hours there, meeting a young Manchester terrier, and she got along well with our Edie.
She’s only 12 and a half pounds—the kind of dog I used to make fun of as a condo rat! But she’s a fast-paced, energetic little mix of confidence and insecurity. So the same day we gave sweet Roxy back, we later took Dulce home—although she won’t be called Dulce for long.
Fare well, Roxy. I would still love to know your life story, where you lived for all those years, before your three months on the lam in Alameda.