Allow me to tell you a story. There was this little blonde fella. For the first three years of his life, he lived with a family. They were a young family and had taken him in when he was just too adorable for words. The plan was they would all live happily ever after.
But eventually the family decided that he wasn’t the top dog in priorities and turned him in for adoption at Dallas Animal Services. Now, from the pooch’s point of view, this was pretty upsetting. He had gone from a normal routine to a pen with nearby occupants howling about their lives… and their fates.
Then Wendy appeared out of nowhere on Friday, March 30. She was a nurse and wanted a forever friend. There was a magical moment of connection. The result was Wendy adopted the little fella and named him “Charlie.” She took him home that Friday, removed his collar and gave him a bath to ward off the past. His cuteness factor soared.
The next morning, before having his collar put back on and being squired around his new Merriman Park/University Manor neighborhood, Charlie discovered a loose latch on the backyard gate and decided to discover his new world. So, off he went on a journey. The only problem was, he didn’t know his way back.
Wendy was horrified to discover that her new pal had escaped [one person’s idea of escape is a dog’s idea of just sniffing around]. To find him was going to be a challenge for Wendy, who was relatively new to the neighborhood herself. Yes, Charlie had been micro-chipped but had no collar and the neighborhood was near some very busy roads like Skillman and Abrams and woods with predators. Adding to the problem was the fact that Wendy didn’t know his old name, and Charlie didn’t know he was now called Charlie.
Luckily, Wendy had recently join Nextdoor and posted the MIA dog. The response was immediate. Many commiserated. False alarms came in — a dog that had been found months ago; a dog three times the size of Charlie, etc.
The SPCA reported they couldn’t help because they didn’t deal with strays, and directed “Charlie Corp” (CC) to the Dallas Animal Services. When called at 3 p.m., the DAS recording reported that office hours were from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the call was being received after hours. A call to 311 resulted in an understanding woman who said that DAS forwarded calls to them.
Then a neighbor in Vickery Meadows reported that he had spotted Charlie at Holly Hills and Fair Oaks. The race was on. Would it be a wild goose chase? But one CC member couldn’t believe her eyes when she spied the little fella in the parking lot of the Wildflower Apartment complex. She just knew it was Charlie. But as soon as she as she got out of her car, he had scooted across a busy road [Pineland] and into the woods before she could even take a picture. The apartment management team put out bowls of food and water to coax the little fellow into feeling at home. He returned the next day and once again scampered across the busy street when someone approached.
With the weekend weather threatening storms and a chilly blast, and Charlie’s shying away from anyone, time was not on CC’s side. It was now seven days since he had gotten loose. So, a shout-out was made to animal lover Kristina Bowman, who directed the effort to Pat Rodriquez, aka “the patron saint of lost dogs.” With her years of experience and her no-funny-business sleuthing, Pat didn’t hesitate to help.
Despite the near-freezing temperatures on Saturday, April 7, Pat pulled up in her Subaru with traps in the back at the last spot Charlie had been seen. It was like watching a five-star general preparing for a major battle, as Pat assessed the area, set up the trap for Charlie, and instructed how to prepare and maintain the trap. Pieces of smelly food like sardines and roasted chicken were place strategically along the paths and even in the trees around the trap. Inside, just beyond the spring plate, was a bowl of the “delicacies.” A camera was attached to a tree to record the trap’s activity 24 hours a day. Pat then told Wendy one of the most important things to do: securely affix a Ziploc with a flier showing Charlie’s photo and contact info to the top of the cage to let passersby know why the trap was there and what to do if Charlie was seen.
Within three hours, the trapdoor clamped down. Only the capture was a black cat with a definite attitude. When he was released, he didn’t blow air kisses. Instead, he hissed as he tore off across the street in the late winter chill. The trap was reset. The next time, a possum took up residence. Despite much encouragement, the possum decided to stay. Evidently, he liked his new digs — especially the menu. Eventually, room service never came, so he left and once again the trap was reset, but nothing happened. The camera reported lots of activity, especially pedestrians, “but no Charlie.”
Monday morning, a man texted that he had spotted Charlie in Fair Oaks Park and connected the blonde pooch with the signage on the trap. With sardines in hand and advice from Pat, Wendy moved the trap and strategy to a line of trees at Fair Oaks Park.
By this time, Wendy had drawn two conclusions — Vienna sausage was smellier than sardines, and Charlie was working the area along the bike path that connected the area.
Now word was getting out about “travels with Charlie” and the rescue group Duck Team 6 was on board, as well as the neighbors in Vickery Meadows.
What happened to Charlie? Ten days after he went on his little hiatus, Wendy texted early Tuesday morning: “I know it’s late but wanted y’all to wake to see the news! CHARLIE IS HOME!”
According to Wendy,
The man at the apartments that had been putting out food and water has a big yellow lab that he’s said Charlie would approach. So he came out last night late to walk his dog once more before bed. He said he brought a slip leash with him just in case. So Charlie approached the big dog and he said they were talking and he just slipped the leash on him and got him! They called me about 11:45 and I got dressed and got over and brought him home!”
The lesson learned: sometimes strangers can come together to make magic happen. None of these people knew each other, or had any personal gain from pitching in. Still, they took the time to help. This generosity of effort is true for finding a little dog or supporting a nonprofit program.
BTW, Wendy reports that Charlie is gonna have another bath, get a collar with an ID, and be kept on a leash even in the backyard until he’s more at home. And, yes, the latch has been fixed.
* Photo provided by Wendy and Charlie