Written by Ed Kostro of Illinois
I first got a telephone call about this homeless dog more than a month ago now, and I never dreamt that his rescue would be as difficult, as time consuming, as heart wrenching, or as frustrating as it turned out to be. I also never imagined that it would involve so many people in three different communities from law enforcement officers to senior citizens to young school children. Without their help and their compassion and concern for this dog’s welfare, Shadow’s rescue would never have been possible.
April 2012 – “Ed, we could really use your help. There’s an extremely skittish stray dog that’s been hanging around a woman’s backyard recently. No one can get close to him; he doesn’t trust anyone; and we’ll probably have to trap him to save him.”
I had trapped dozens of skittish stray dogs in the last several years, so I never gave a thought to the possibility that this dog would be any different. I loaded my dog traps into my truck and I was off, thinking I’d be home in a few hours after another successful capture. I had never been so wrong.
For the entire first week of my involvement, I never even spotted him. As soon as I set up my dog traps where he was supposed to be according to the latest sighting, I’d get a phone call from someone that he was already in another part of town. So I’d hurriedly pack up my traps and rush over there. By the time that I’d get there, he’d already be gone like a shadow in the night.
I soon sadly learned that he had already been chased by various animal control departments and pursued by both police officers and agitated citizens who had called the authorities to catch him. No one had been able to corner or capture him, and tales of him scaling six-foot fences to avoid capture soon began emerging. His distrust of humans was enormous.
He Walked in the Shadows
In my second week of frustration, I finally spotted him, and he was, indeed a ‘shadow.’ He knew how to blend in with his urban environment extremely well, and if you weren’t looking for him, you’d pass right by him lying under a tree or sprawled under a deck in someone’s yard. I soon began following him all over town attempting to determine where I could set up my traps to capture him, and he quickly began to recognize both me and my truck. Now, Shadow and I were sadly playing ‘Tag’ and he was winning.
Finally, the break came that I had been waiting for. Through a lot of footwork and telephone calls, we had finally determined where two of his favorite resting places were, and I luckily got to one of them right before his arrival. And now, my carefully baited dog traps were finally ready for him.
Several of us were now hiding nearby, and we soon spotted him heading directly toward my traps. We all crossed our fingers, and we now anxiously waited. Shadow took his sweet time sniffing all around them, but not entering either one. Finally, his immense hunger forced his move, and one of the trap doors snapped shut. All of us were overjoyed, and all of us were extremely overconfident.
Before we could secure the trap and place it into my truck, Shadow panicked inside its small confined space, attempting to shred its metal bars with his teeth. When that didn’t work, he quickly began head-butting the metal door like a rampaging bull – and he was very rapidly out of the trap and gone. We stood there in total disbelief. Shadow now had the distinction of being the first canine that had ever broken out of one of my dog traps.
We spent the next week trying to decide what to do, and searching everywhere for him once more. Soon after his trap escape, he vanished. We checked and re-checked all of his now known hiding places, and Shadow was now gone without a trace.
Some of us now sadly began to suspect that he had been run down by a vehicle or even been poisoned by some cruel individual. We were all extremely upset by his disappearance, but one of our fellow pet rescuers refused to give up on him, and she began calling police departments in neighboring communities to find out if they had any reports of a dog matching his description. Amazingly, one of them told her that the dog we were pursuing sounded just like a dog that was now wandering their streets.
May 2012 - I was extremely skeptical that this could be the same dog, but I drove down to the distant location given us, and unbelievably, there he was, sitting on someone’s lawn. Now, we finally learned his horrendous history.
We were informed that some eight months prior, a man had been spotted tossing puppies out of a van down by the river, and then quickly speeding away. Shadow’s discarded siblings had eventually been rounded up by animal control personnel, but he had managed to evade capture.
Now we knew that this poor abandoned waif had been out on his own for at least eight long months. No wonder he didn’t trust any human being. We also sadly knew that his good fortune in surviving all this time on his own would not last forever. We soon learned from a third community’s police department that Shadow had very recently narrowly escaped death on a busy highway.
We had volunteers in three villages on the lookout for him now. We’d get a call that he was in one of the three villages involved, and when we’d rush there, we’d soon get a call from someone in another community that he had just showed up over there.
We decided to put some canine sedatives into some food in the hopes of making his capture possible, since we had received yet another dire report about him racing across a busy intersection in heavy traffic.
Just before dawn a few days later, we got the break that we needed — we got a call that he was fast asleep on someone’s lawn. Several of us rushed to this location, and we placed some veterinarian recommended sedative pills into a food offering for Shadow. Luckily, he was extremely hungry this morning, and thankfully, it worked. Within an hour, he was safe and secure inside my truck.
The Latest News on Shadow
Since Ed Kostro submitted this rescue story a few weeks ago, great progress has been made. Shadow completed all his veterinary work and is living on Ed’s property in a spacious outdoor kennel while acclimating to life with humans. Ed has spent many nights sleeping out there with Shadow.
At first, the slightest touch would induce trembling, but now Ed reports that Shadow seems to enjoy being stroked softly. Ed is reinforcing his fence to prevent escape and Shadow will soon be ready to roam freely in the yard with the other dogs (whom he is quite fond of) and hopefully to begin to gradually explore the garage and, ultimately, the house itself.
Wild dogs need a lot of time and patience. These things simply can’t be rushed. Shadow could not have found himself a more skillful and compassionate human to introduce him to the pleasures of living as a pet. See a photo of Shadow living wild before capture.
Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase