Dog Rescuer Teaches Wild ‘Shadow’ to Trust

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.

Now what?

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

About to enjoy the fenced yard, and hopefully soon, the house as well.

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

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Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago

thanks to all the people who worked so hard on Shadow's behalf. Animal Angels!

kathleen t.
kathleen t4 years ago

I am so pleased not everyone didn't give up on him in this and MANY sad circumstances.I pray he finds a truly loving, home.All animals deserve to be rehomed.One happy outcome thanks to someone that hadn't lost hope.We can all learn from this.Even though its looking inpossible ,all we need is one strand of hope .And that one strand has not only saved a life ,but happiness for ever ,for one needy little boy.

Wendy Walinski
Wendy Walinski4 years ago

thank you for saving him

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 4 years ago


Mary T.
Mary T4 years ago

Thank you for rescuing Shadow

Patty B.
Patty B4 years ago

It takes time for an animal to trust . I adopted 2 cats swept up in an animal cruelty case .One was a sweet heart. The other I think was a feral just caught up in the sweep. she was a hissing, spitting cat and would not come near me. She would never look at me. I had to trap her for vet visits where she had to be sedated for exams .But over the years she mellowed and would actually climb on my lap and lick my face.Unfortunately she developed heart problems and it came time for her to sleep. It has been months and I still cry .

Kayleigh Harter
Kayleigh Harter4 years ago

Shadow is beautiful and obviously very smart and resourceful, too. I hope he's learned to trust humans again--from the sound of things, he'd be an excellent companion and friend provided he's given the love and care he needs in order to learn that trust.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

natalie n.
natalie n5 years ago

great work from all the volunteers who persisted cross-state to rescue shadow. and i'm glad he finally found someone who would be able to show him the true meaning of living.

Darla Taylor
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks, Ed, for your diligence in capturing and rescuing Shadow. It's great hat he now has a place to get used to humans and hopefully be adopted into a forever home. That is, if he doesn't already have one with you.