Friday, February 25, 2011

The Search for Eggroll

By Guest Blogger Holly Gumbeski, Animal Friends' Behavior Team

Animal Friends' Humane Officers rescued Eggroll, Essence, and Eldorado, three young Husky/Pit Bull mixes, in the Fall of 2010.

Of the three dogs, Eggroll stood out for a few reasons. First, he was the most fearful. Second, he had the strangest eyes. From far away, he looked like his eyes were crossed, but as you got closer, you could see that each eye was blue, and brown on the bottom. This defect was probably the result of improper breeding, but to the volunteers who encouraged his socialization over the next few weeks, Eggroll's unusual eyes made him special.

All three dogs had to begin the slow process of connecting again with humans. Through positive conditioning and kindness, they all made progress and learned to trust.

In time, Eggroll began to adjust to life inside a new place. However, going outside was another story. He was skittish on a leash and during a walk around the property with one of the volunteers who was working with him, Eggroll broke his harness ran.

His adventure lasted for about a week before we were able to lure him into a humane trap on a property near Animal Friends. We were so delighted to know that he was safe and had not suffered the fate of so many lost dogs before him. And what was most interesting about his return was that he seemed genuinely glad to see us all again. Maybe he realized that a life on the run for a domesticated dog was not all burying bones and romping through meadows?

So, weeks later we were all thrilled when a family adopted Eldorado and Eggroll together. And only weeks after his adoption, we were not so thrilled when we heard that Eggroll was on another adventure. This time, he got loose from his person while on a walk and took his red leash with him. And this time, he was not across the woods from Animal Friends. Eggroll's new home was in Penn Hills, a 40-minute drive from our area.

Fortunately, our ad hoc lost-dog team sprung into action quickly and moved into the area to distribute flyers and get the word to the neighborhood that "Crazy Eyes" was on the run.

Our team had done this many times before. We descend upon on area with Google maps, brightly-colored flyers and staple guns, ready to roll and get our dog back safely. But this time, temperatures were close to zero degrees and the rush to return Eggroll was complicated by ice and snow.

Even though the horrible weather had us all fearing for Eggroll's life, ultimately the snow was a lifesaver. Throughout the three weeks and four days that Eggroll was lost, we were able to follow his tracks with certainty because of one distinct marking: a leash drag.

So day after day, we went to Penn Hills and tracked our boy. We set up feeding stations, hoping to keep him in the area. The neighbors were so helpful and called us with sightings almost every day. We would pack our gear and head out to "Eggroll land" only to be 10 minutes behind him. He would move on, but never far from his original house.

We also had the help of the large construction crew who had taken over 15 plus acres directly behind Eggroll's house to build the new Penn Hills High School. These guys were just as invested in getting Eggroll as we were and spent many hours trying to trap him inside their work area. They threw their bologna sandwiches toward him hoping he would find their lunches irresistible, but still, he was too fearful to come close enough for someone to grab the leash.

About 12 days into the search, the construction foreman confirmed that Eggroll had been trapped inside the fenced zone and had spent the night sleeping under one of the backhoes. Again, we rushed to the area and followed his now-famous leash drags through almost every yard in a 2-mile radius of the construction site. Two of the volunteers eventually cornered him in a loosely fenced yard. We were sure that he would finally recognize one of us or remember our voices, but "fight or flight" had taken over our Eggie, and he bolted over a partially collapsed fence panel. One volunteer made the leap to grab the leash, but after weeks of dragging behind a running dog, it had become a leashcicle, and he slipped by.

For the next few days, we received no calls, no sightings, no evidence that he was eating from the feeding stations and finally, no hope that Eggroll was still in the area. We feared he had moved on to a quieter location and we had lost him forever, but then we received a call from animal control that a dog dragging a red leash had been seen in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery area.

I went out immediately and covered the streets with flyers. We waited for a sighting but no one called and more days passed. We finally got the ultimate breakthrough when a call came in from our Craigslist posting that the ubiquitous "dog with the red leash" was in Verona near St. Joseph's Cemetery. Perhaps Eggroll was beginning to feel most comfortable around people who had long since passed away? After all, those folks were a lot quieter.

So, for the next few days we spent hours and hours each evening passing out our "Eggie" flyers, and then the sightings came from almost every street in the Verona hilltop area. I stopped at the GetGo and gave the clerk our flyer. She confirmed she had seen him the night before--going through her garbage and eating chicken bones!

A man at the counter overheard us talking and said, "You looking for a lost dog? Is he dragging a red leash?" "Yes!" I said, exasperated as I was just about to give up and return home. The guy continued, "Well, I just saw him running through St. Joseph's Church parking lot." I stood there and thought for a while. What was the chance of capturing him on a cold dark night? Should I go back to the streets I had just spent hours driving through hoping to catch a glimpse of Crazy Eyes? I did. I couldn't resist the chance that he would just give up and jump into my car with a thankful sigh of relief.

For a few more hours, another volunteer and I followed his tracks through alleyway after alleyway as he seemed to sniff every trash can, but no luck. More days passed with more sightings and more prayers and stories of lost dogs and loved dogs from concerned citizens.

So many people asked me how he could be surviving out there for so long. I'll never really know the answer but somehow he was and he did. And, I believe that the "dog with the red leash" was saved by the thing that most people feared would cost him his life: the leash.

It was Valentine's Day morning when I got the call from a staff member at Animal Friends that a man in Verona caught a dog with Animal Friends tags after finding him snagged in his front yard by his leash. There was no question that I was going to drop everything mid-workday and rush out to Second Street. I picked up another volunteer downtown and we headed to the location in disbelief. Could this be the end to Eggroll's East End Adventure?

We pulled up and the owner of the house came out to greet us. I don't think this man knew how long we had been following Eggroll and how far he had traveled. As we talked in his driveway, we filled him in on the details but I was getting too anxious to see Eggroll. What if it was the wrong dog? What if another crazy-eyed dog was running through Verona with a red leash? After all, red is a popular color. But, it was true. I was about to get the sweetest Valentine's day gift of my life. He pointed to his truck. "He's in the front seat. I was afraid I'd lose him if I walked him all the way to the house."

There he was, curled into a ball, calmly looking at us from the driver's seat like he was ready for a lazy Sunday drive with his master. We carefully attached a few more leashes and then transferred him into my car. I was so surprised at his body condition. He actually looked good, a little skinner but not to the point were ribs were evident. And, when he finally saw our now familiar faces up close and heard our voices, he remembered his friends and began a slow wag of the tail. He wasn't panicked at all when he jumped into the back of my car. In fact, he seemed calm and relieved and soon closed his eyes and slept for the ride back to Animal Friends.

The anticipation was high as we brought our boy into Animal Friends that day. Several of his past caregivers waited in the hallway as three of us came through, with three leashes attached to Eggie. At that point, he looked more like a convict than our beloved lost dog. It was only moments before the smells and sounds of this safe place got through to Eggroll when he burst into his favorite caregivers's arms and began a thankful slathering of kisses. We got him settled into a warm kennel with a bed and blankets. We all gave him kisses on his head and stroked his dried and smelly coat and then we let him sleep. I walked away but turned back to look for something. Where was the red leash? I found it on the floor and picked it up and pulled it through my fingers to the frayed spot where Eggroll had strained against it to its last threads. I said a silent thank you for staying with Eggroll until the end.

Egg relaxes in the back of Holly's car.

Eggroll is escorted inside. Do you think we were afraid of losing him again?

When Eggroll saw Debbie, our Animal Caregiver, he collapsed in relief!

Eggroll basks in love and attention from Holly and Debbie.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, multiple colors in one eye are common in Huskies, and are called parti-eyes or pie-eyes. It's not the result of improper breeding, nor is it a defect and is acceptable by AKC standards:

    My rescue dog has a blue/brown eye as well and also looks a little weird from a distance because of it :)