Guest Blogger: Holly Gumbeski
This is a story of young maiden named Juliet, who was banished to roam a cemetery high above the South Side Slopes. This strikingly beautiful black and white Husky was named Juliet not by a loving owner, but by a group of tireless volunteers who committed months to the safe capture of this damsel in distress.
We at Animal Friends first heard of Juliet when her photo was posted on a Facebook page dedicated to finding local lost dogs. The post was desperate: “Two stray dogs have been living in a cemetery for weeks. One has been shot in the leg. Animal Control has not been able to catch them. Please help.”
Quickly, volunteers hit the scene. They were all very experienced with trapping and saving lost dogs. But, no one knew that that the story of Juliet, the dog with the gunshot wound, and Romeo, her loyal Pit Bull companion, would be filled with as many twists and turns like the original star-crossed lovers.
So it began with a mountain lion-sized humane trap and motion-capture cameras fixed in several positions. The trap was set in quiet corner of the cemetery in hopes that it would only be a matter of days before Juliet would surrender to the smelly allure of rotisserie chicken. But, alas, our Shakespearean twists had only begun! We trapped our first cemetery dog, but it was not Juliet, it was her boyfriend, Romeo.
Several volunteers had witnessed the affections between Romeo and Juliet and knew that their bond was not a passing fancy. Juliet was confused but steadfast as she sat on the hill above the trap, watching us take her boyfriend to safety at Animal Friends. She limped away, down the ravine with a look that could only be described as lovelorn.
Weeks passed and the cameras kept track of the dogs, cats, raccoons and foxes that visited the trap. Juliet checked regularly too and could be seen poking her head farther and farther inside, until finally we saw her going all the way in, turning around and coming right back out without setting off the trap! How was this possible?
We trapped another cemetery dog named Ollie, who was reunited with his owner during those anxious weeks, but Juliet would poke around inside and never set off the trip plate. We guessed that her abnormal gait from her injury was interfering with the tripping action. We altered the trap’s floor and installed mirrors in the back, hoping she would think it was a pass through. Juliet was sly and would have none of it.
Juliet was still not putting any weight on her wounded front leg. We knew it was only a matter of time before infection would set in. So, we reached out to neighbors to develop an alternative plan. After some investigating, we learned how she had been shot by her owner and left out on her own for more than a year. But, this elusive dog would only approach people to accept a few tossed pieces of food, then dart away. After she was shot, she kept to a tighter territory and never went far. Some neighbors even knew of a den that Juliet had constructed behind one of the houses.
Our best chance of capturing Juliet came from another Facebook connection. We learned that she stopped at specific houses along her daily routine. One of her favorite stops was a farmhouse-style house owned by a woman name Irene who offered her chipped ham/peanut butter balls. Juliet she would come close to the cellar door to nab a few before running back up the hills to the cemetery.
We began to focus our efforts at this house. Juliet had almost stepped through the basement door several times before, so with the help of her daughter, Irene rigged a pulley cable from the door to the back of the basement and set out food as a lure, with the hope of slamming the door once Juliet got past the threshold.
We got the call one early Saturday morning. Irene’s basement pulley had worked! Juliet was trapped inside a small bathroom—with Irene, who was still holding tightly to the cable! Irene started making calls on her cell phone, which fortunately, she had placed in her housecoat pocket. Volunteers and the dog warden arrived and calmed Juliet enough to securely get her into a truck.
After six long weeks, Juliet of the Cemetery was captured and headed to safety at Animal Friends. The humane trap never did work. Instead, the promise of leftover Easter ham and gravy, the familiarity of an old farmhouse and the persistence of one concerned neighbor closed this chapter to our maiden’s tale.
Romeo has since been adopted into a loving family and Juliet has been receiving lots of TLC and medical care at Animal Friends. Through weeks of expert vet care and rehabilitation, she can now put full weight on her leg and is running and romping with new canine friends. We only hope that sly survivor’s next chapter for our will include the comfort of a lifelong home and loving family.
Update: Unfortunately, Juliet’s adoption did not work out. Of course, she was welcomed back to Animal Friends with open arms. We’re committed to finding her loving, lifelong home! If you can help, please call Animal Friends at 412.847.7000.