Dog News

Community Helps Evasive Stray Dog Finally Get a Home

by Melanie

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2.9.13 Culvert Dog
Christine Vlahakis and her nieces Amanda Johnson Feimer and Amy Johnson.

For months, a stray dog minded an area near a manufacturing plant and nearby auto store in Yankton, South Dakota.  Employees and other residents tried to catch him, but he would never let anyone near him.  That changed at the end of January when temperatures plummeted dangerously low.

“I was getting a lot of calls,” said animal control officer Lisa Brasel.  “Sturdevant’s (Auto Parts) was getting complaints that they were letting their dog run loose.  Vishay (plant) may have gotten the same complaints.  I even crawled into a culvert after the dog, but couldn’t capture it.  It wouldn’t let me get within 25 feet.”

The dog was so difficult to catch largely due to the excellent care he was receiving from concerned citizens.

“It makes it harder when a whole bunch of people are feeding the dog, because it won’t go into a trap if it isn’t hungry,” Brasel explained.

Mike Husman said Vishay employees did whatever they could to care for the dog by making sure that he didn’t freeze, starve or dehydrate.  A dog house was even placed outside for him.

“I think that little dog had a pretty good life going on out here.  He had about 300 people looking after him,” Husman said.  “He was like a sentinel of some sort.  He sat by this tree near our plant.  He’d be there night and day.”

When weather was too extreme for him to continue patrolling the area, he took shelter in a culvert.

Around Thanksgiving, Christine Vlahakis expressed her concerns about the dog to nieces Amanda Johnson Feimer and Amy Johnson.

“I had gone out there, but I couldn’t see him,” Feimer said.  “About two weeks ago was the first time I saw him.  I couldn’t believe he had survived out in the cold.”

She and her sister spent hours talking to the pup and trying to coax him to them.

“We would be out there and the Sturdevant’s driver would come every night with treats and try to capture him,” Johnson said.  “There were so many people in the community trying to catch this dog and making sure it was fed.”

Feimer’s concern hit new levels in January when the temperatures dropped well below freezing.

“If there is an animal in peril, I can’t stand it,” she said.  “(Jan. 31) was my birthday, and it was 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill.  I told my husband I wanted to get this dog to safety for my present.  We were out there, and all the culverts were filled with ice.  There were areas the dog could go to get out of the wind, but he would just sit by a tree on a coat (he had been given).”

Her husband Mike promised to try.  Feimer soon received a call that the dog was cornered in the culvert.  Others soon join the effort to capture him.  With the help of Amy, Doug Feimer, Mark and Ethan Langley, the Feimers finally snared him.  They caged him and brought him home.

“I didn’t know if he would ever trust me or warm up to anyone, as he clearly had been abused in some way in the past and had been a wild dog for so long with no human contact,” Feimer said.  “Even though he was shy and scared, he let me pet him.”

They took their time and let the dog warm up them on his own terms.

“He was definitely scared of someone,” Feimer said.  Someone must have hurt him in the past.  He seems leery around men.”

But later that night, the dog seemed to realize he was home.

“He made eye contact for the first time, belly-crawled over to me, laid his paw over my hand and found my other hand and started kissing and kissing and kissing,” Feimer said.  “He sat up, got on his hind legs and wrapped his front paws around my neck and continued kissing.  Needless to say, I was a goner.  He wrapped himself right around my heart.”

The next day he was taken to a vet to be groomed and inspected.

“I don’t get your story,” Feimer said to her new dog.  “How were you living out there like a stray dog and you have no knots in your hair, your teeth are perfect and you are well-fed?”

He has adjusted very well to his new life.  He hasn’t had any potty issues, and is perfectly at ease on Feimer’s lap.

“By Monday afternoon, he was rolling around playing and frolicking with our other dogs,” Feimer said.  “He smiles non-stop and is so sweet and precious.”

She is waiting to name him until she finds something that suits his personality.  In the meantime, she has let Vishay workers know that the little dog is safe and happy.  They had been seeing him around since August, and were glad to know he was being properly cared for.  The animal control officer is relieved, as well.

“I’m very happy that he has been taken off the streets,” Brasel said.  “I hope he realizes how lucky he is, too.”