Rescuing A Dog Didn’t Turn Out Exactly Like We Wanted

While searching for new camping spots in the Mendocino National Forest Gia and I came across a beautiful young dog wandering on a road in Upper Lake, California. I immediately pulled over and hoped he might want to be rescued and not run away like so many other of our rescue attempts end. Luckily all it took was for me to make “kissy noises” to him and he ran right to me. Around his neck was the remainder of some baling twine he had obviously chewed through.

I cut that off him and slipped a cheap cinch leash (that we keep in the Tacoma just for such occasions) that was attached to one of Willow’s old collars around his neck and attached it to my front bumper so he wouldn’t stray back into the road. Every time I do this, with any dog, I always remember that non-funny scene from the 1983 movie (am I dating myself?) National Lampoon’s Vacation when Clark (Chevy Chase) forgets to untie Dinky the dog’s leash from the rear bumper before driving off. I will never forget to untie the leash.

On closer inspection we could see that he was, if not abused then certainly neglected with his ribs showing and glaring indentations where normal muscle mass should be. I’ve seen worse, lots worse, but that doesn’t make this level of malnourishment “okay.”

He had stunning white teeth with zero plaque so I guessed he was a year old, at most. He still had his testicles. He looked to be a mix with mostly German Shepherd in his DNA. He was beautiful. Before Gia came into my life I expected this exact scenario to happen; driving somewhere and finding a dog that needed rescuing who looked essentially like this. Had I not had Gia I would have made him mine without a second thought.

During the few short minutes while I was doing this quick inspection and looking up the nearest kill-free animal shelter on my phone Gia was standing on her bed looking out the window intensely (but strangely quiet) starring what I at first thought were daggers at The Boy. Finding that the nearest shelter was over an hour away (and would be closed shortly) and the sun was already low in the sky I decided to keep him with us for the night and take him to the shelter the next day. Now the question was where was I going to put him in our tightly packed Tacoma and would Gia allow him in close proximity without going all postal on him. I quickly removed the gear I have stowed on top of our Iceco 68 quart fridge/freezer and crammed it into what nooks and crannies I could find or create back in the camper shell. Once a spot had been cleared I then prepared myself for this all to quickly go wrong with Gia barking, snarling and trying to kill him. Amazingly, when I opened up the passenger door and let them get a good, controlled first close-up look and smell of each other Gia’s tense, tightly-wound posture immediately softened and she calmly allowed him to try and jump up into the Tacoma. I say “try” because he had no idea how to jump up into the truck and seemed like he had never before been in any automobile in his life. After a couple of aborted attempts he finally allowed me to pick him up and place him up on top of the fridge. Even while I was prepared to quickly separate the two if this meeting in close quarters went poorly, surprisingly Gia and he sniffed each other thoroughly but calmly until I got back around the front of the Tacoma and into the driver’s seat and started the engine. I had no idea where we were going to camp for the night and hoped any jostling that happened as we looked for a spot wouldn’t erupt into a physical conflict. I put the Tacoma into gear and smoothly pulled back onto the road and mere moments later was rewarded with this sight.

I Am Still Amazed She Took To Him So Quickly

We quickly found a turn off onto a dirt road which our MVUM indicated was a National Forest Service road. Heading up into a recently burned and sad looking area of the Mendocino National Forest we drove for about 20 minutes looking for a suitable spot to camp for the night. We tried several possible forks in the road that didn’t pan out and, since it was getting dark, we stopped at the next possibility we came across and it was “good enough” so we made due and I set up camp. I let Gia and the new boy out hoping he would stay around. I needn’t have worried since they quickly started running around chasing each other and playing with a raccoon plush toy.

You Could Tell He Was Just Finding Out About Toys

That first night he tried to come up into the camper shell with Gia and I but 1) he was incapable of jumping up onto the top of the rear bumper or the open tailgate and 2) when he attempted either move Gia seemed less than happy with his encroachment and gave off visual and audible warning signs of an impending “Snap” and so I didn’t force the issue and 3) he was covered in ticks when we found him. Gia had done great so far in allowing him into the cab and on to her dog bed and I felt no need to speed anything along at the risk of possible noisy, bloody drama and Vet bills. Plus we’ve had enough of ticks for one year.

Instead I put up the cheap, crap-tier, Walmart Ozark Trail tent. Gia trashed it at Horse Linto by trying to jump through the mesh “windows” so it is broken and held together with Gorilla Tape and good thoughts. I still carry it with us and sometimes use it to keep gear in during inclement weather, a sleeping area for Gia when she has rolled in something nasty or as a decoy tent to add a realist looking campsite as a buffer zone between us and other campers in certain situations. It was under $40 so when it finally and truly falls apart I consider it a consumable and will just replace it. The Boy seemed to like and use Willow’s (and now Gia’s) hot weather mesh dog bed.

I set up that bed in the tent with a couple of folded up sheets on it for him and left a water bowl accessible. Once Gia and I closed ourselves into the camper shell for the night he whined for several minutes but eventually figured it out and stayed mostly in the tent. I sleep lightly and heard him rouse himself several times during the night for one reason or another. I slept relatively poorly worrying that he might take off for good or interact with the bear that was in the area.

My Well-Used 16oz Klean Kanteen Insulated Pint Glass For Scale. I Use It For Coffee.

When we awoke I was happy to see he was still there, heard us moving around in the shell and was immediately whining and clawing at the tailgate for attention. Not wanting his tick-riddled dirty self riding in the shell near our sleeping area or even on Gia’s dog bed next to my driver’s seat I used a tube of Frontline Plus laying around and dripped it down his back first thing that morning (Oct 20th) which worked about half as well as I expected or wanted. I eventually augmented that with an application of K9Advantix II a week later on the 26th which seems to have completed the process. He had lots of little scabs all over his body which made it hard to differentiate between scab and tick on easy, first inspection. It seemed I had a 50/50 chance between the two which decreased as the tick medicine did its work.

As I was packing up and planning to take him back to Ukiah (about an hour’s drive from where we were) where a couple of animal shelters are located I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye he and Gia blissfully romping, playing tug-of-war and “mouth wrestling” together. The thought of this dog having such a poor beginning to his life and then being placed into the industrial/government animal shelter system just broke my heart and I quickly decided to see if I could find him a good home through my collection of friends and acquaintances. Some are involved in animal welfare and rescue organizations themselves or have strong connections to those options. A couple others recently lost their own fur kids and so, while possibly “too soon,” I wanted to offer them the opportunity to bring such a sweet boy into their lives.

I had to be back in the San Francisco Bay Area on November 7th for family business and bringing back such a handful of dog energy would have been… let’s just say disruptive and frowned upon. So I gave him the little over two weeks until I could not have him with me anymore in hopes some good outcome might present itself in that time. That decision made, I wrote a short intro text and sent it along with a few pictures of The Boy to perhaps a dozen contacts. Then the wait began. To pass that time we headed back to Highway 101, headed North and eventually turned East on Highway 162 (a.k.a. Covelo Road) towards one of my favorite camping spots, Grizzly Flats, about 25 miles outside of Covelo, CA. The last time I was there was with Willow in April 2022. Snow was still on the ground and we had the entire area to ourselves then. This time, in mid October, the weather was cooling but no snow had yet fallen for the season and that meant other people had come to enjoy the area. Not just one or a couple but, literally, dozens of vehicles and scores of people had taken over the actual area where the old Grizzly Flat Station had once stood. They were not camping but were seemingly living there, commune-style, as they had erected about a half dozen of those steel-framed, vinyl-sided portable carport/garages for some weird reason. Not wanting to be near such a situation and unwilling to keep these two dogs tethered so as to not have them wander freely and interact with such a large group (which would mean I would have to interact with such a large group) we reluctantly decided to find another spot in the general area.

Heading back down the M1 Forest Service Road we saw and pulled into three different spots that looked promising only to find them also already occupied. Eventually, 4 miles down the road from Grizzly Flats we found a suitable spot all of an 1/8th of a mile above the Yuki Wilderness turnoff.

Across the M1 road from this camp spot was a pretty expansive view to the west and of the valley below.

The Morning Valley Fog Cleared Each Day Around Noon

To the East side of the campsite was a steep grass and scrub-covered rolling hill heading quickly down towards that valley’s floor. The picture below is just the first “terrace” or “steppe” below our camp spot. There are two more as you descend the slope as we found out later in our stay during “the cow incident.”

Gia In The Red Circle, The Boy In The Blue

We stayed close to two weeks at this same spot waiting to hear some hopeful news back from our group of friends and acquaintances who were on the lookout for a good home for The Boy. I was answering questions and sending out additional pictures seemingly daily so I hoped that was a good indication of the level of interest he was getting. During this extended camping bout I compiled a long(ish) list of thoughts and observations on The Boy’s behaviors mostly in response to questions texted to me by various interested parties. These are many of them:

Extremely submissive. Cannot roll over and give up his belly fast enough.
Completely timid. Not at all Aggressive.

Does not seem sneaky or devious, just puppy curiosity. No other real interactions with other dogs or small animals except him following Gia’s lead in trying to dig out critters under bushes. When there is some critter to find and “interact with” under a bush they both ram their faces in there side to side.

Right when I found him I slipped a leash on and he was fine with it. Since then, he has extremely good recall (except with the cow) and we’re hanging out in the Mendocino NF so there hasn’t been a real need for a leash.

Gia opens her mouth when he licks it and allows him that submissive behavior.

You can bend over and put your face in his and he gives a gentle kiss.

Some of the pluses I’m crediting to him have more than a little to do with Gia becoming less reactive, more tolerant and just plain liking him.

He walks back and forth *right* in front of and brushing you like a cat and trying to trip you. Gentle fascist goosestepping helps.

He is very gentle when taking treats.

He wants to snuggle in bed.

Gia will lie in wait as he approaches and he comes and “pile drive” pounces on her like Calvin & Hobbes and she gleefully rolls on her back and starts nicely nibbling on his face.

He starts getting “antsy” (standing on and pawing you, incessantly licking any part of you he can reach) in the morning around sunrise and seemingly needs to be let out for a pee and then comes back in 5 minutes or less.

A short, sharp, loud whistle gets him to your side a.s.a.p. Sooner than Gia the vast majority of the time. In closer ranges “kissy” sounds work just as well.

He chases cars and is “street stupid.”

While searching for ticks it is apparent that you can touch and manipulate any part of his body without him actively denying you. Quickly though, he starts very effective passive denial (wiggling) to prevent long(er) term inspection and remedies. Two people can beat him at this game.

Still intact, he scent-marks inappropriately. Care must be taken.

I don’t want to overfeed him so right now I am feeding him the same amount of food as Gia (2 cups of kibble in the morning with a 1/4 can of wet “stew” dog food on top and 1 cup of kibble at night usually after squeezing half a horse pill-sized fish oil capsule on the dry kibble to sweeten the deal). Then a “greenie” to keep his nice puppy white teeth as is.

Beating Gia back to me after a whistle gets some sort of small treat and smothering approval.

When I bring out a brush he’s not afraid of it but he’s unsure of it. He lets me brush him but he’s not quite thrilled with it yet.

He can jump down out of the passenger seat or the camper shell but he is incapable of jumping up on his own. He easily allows you to pick him up.

===============================

Since I was allowing them incredible amounts of freedom to roam I had both Gia and The Boy wearing Bear Bells on their collars as well as a cheap but effective e-collar (as long as you ignore the “IPX7 Waterproof” statement on the listing…because they are not). When I needed to know where they were off romping I would whistle first and then listen for the sound of the bear bells as they were running back towards me. If I didn’t hear the bells I then whistled a second time and gave them each a quick vibration on their individual collars and then waited again to see if that broke their focus enough to head back in my direction. If that still didn’t work I gave them one more chance with a whistle, a wait, another whistle and a tick of the static discharge to indicate the seriousness of my recall “request.” Only once did I need that third option and even that wasn’t enough during those cow shenanigans.

Our adoption options for The Boy were slowly dwindling. A “too soon” response from one of the folks who had recently lost their dog, a couple of “already have too many/enough dogs,” and a few outright “no” answers as well. A couple of people kept wanting more info and I continued to supply it up until the time a decision on where I was going to deliver The Boy to had to be made. I informed the couple remaining interested parties that the time had come to make a yes or no decision. Happily an acquaintance up in Portland, Oregon said “99% chance of adopting him and so ‘yes.'” They were excited and had bought leashes and dog booties and beds and had a Vet appointment early the next week for vaccines and to get him “fixed.” Unfortunately for me that was also the farthest direction of travel of all the possibilities, but… it was essentially a yes. We packed up camp the next morning and headed that direction. Two looong days of driving later we got there and met at one of the finer off-leash dog areas on the West Coast, 1000 Acres, on the Sandy River delta in Troutdale, Oregon for the initial meet and greet on Saturday, November 4th.

Here is where this tale becomes less than heartening and I don’t need to go into great detail. Suffice it to say that, over 24 hours with meetings both at the dog park and in a backyard in Portland the two dogs never really “clicked.” They never fought although The Boy apparently had bad manners and gave the other dog a few, inconsequential nips while his back was turned. I was told this was unlike their dog who usually is playful and wrestling within moments of meeting a compatible friend. I tried to make the point that these had been good first meetings (certainly not “bad”) and the two would grow to love each other in a short period of time. Once The Boy recovered from being neutered he would calm down and become more chill and amiable than I already thought he was and would blossom when in the regular company of their dog and the humans’ constant, loving attention. They tried one last play date in the backyard that next morning and then came back out after a good 20 minutes and I just knew they had decided not to adopt him.

They were highly apologetic and I told a bit of a fib and said I understood (and I kinda did but still thought and told them it was a bit of a hasty decision). I had told them what my next option was (dropping him off at a local no-kill shelter) and they understood but that didn’t sway them to change their decision. So, I situated my gear in the Tacoma and loaded up both dogs and drove the 10 minutes to Multnomah County Animal Services. I pressed the intercom button and told the person on the other end that I had found a dog and needed to turn him in. Some workers came out with a microchip reader and checked The Boy out from head to tail and found nothing (as I has predicted). We got buzzed through the door and in all of 20 seconds someone took his leash and led him one way through a door while I was directed the opposite way through a different door. I never saw him again. I filled out some paperwork and they took a picture of my Driver’s License because apparently there are people who habitually adopt or steal dogs and then immediately turn them in to the shelter – WTF! I asked for and was given his “intake number” so I could call in and find out how he was doing in the future and then was directed towards the Exit. The whole process from pushing the intercom button to walking out took all of 12 minutes. I was somewhat stunned at the efficiency of their system but happy he was now at essentially a No-Kill Shelter. I was told that he would never be put down due to time or space constraints and only be euthanized if he was deemed to be a “Dangerous Dog” (that is not going to happen) or if he is found to have some incurable, painful disease.

Before starting the looong drive back down into California we made a stop back at 1000 Acres so Gia could burn some energy and get some sniffs in. I readjusted our gear so that she had her normal amount of space up in the Tacoma’s cab and then we headed South.

I have since checked in with the shelter online and see that he has been named Lasso. As of the date I made this post live (December 3rd) he was still available and their adoption fees are reduced for the whole month if you are interested. I wish I could have done more for The Boy but I know he is in a better position than when I found him and I expect him to be adopted rather quickly and have a great life as a member of a loving family. UPDATE (Dec. 13th): I just checked in on him and he does not show up on the website anymore but there is a message saying “Sorry this pet has already found a home, return to Adoptables to see other adoptable pets” so that outcome makes me very happy.

Leave a Reply