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Please Rescue Me

No one knows how or why this beautiful loving dog ended up on the run. Rumor has it that he had been fending for himself by hunting the wheat fields for a few months. His once beautiful golden
flowing coat was now matted and full of terribly
painful fox tails. His gate slowing as they tunneled
their way into his tender flesh.

Benji as we called him, found comfort under the
deck of a house against the wheat field. There
was shade, and he could snag a bit of cat food
to help curb the hunger pains. Erika took pity on him and provided fresh water and food. In spite of her generosity, Benji had learned that people were not to be trusted. As soon as anyone came into the back yard, he would make his way out from under the deck and take a walk. It didnít take long for him to blend in with the dry grass and disappear. Evidently she was not the only Good Samaritan. There were others that had seen Benji roaming the neighborhoods of this small rural community. They would leave him offerings of food and try to earn his trust.

When it became apparent that Benji was definitely lost, afraid, and not going to survive on his own, Erika started calling for reinforcements. Small rural communities donít always have the best support for helping stray animals, so neighbors tried to help. Benji always stayed out of reach. We got the SOS email from the local kennel club. The speculation was that Benji might be a poodle mix of some kind. Since we raise standard poodles, and understand they have their own way of doing things, we thought maybe we could help.

Myself, 8 year old Annie, 10 year old Dakoda and our 2 standard poodles went out to try and find Benji. I went around the corner of the house, and sat on the grass with my back to the deck, talking softly to him. As was expected, Benji came out behind me. We only got a glimpse of him as he carefully made his way out of hiding and down the road. We let the dogs out to leave their scent behind, and hung out in the shade for awhile. Then rubbing our scent on treats, we placed the gifts of food under the deck and left.

We knew that to make friends with Benji would take days to weeks, if we didnít scare him off in the process. So contacting the local humane society we were able to borrow a large dog sized trap. We took it out and placed it next to the deck with lots of yummy smelly dog food. Benji had apparently been down this path before. He was not to be caught so easily. His wounds and the heat were working against him, and his physical condition was deteriorating quickly. Knowing that we had about a minute before Benji would escape his place of refuge, we devised a plan to enclose him under the deck, and see if that would encourage him to go into the trap.

Taking our puppy play pen panels we headed back out to Athena. Dakoda and Annie took one section, and I took the other. We quickly placed them on the 2 open sides of the deck, and the kids took positions on the other side. The boards on the third side were open enough that if he had wanted to, he could have gone through. After realizing that his escape route had been sealed off Benji went back against the house to lay down. Apparently he was in no hurry to leave after all. After securing the panels so they would stay in place, I decided to join him.

I crawled under the deck with Pupperoni as a peace offering. As I got close, I offered him the treat. He growled, moved a few feet away and lay back down. We tossed treats in his direction, he totally ignored them. So I changed my approach, and body language. Instead of moving directly toward him, I scooted sideways, just started crowding his space a little. He got up and moved to the front of the deck. When I went toward the front he moved to the back. Well, this could go on for several days. Sixteen by Sixteen gets a lot bigger when you are crawling around on your hands and knees under a deck. One of the boards that came off the side of the deck was laying underneath, so after a few times of playing follow the leader, I leaned it up against the center supports, when Benji made his way back to the front, I was able to shove it against the panels and close the space down to about eight by eight. So far so good, he has not tried to eat me yet. Neither was he showing the slightest interest in going into the trap. It was time for back up. Erika came around to the side and together we were able to move the board closer to the front still.

Do you remember the movie Jungle Book, the part where Mowglie ends up face to face with the tiger? Now that he has no where else to go. We are nose to nose. I am trying to balance a piece of plywood with one hand, and blocking the last shadow of escape with the other arm. Trying not to panic, I let him sniff my hand. It is dark and hard to see much detail under the deck, on top of that Benjiís hair is down over his eyes, so I really can not tell what he might be thinking. I said, "I need to see those eyes", and reached up to brush the hair aside. That is when it happened. This dog that had spent several weeks to months trying to stay out of reach just melted and leaned into my hand. It was love at first touch. I began petting him with my one free arm, and was able to put a leash on and lead him into the trap. Then we brought Alex, our 2 Ĺ year old Standard Poodle over to encourage him. We loaded the trap with him in it, into the back of the pickup and headed for home.

Even on the drive home Sunday afternoon, Benji did not eat the treats or food that we had given him. He showed no signs of aggression when I reached back into the trap to put the leash on him. He gladly followed me into the barn and as soon as we put him in one of the stalls, he immediately relaxed and started chowing down like he hadnít seen food in weeks. We over an hour brushing him and giving him
lots of attention that first night. He loved
the kids, the dogs, the cats, riding in the
car. We didnít know what to expect, but
Benji had let us be his friends.

The next day on Monday the hard
work began. Brushing out the mats as the easy part. We had worked
through the clumps of foxtails imbedded in the tender skin under his legs, chest, and belly. When we started working on his feet we found stinky encrusted mats of hair, with blood, yuck, and fox tails between his toes. Benji did not flinch or complain as we opened up the abscessed wounds, clipped off the hair and probed for foxtails. Another 5 hours later, with 3 of us working diligently, we were ready for a bath, and a blow dry.

                                               When Benji was finished, I opened the
                                               door and let him come inside the house.
                                               His tail went up for the first time, as he
                                               gave Dottie, our 8 month old poodle a
                                               playful kiss. After romping with the dogs
                                               for a bit, and Alex helping by licking his
                                               wounds. Then he was ready for another
                                               good nights sleep out in the barn.

Now that we can see him, maybe we can figure out what is he. He is obviously not a poodle cross as was first indicated. His blonde hair is straight and soft, curling gently over his big brown eyes. He has a long flowing tail, and a scruffy face. He is almost as big as my female poodles. I started looking on the internet for long haired dogs. There were a couple of choices. Old English Sheep Dogs have short tails, Wheaten Terriers are close, but the ears and face
are all wrong. I found a picture that was obviously
his breed, but had no indication what that might be.
I found another website with good pictures and
better descriptions. There he was, a Bearded Collie.
Those were his ears, his nose, his tail, his hair, and
his conformation. The description matched and
blonde is a standard color.

I was able to find a rescue website to list him on. By the next day I had several e-mails from across the country offering to give him a home. People that had other bearded collies and wanted a play mate for them.

By Tuesday Benjiís wounds are showing good signs of healing. I was able to remove two more foxtails that had started to fester. I also noticed an abscess forming on the back of one leg. We took him for a ride, introduced him to as many situations and people as we could. He took it all in stride. No matter the commotion, or strange hands reaching for him, he just looked to see if we were relaxed, took a deep breath and decided to give it a try. He met new friends, got lots of treats and had a good time. We even stopped off at the Veterinarians office to weigh him, and introduce him to the concept. Wednesday we cleared more foxtails, and lanced the abscess on his leg. I still was unable to locate and extract that foxtail. Thursday he had an appointment with the vet, so I just flushed it out and treated it. By now Benji has been treated for worms, vaccinated, micro-chipped, de-matted, brushed, bathed, poked, and prodded. Not once with all of this obviously painful treatment has he even growled, much less offered to become aggressive.

                                        Thursday the Dr. removed the fox tail from
                                        the abscess on Benjiís leg, and foxtails from
                                        both ears, gave him a rabies shot and a clean
                                        bill of health. He is ready to go to his new
                                        home. I had narrowed down the applicants to
                                        a home in Seattle. It would be much better
                                        for Benji if his new family could come and pick
                                        him up instead of having to fly him across the
                                        country. They had a female bearded collie
                                        that could have been his twin sister. Like my
                                        poodles they love to romp and play hard. So
                                        they would be good company for each other.

One more brush out, a nail trim and six days after having to capture this scruffy wounded stray, he is going home with his newly adopted family. He and Miss Penny are curled up together in the back seat of their car, ready for their drive back to Seattle.

What an amazing experience for all of us. I could not believe how much trust he put in my reactions to things that frightened him. It was kind of like a reverse service dog. Someone with anxiety or PTSD will look to their dog to determine if their fears are warranted. When they see the dog is relaxed, they are able to calm themselves down. He may always need that reassurance. I am hopeful that he will make a full recovery. Either way he has a wonderful family and a bright eyed sister to help him adjust.

Barbara Pierce

rescueme.org was an incredible resource. They made it possible to place Benji into his new home so quickly.
Benji & Penny
after a good romp
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