2010-01-13 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Teddy” a small Newfoundland mix, spent at least four months living in the woods where Southern State meets Bethpage Parkway. A group of dedicated people were determined to bring him to safety. It took a “perfect storm” encompassing more

than ominous weathera

frenzy of emotions, circumstances, and skills too- before Oyster Bay Town Shelter was finally able to trap him during last month’s blizzard. Thankfully the shelter did, just in time.

Chances are Teddy didn’t have much early contact with people. Although he bears a strong resemblance to the “black teddy bear” semi-feral pack that lives in the nearby cemeteries and landfill, he originally came from a different area. Puppies have a crucial socialization window. Some miss out on positive associations with strangers because they are never handled; even hoarders’ dogs can act this way due to isolation.

The elusive Newfie mix ~ “Teddy.” The elusive Newfie mix ~ “Teddy.” Teddy’s history revealed itself over time. It seems that this wasn’t the first time he eluded kind captors. Previously, another shelter had pursued him for months. Once caught, he remained shy but never aggressive. He began to trust dog walkers, but always had one eye on an exit. After several months there, he was adopted by a home in Wantagh last spring but escaped a few days later. By fall there were multiple sightings of a similar dog described as a “Bernese Mt. Mix” near South Park Drive, adjoining Southern State in Massapequa Park. It turns out this was the furry fugitive -Teddy.

Teddy’s den was in a dangerous spot alongside the parkway, on the border between two towns. A feral cat feeder first spied him and posted an online APB. She borrowed a Babylon Shelter trap overnight but was unsuccessful in capturing the dog. Oyster Bay Shelter sent patrols, but they never saw him. A trap set by the Town could not be left unattended.

Meanwhile a network of folks committed to finding lost dogs and rescuing others in need has evolved since the search for Vivi, the Westminster Whippet lost at JFK in 2006. I have said this many times: Although we never found Vivi, countless dogs have been saved because of her. Eddie, Kathy and Debbie (who met because of Vivi and since have been responsible for some remarkable recoveries) sprang into action for Teddy. Little Shelter loaned them a trap. Just like a cat that has been trapped before, Teddy was wise to everyone’s tactics. He knew how to feast on their offerings without stepping on the trip plate. He enjoyed room service from a safe distance. However, Eddie did trap another stray, later adopted from Oyster Bay Shelter when no one reclaimed her.

Eddie (known online as “thenydogman”) is as determined as Teddy is frustrating. He spent months trying to get the crafty Newfie. Once the dog entered the trap only to bolt as a motorcycle sped by. When Plan A didn’t work, Eddie and company got permission from the State to set up a fenced pen rigged with a pull cord. Their strategy had worked in the past to round up two Shelties that had been thrown from a car upstate. They used sand to check for paw prints. One night with Teddy corralled inside, Eddie pulled the cord. Gotcha! Then Teddy promptly scaled over the six foot high fence. The next day, Eddie put a top on the pen but Teddy never ventured in it again.

Feral cat trap/neuter/release caretakers know that to trap successfully there needs to be one consistent feeding station, followed by a brief fasting. The same holds true for dogs. Besides the dedicated crew, other “experts” showed up. Part of the trouble with Teddy was that various factions meant well, but their actions and opinions conflicted. There was so much food, Teddy could have become a caterer. Even though he didn’t need to enter the trap, the constant chow kept him in the area.

In mid-December Oyster Bay Town intervened. Eddie’s pen came down. For a week, the shelter put a humane trap on that same spot and checked it several times a day. The feral cat feeder still concerned about Teddy was asked to move food sources. Residents offered to monitor the trap; all visitors were supposed to stay away.

Oyster Bay Shelter has a small staff, so the upper echelon, long removed from field work, led Operation Teddy. Danny, deputy commissioner, and Charlie, shelter director, dressed up for the task. Picture them in their ties and shiny shoes traipsing through the brush. On Dec. 17, the day of the blizzard, Danny wired roast beef to the back of the trap and secured honey maple ham, sliced thin, to the trip plate. (Shh... don’t tell his wife it was from their refrigerator.) Around 6:30 pm they got a call that Teddy was in the trap. By the time they cut through the fence to load the trap into the truck, the storm was a whiteout. Thenext day the trap plus Teddy would have been buried in drifts.

Back at the shelter, they noticed that Teddy had stepped through his metal choker, now imbedded in his neck and shoulder. Theycut it off,but the wound was terribly infected. The vet was kind enough to open his clinic during the storm to admit him. Teddy spent a week there, several days on IV, and is now healing nicely. Mixed Breeds in Need volunteer behaviorist is working with him while his fan club of rescuers follows his progress. Some are expressing interest in him. As sweet as he is, Teddy #856 remains a flight risk and will need an experienced dog own owner or foster that can provide a secure setting.

Be it the barometer, sheer exhaustion, hunger, the infection or the fact that Oyster Bay Shelter followed a focused plan based on clues of others who tried so hard, Teddy is safe and sound now. We all wish he understood how much we’d like him to stay that way.

For Adoption at Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: “ Romeo” #603 a Cane Corso mix has also spent a lot of time training with the behaviorist while “C. J.” #661 is a 3 year old declawed tabby in the lobby showcase.

Dogs: “Duke” #004- Terrier mix; “Storm” #870- Siberian Husky; “Simba” #685 - Pit mix; “Snickers” #814- big Beagle.

Cats: cinnamon “Ernest” #777; orange & white, extra toes “Friskie” #582.

** Don’t forget: Last Hope’s “Catch of the Day” luncheon to benefit Fix-A-Feral programs at Popei’s Clam House, Deer Park-Sun. Jan. 17 from 1 to 5 pm. Tickets $40. Feline theme prizes; also raffling off 14 FREE spay/ neuter certificates for ferals. Call 516-220-6695.

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