Chapter 10: Tuck
I learned of Tuck in January of 2014 when my brother sent me a picture of a dog hanging around the hardware store in Tukwila, about 20 minutes from my home. He looked like a large Shiba Inu to me. I later learned that Tuck is a Jindo, a breed I had never heard of before. Jindos are aloof and independent, in general, and Tuck certainly matched that description. The night I first learned of him, I took my little magnet dog, Fozzie the friendly white poodle, to see if we could lure Tuck to safety. (Tuck was the name we gave him; I never learned what his name was before.)
When we arrived at the hardware store, Tuck wasn’t hard to find. He was eating hotdogs that customers had tossed into the landscape for him. I brought Fozzie out on a leash, and Tuck lunged and barked at Fozzie as if claiming that territory for himself. He did not want to share his prime begging spot. I quickly reeled Fozzie in and put him in the car. Next, I used Calming Signals—body language based on dog behavior, designed to put a dog at ease. Turid Rugaas has written extensively on Calming Signals, and I have adapted her techniques for use in capturing stray dogs. Tuck would come fairly close to me, but you could tell other people had tried luring him and grabbing him. He was very careful to stay a certain distance, about two feet, and always keep watch for my movements. I knew from the start that this would not be a quick capture.
I talked to several people who worked at the hardware store, and they said he had been hanging around for weeks. The heart of Tukwila is a major regional shopping center, bounded by major freeways on the west and north sides, with nothing but stores and parking lots for mile after mile. Tuck had been seen originally about a mile west, but in the past week he had gravitated toward the hardware store, which was also close to the Green River, a water source for a thirsty dog. Animal Control had been trying to catch Tuck from the beginning. They had set humane traps for him. A few people I spoke with were adamant that they did not want Animal Control to catch him because they assumed Tuck would be euthanized. Some people admitted they were closing the humane trap set by Animal Control, to make sure they couldn’t catch him. I did not try to reason with these people, to tell them that our local shelter does not routinely euthanize healthy dogs. I might have told these people that Tuck would be safer in the shelter than crossing busy streets, but I knew there was no point in trying to persuade them. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who think it is in a dog’s best interests to roam the streets and live off of discarded junk food, but I am no longer surprised when I encounter this attitude.
We learned of Tuck about five months after we started Useless Bay Sanctuary, a nonprofit volunteer organization whose mission is to help stray dogs with no known owner. Another volunteer, Bonnie, agreed to come and work with Tuck on her day off. She stopped by and met him on her way home from work, and she gave him lots of beef and chicken to begin to establish a bond. As she worked with him, I stayed back and steered people away from them. Many people would come up and say, Hey, what’s going on with the dog. When I would tell them he was a stray we were trying to lure to safety, most people would say, Oh, I can get him to come to me. Let me give it a try. Then I would have to tell them, as diplomatically as possible, that hundreds of people had already tried the usual things, and they wouldn’t work with Tuck. If Tuck would just let himself be captured by the first person who talked baby talk at him and offered him a treat, he wouldn’t still be roaming the streets three weeks later. One person in particular would not stop trying to lure him. I have no authority to tell people what to do, so I just stood back and watched as she tried all of the things we already knew wouldn’t work. Fortunately, Tuck was used to this behavior, and her failed attempts to grab him didn’t scare him too far away.
The next morning, Bonnie arrived at the hardware store before it opened, and she spent time getting to know Tuck. She brought cheese, chicken, bacon, and hotdogs. She spent about eight hours with him that day, a Wednesday, getting to know him. She talked to him and sang songs to him, letting him get used to her movements and voice. When Bonnie left for the evening, she left an article of clothing she had worn so that Tuck could become accustomed to her scent. She stopped by Thursday and Friday before and after work in order to build a routine with him. She would play a game with Tuck where she would run ahead and hide behind a tree, and then Tuck would come and find her and get a treat. Saturday morning, Bonnie planned to spend the entire day with Tuck. I planned to come out and assist by keeping people away, but another case kept me busy until after noon. Bonnie led Tuck to the park by the river and worked with him there, away from the busy shopping areas. As the day went on, Tuck allowed Bonnie to pet her. By noon, she was able to pet him all over his body. He lay down beside her and fell asleep, and she was able to slip a leash over him. Using a leash looped through its own handle, she made a slip lead, which would tighten up if Tuck tried to back out of it. Bonnie also put a Martingale collar on him. A Martingale collar is designed to tighten up when a dog pulls, preventing him from backing out of the collar. Bonnie had Tuck secured with two leashes, and Tuck was okay with that—not as relaxed as before, but not panicking. It was when Bonnie tried to get Tuck in the car that he panicked.
I came down to assist in the afternoon, and we tried to think of various ways to get Tuck into a vehicle or a kennel. In past cases, when we have had a dog on a leash that was too panicked to go into a kennel or a car, I have set up a humane trap to lead the dog into. When the trap is open and ready, you thread the leashes through the trap and pull the dog in. Then you can close the trap and your dog is secure. Once dogs have time to calm down and get used to people, most of them will allow people to handle them and help them. The transition is the hard part. Tuck was more resistant than most, and we worried that if he pulled hard enough, he would eventually be able to back out of both collars. It was getting dark, and Bonnie had been there ten hours. She had had Tuck on a leash for four hours. He was allowing it, but each time we tried to get him contained, he took longer to settle. Bonnie couldn’t just live in the park, holding Tuck’s leash for the rest of her life. If I had had a catch pole, I would have felt more secure wrestling Tuck into a vehicle, but I didn’t have one available at the time. A catch pole is a rigid pole with a metal cable looped at one end. When you pull the cable through the middle of the pole, it tightens up and a ratcheting mechanism prevents it from coming loose.
Bonnie and I decided to call Animal Control for help because they would have a catch pole. Officer McLaren had given me her card one day when she was out moving the trap to a new, hidden location where people wouldn’t mess with it. When I called, she was just about to leave work, but she promised to come right over to help with Tuck, the dog she had been trying to help for weeks. When she arrived, about twenty minutes later, she revealed that she had broken her foot in a work related accident that day, and was slow getting around. She prepared her truck with an open kennel for Tuck, and she brought the catch pole over to where Bonnie had Tuck on the two leashes. Tuck didn’t like the catch pole, to say the least, and he rolled like an alligator when Officer McLaren pulled him toward the truck. He looked like a wild animal. Bonnie had to look away, seeing her new friend so upset. Once in the truck, Tuck settled down, and Officer McLaren told us later that she was able to pet Tuck once he was in the shelter and settled into his kennel.
Bonnie went to visit Tuck in the shelter almost every day. The County agreed to work with us, Useless Bay Sanctuary, to get Tuck into a foster home and eventually find a family to adopt him. Finding a foster was not easy, as Tuck did not get along with other dogs. As with many of the dogs helped by UBS, we worried about Tuck escaping because he would be very hard to catch again. We fitted him with a GPS collar just in case. Bonnie would have loved to foster and adopt Tuck, but she already had two dogs and two cats. Bonnie contacted a rescue organization specializing in Jindos, and they put us in touch with a local family experienced in fostering Jindo dogs. Tuck stayed with this foster for several months. They loved him, even though he wasn’t easy to live with. Tuck’s ideal was to have a door open at all times, so they often left a door open for him even in the winter. They kept Tuck separate from their other dogs except for times when he was closely supervised. Tuck gained weight and seemed happy in their care.
Eventually, after a long search, we found someone to adopt Tuck. It was not an ideal situation because the adopter lived in an apartment. We explained about Tuck’s behavior and history, and he assured us that he would take Tuck for long walks several times a day. When we checked in on him a few weeks after the adoption, things seemed to be going okay. Months later, we got the call from Tuck’s new owner that Tuck had attacked a cat that was hiding in the bushes of the apartment complex. The owner didn’t know the cat was there, and didn’t have time to react to prevent Tuck from attacking. The cat survived, but the veterinary bill was large. Tuck’s new owner said Tuck’s aggression was increasing. We agreed to take Tuck back. He went into the foster home that had him months earlier. Blood work at the vet revealed his thyroid levels were off, and thyroid medication seemed to improve Tuck’s demeanor and impulse control. We began the search again for someone to adopt a difficult dog. 14 months after Bonnie and I helped Tuck off the streets, we found a new home for him. This new adopter is very familiar with Jindos, and he knows how to work with the breed's aloof, quirky nature. Tuck has been there several months without incident. Tuck continued to wear his GPS collar for the first few months in his new home, just in case. We also have a sample of his scent stored in a freezer, in case we need to use a search dog to locate him. We check in on him frequently. We remain hopeful that this will be the right home, and Tuck will have a great life. Should Tuck ever need our help in the future, we are here for him.