Last Saturday, I had a cat rescue story in the Press & Dakotan. This Saturday, I’ve got a dog rescue story.
It’s a good one.
As the photo shows, this mystery dog has brought a lot of joy to the lives of (from left) Christine Vlahakis and her nieces Amanda Johnson Feimer and Amy Johnson. The three women became concerned about the welfare of the dog after spotting it near the Vishay plant along Highway 50 in Yankton and were later able to capture it.
For months, a mystery dog patrolled the area around the Vishay plant on the east side of Yankton, capturing the hearts of those who saw him.
However, until this week the canine had always managed to elude capture himself.
Employees of the manufacturing firm and nearby Sturdevant’s Auto Parts, as well as citizens from near and far, would try to get close to the dog and would regularly set out food and water for him. A dog house was even placed in the area.
But the unnamed dog would not get close to humans. Various attempts to catch the canine were foiled.
“I was getting a lot of calls,” said Lisa Brasel, Yankton’s animal control officer. “Sturdevant’s was getting complaints that they were letting their dog run loose. Vishay 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.”
Part of what made it so hard to capture the dog was that it got such good care.
“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 stated.
Mike Husman of Vishay said employees at the plant took what responsibility they could to make sure the dog didn’t freeze, starve or get dehydrated.
“I think that little dog had a pretty good life going on out here,” he stated. “He had about 300 people looking after him.
“He was like a sentinel of some sort,” Husman continued. “He sat by this tree near our plant. He’d be there night and day.”
When the weather got to be too extreme, the dog sought shelter in a nearby culvert.
It was around Thanksgiving when Amanda Johnson Feimer became aware of the dog. Her aunt, Christine Vlahakis, had seen him and expressed concerns about the dog’s welfare.
“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.”
Feimer said she and her sister, Amy Johnson, spent hours talking to the dog and trying to coax it to seek shelter with 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 peaked last week as temperatures dipped below zero.
“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).”
On Sunday morning, Feimer’s husband, Mike, said he was going out to try again. She doubted he would have any luck.
However, she received a phone call that the dog was cornered in a culvert.
It quickly became a family effort to capture the canine. Joining Mike and Amanda were Doug Feimer, Mark Langley, Ethan Langley and Amy.
The dog was placed in a cage and went home with Mike and Amanda.
“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.”
While allowing the dog time to rest, Feimer would come in periodically during the day to pet and talk with him.
On Sunday night, something special happened.
“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.”
On Monday morning, he was groomed and checked by a veterinarian.
“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.”
The dog was potty trained from the moment he was captured and, when the Press & Dakotan visited the Feimer home this week, he was so comfortable in Feimer’s lap that you’d never know he had led a life outdoors.
Feimer said she notified people at Sturdevant’s and Vishay that the dog was in her care so they would know it was OK.
She will likely keep the dog and is still searching for a fitting name — something that reflects his special story.
“I don’t get your story,” Feimer told the 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?”
Like others who came in contact with him, Feimer said she wonders about the dog’s past. Some people said they had seen him near Vishay’s as early as late summer.
“He was definitely scared of someone. Someone must have hurt him in the past,” she stated. “He seems leery around men.”
The animal control officer said she was pleased when she found out the dog had been captured and was living a good life.
“I’m very happy that he has been taken off the streets,” Brasel stated. “I hope he realizes how lucky he is, too.”