Plight of Red Dog drives would-be rescuer ‘crazy'


Polly called. She rarely does, so when it happens, I listen.

She hated to ask a favor, she said, but there’s a dog in trouble, and could I help?

“I’ve tried everything I can think of. Maybe you can get the word out.”

You remember my childhood friend Polly? Right, the one who became my roommate when we both left home in our senior year of high school. Not because we needed to rebel, but because we both needed to live with someone who wasn’t angry about our very existence.

Polly has always had a heart for the underdog, despite being an underdog her entire childhood as she struggled to survive under a reign of terror by her stepmother.

There, I’ve said it. No sugar coating is thick enough to disguise that truth.

As an adult, that translated into a mission to do everything she could for animals. There was no such thing as an unwanted kitten in her eyes, just cats who needed Polly.

Meaning she became a crazy cat lady. For the 20 years I was gone from the Valley, I could count on her house being decorated in the same style every time on my visits home — scratching posts and couch covers everywhere. Nothing was in the house that didn’t meet Polly’s strict safety standards for her fuzzy babies.

One day my former roommate married a very nice man who loves her for exactly who she is. But that did not mean Pete wanted to forever live in a world filled with cat hair floating by his face. The two reached an agreement: After Polly’s seven cats (down from a number I can’t even make myself type out) went to Kitty Heaven in natural course, there would be no more adoptions.

How could that man realize what that ultimately would mean? Yes, my friend became the crazy dog lady, becoming mother to three Australian shepherds, with Pete at her side. The dogs’ vet bills mimicked the national debt at times as Polly cared for her pets from cradle to grave over 16 years.

And the world could use a lot more Pollys, I believe. Judge for yourself.

It started in April, she told me. A lady stopped at Hat Rock State Park near Hermiston to feed her kids a picnic lunch. Two dogs approached the family, obviously hungry, Polly said.

“They would come close and she could pet them, but she couldn’t get a leash on them.”

Enter Hermiston volunteer animal rescue group Pet Saverz. Made up of four dedicated souls with no funding base or facility, they do the best they can, Pet Saverz member Sharon Mckim assured me. A week or so after Pet Saverz found out about the dogs, Mckim and the others managed to nab one out of the park.

Guess who took the pup in? Correct.

Polly named him Gulliver, for his travail of travels, and set to healing the 2-year-old Australian shepherd from the kind of trauma and terror that caused the dog to curl into a fetal position and urinate as soon as he spied Polly’s husband.

“It’s so obvious he was terribly abused,” she said. “It was weeks before he would let Pete touch him.”

It was days before Gulliver would eat, and six weeks before he would eat out of the hand that fed him.

There was no sign of aggression, however, and when Polly spent more than two hours picking off 100 or so ticks from Gulliver’s body, he sat still in a tub the entire time, too scared to move.

“Any sudden movement and he would drop to the ground trembling,” she said. “I cried so much for that poor dog.”

But at least he was caught, rescued, Polly said. “He has the happiest ending.”

Made more so by the nearly $800 Polly spent on food, veterinarian care, medicine and ads trying to find Gulliver the best home. Which came 10 weeks later by way of a woman near Seattle who fit Polly’s stringent criteria. Pete and Polly have made one visit to Gulliver’s new home and plan another.

Gulliver’s brother, or traveling companion, remains elusive to all who try to bring him in. Polly has dubbed him “Red Dog,” and she cannot stop thinking about the boy. People still spot him at Hat Rock as he strolls through the campground — sometimes within feet of outstretched hands, never accepting any offers.

Now it’s getting cold, and Red Dog has been reported as walking with some difficulty, Polly said. “I don’t know if he has puncture vine or cheat grass in his paw.”

Aussies are a very smart breed, Polly said, and don’t easily fall for tricks. “That’s part of the problem with Red Dog — he’s learned to stay away from people.”

If she could just find out if someone’s feeding the animal, that would be incredibly helpful, she added.

Polly has called around, trying to borrow a tranquilizer gun (I told you she’s crazy) and hire the expertise needed to dart Red Dog and bring him in.

“I would pay whatever it took. Fish and Wildlife has a gun, but he’s not ‘wildlife,’” she explained.

So here’s me, talking to all of you. For my crazy friend Polly, best friend to animals everywhere. She is well aware I write for a Walla Walla newspaper, she promised me.

“But someone will post it on Facebook and someone will share that and someone by Hermiston will read it. You never know.”

Truth. You never do. Call Polly at 529-1388.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or


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