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After 5 months, shelter dog found safe

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TALENT — Staring up at vet technician Leah Hertel with worried eyes Tuesday afternoon, the medium-sized heeler in the lobby of Jackson County Animal Services was still recuperating from his attempt at life on the run.

Surrendered to shelter officials at the Jackson County Expo five days after the Almeda fire, he had been on a solo adventure for the latter half of 2020 and well into 2021.

The canine with a docked tail was anonymously dropped off with no identifying information, at a time when shelter officials were frantically working to move their operations out of harm’s way and providing emergency kenneling of pets for displaced families.

With the situation, “chaotic at best,” said program manager Kim Casey, it was unclear whether the dog had been affected by fire or if his surrender was unrelated.

Casey knelt down Tuesday to pat the dog’s head and offer reassurance, marveling at his near half-year adventure.

“He was a very nervous dog, and it was an extremely stressful situation. He ended up being the only dog that got away from us at the time that we packed everything up and returned to the shelter,” said Casey, noting that Hertel discovered the dog, now known as Hoss, had staged a late night escape just days before shelter officials were set to move back to the shelter in Talent.

“Leah came back to check on the dogs, and he had chewed out of the crate,” Casey added.

“He hung around the area for a short period of time. We tried not to put any pressure on him, just to see if he would come back around.”

Hertel said she worried for Hoss.

“I always have a soft spot for heelers. When he first came in and was a little more nervous, I was instantly drawn to him and wanting to make him feel comfortable,” Hertel said.

“When we lost him the morning he got out, I knew there was no way we would catch up to him. He wasn’t going to stick around for anybody.”

When reports appeared on social media and via the shelter intake desk about a dog living in a field near a west Medford apartment complex, neither Hertel nor Casey thought of the heeler at first.

As weeks ticked by, reports that the dog was a shy heeler prompted Hertel to remember the missing pup.

On Friday, a local rescuer was finally able to capture Hoss with a humane trap and brought him to the shelter.

“I had been really worried about him, but it had been five months since he got out,” Hertel said.

“When one of the techs told me that we got a heeler in, and I had seen some posts on Facebook, I wondered if it could be him. When I came in the next morning and saw him, I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s you!’”

Hertel said Hoss “perked up a little bit” when he saw her again.

“I don’t know if it was because he remembered me or because I was so happy to see him. I had been so worried with him being out there,” she said. “It was nice to know he was safe and had people trying to look out for him.”

Casey said extra care will be made to ensure Hoss ends up in a situation with the best chance for success.

“Clearly he’d been on his own for quite a while, so we’re diligently working to make sure he has as little stress as possible and that he is comfortable so that we can identify an appropriate home for him. We are really, really happy to have him back and to know he’s OK,” she said.

The dog’s ultimate placement could include specialized foster care, a heeler rescue or finding the right adoptive placement, Casey said. He’ll be paired with a “doggy friend” soon and get extra handling to ensure socialization of the endearing escape artist.

“We’d just love to know where he’s been the last five months and what all he’s been through,” said Casey.

“If dogs could talk, he would probably have an amazing story to tell.”

Anyone with information about Hoss can call the shelter at 541-774-6654.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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Hoss escaped the Expo’s temporary dog shelter after the Almeda fire and been wandering for 4-5 months before the Jackson County Animal Shelter caught him. (Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune)