We were driving through the city of Ashland, Ore., on our way to camp in the little town of Central Point. As we searched for a park to stop and rest, we drove along Highway 66, which is just busy enough to be dangerous to a stray dog. Already a little bit lost, I was even more confused at my girlfriend’s exclamation.
“Where?” I asked her, looking around from the passenger seat.
She quickly turned around and slowly drove back to where she had seen the dog. As we crossed a portion of the road passing over a creek, I saw a basset hound bouncing down the narrow sidewalk, just one small step from being squished by cars speeding along the road.
After we stopped, I sat on the sidewalk and called to the dog. If he had been any other breed I would have been more cautious, but I figured a basset hound was easy enough to fend off if it was mean.
Fortunately, he was very friendly and a little tired so he was quite agreeable to being hoisted into the car. It wasn’t easy to share a space with a 50-pound dog that had to curl its long body to fit on the seat, but we managed long enough to find a place to park.
I read the dog’s tags and learned that its name was Mo. On the other side of the tag was the owner’s phone number. I called, but no answer. I called animal services but it had closed about 10 minutes earlier. I called the police and the dispatcher said she would send an officer to pick up the dog.
So we waited in a restaurant parking lot for about 20 minutes until the officer showed up (during which I received a call informing me about the tragedy at the Reno Air Races, for time reference). When he finally pulled in, the officer got out of his car and started walking toward us when he got a call on the radio. After listening for about 10 seconds, he said he was being called to a high-speed chase, apologized, got back in his car and left.
It seemed we were destined to have a four-legged guest on our camping trip.
Having left four messages with Mo’s owner by this time, we proceeded 20 minutes down the freeway to our campsite. While waiting for the police, I learned that Mo was a wanderer, which would also explain why he was loose in the first place, so as we set up our tent I tied him to a tree with the only “leashes” we had: first, a camera strap and then a long extension cord. When camp was ready, I went to the local store to buy Mo some food. All they had was a bag of dry dog chow, so I bought it and poured some food on a paper plate for him to eat along with a dish of water. He lapped up the liquid but turned his nose up at the food.
I continued leaving messages for Mo’s owner well after the sun went down, but to no avail. The temperature started to dip and we got ready to go to sleep. Angeli put down our blankets for Mo to sleep on in the zip-up “patio” of our tent. She is always concerned about dogs being cold, and with the nighttime temperature dipping into the 40s she was particularly worried for poor Mo. We made him as comfortable as we could and went to sleep.
The next morning Mo still hadn’t eaten, so after cooking up some sausages I poured the grease over his food to entice him. That worked like a charm and he gobbled down the whole plate. At about 9:30 a.m. Angeli’s cell phone finally rang: Mo’s owner thanked us for saving his dog and apologized for not calling us sooner. Apparently, he is the head of the local Pop Warner football league and we happened to pick up Mo on the night before the opening day of the season, so he was working very late.
A short time later, the owner’s car pulled into the campground. When he stepped out of the car, I unplugged Mo from his extension cord and he ran to his dad. I was happy to see this father-dog reunion, but was a little sad since just an hour or so earlier Mo was happily jumping on my lap. The owner, a local insurance salesman, gave us a copy of a coffee table book in which Mo was featured several years ago so we will have a memory to keep of our time with Mo.
On Tuesday, I told Dr. Ron Sandoval, a veterinarian with Baring Boulevard Animal Hospital, about this adventure to see if we handled the situation correctly. As for picking up a stray dog, Sandoval said caution must always be taken since the animal’s medical condition and bite history are unknown. And, he added, there are good dogs and bad dogs of every breed.
“A dog is not nice until proven otherwise,” Sandoval said.
As for Mo’s initial lack of an appetite, Sandoval said it is not uncommon for a dog not to eat in a strange environment. The problem is more prevalent in cats, he said, and very rarely will a dog starve itself to death, he said. And my choice to pour grease on his food wasn’t the best, Sandoval said. Fatty foods are the most difficult to digest, which causes a lot of digestive problems in pets, he said. A better option would have been to pour warm water on the food to make it smell better, Sandoval said.
My girlfriend’s concern about the overnight temperature was not totally unwarranted, Sandoval said. While the upper 40s was not ideal, he said, the important thing was that Mo was dry and out of the wind. Also, he said, larger dogs are more able to hold heat than small dogs, so a 50-pound dog was most likely OK.
Mo also didn’t poop during the 16 or so hours we had him, but Sandoval said that is preferable to diarrhea, which is a sign of nervousness or illness.
Compared to what could have happened to Mo had we kept driving, we did a pretty good job of taking care of him. It certainly would have been interesting to try and take him to Crater Lake or the Oregon caves, but fortunately we didn’t have to try. I almost wanted to take Mo home with me, but knowing how lovable he was it would have been worse on the owners to lose such a great guy. And now I know a little better what to do next time I find a furry refugee.