Amazing dog: Five weeks alone, two rescues and one escape

Submitted to the Tribune
Estrella enjoying some play time outside in a play yard at the Truckee shelter.
Provided/Katia Kim-Herberichs

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A stray dog that survived more than five weeks on her own, during which time she was hit by a car and suffered injuries, is finally rehabilitated and ready for adoption.

Estrella was first spotted in Tahoe City in February. It took several tries and several weeks for animal control to rescue her.

In that time, she was reportedly hit by a car and suffered injuries. Now, after extensive physical and mental rehabilitation, the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe is thrilled to announce she is available for adoption. 

Five weeks on her own

On the morning of Feb. 15, a community member in Tahoe City approached Placer County Animal Control Officer Pete Krengel’s vehicle to alert him of a stray dog in his neighborhood. The resident said that the dog had been hanging around the neighborhood for a couple of days, but no one could catch her. Truckee-Tahoe neighborhoods are overwhelmingly pet-friendly and oftentimes, the residents know the local neighborhood dogs and cats. But on this occasion, no one knew who this dog was or where she had come from. 

For several days, animal control officers along with local residents did all they could to try to lure, entice and capture this stray dog. This particular dog was built for Tahoe winters, with a very thick coat, and had a good weight on her at that time. The dog continued to elude capture for nearly two weeks. Then all of the sudden the reports stopped and she disappeared. Fearing the worst, animal control continued to keep an eye out. 

Several days later, she reappeared, but in a new neighborhood about a mile away. She continued to prove difficult to trap and ran loose in that area for a couple of weeks living on handouts, garbage, and whatever else she could find.

During that time, Animal Control, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol were receiving calls hourly on her whereabouts. In that time, at least two reports were made that she had been hit by a car. Now limping, slowing down a bit, and getting much thinner, she still continued to run loose. 

Animal Control called in Wendy Jones, executive director of Tahoe Paws and TLC 4 Furry Friends, a well-known and experienced animal search and rescue specialist in the South Lake Tahoe area. Jones, along with an officer, successfully trapped the stray dog and brought her to the shelter in Truckee. 

Wendy Jones, executive director of Tahoe Paws and TLC 4 Furry Friends and Officer Pete Krengel with Placer County Animal Control at the Truckee shelter after rescuing Estrella.

Once at the shelter, she was scanned for a microchip. Animal Control learned that her name was Estrella and was able to locate owner information. Despite the best efforts of the Animal Services team to connect with the registered owner, the owner was unresponsive. It became clear that they were either unable or unwilling to reclaim her and she was likely dumped. Knowing that she had an injury and with the amount of time spent outdoors on her own, she was transferred to a local vet for medical treatment and a diagnosis. 

Medical rehab and 2nd rescue

During her veterinary visit, she underwent a radiograph that showed she had a dislocated hip, injury to both eyes and foreign objects, such as gravel, bark, and sticks in her stomach. Two days later, the still very nervous and scared Estrella, managed to escape veterinary staff while being loaded up for transport back to the shelter. Now running loose in Truckee, she was spotted on several occasions by locals and on residents’ Ring cameras. Still limping and getting much thinner, she was reluctant to enter the trap this second time around. 

Two weeks went by. All the while Animal Control kept a close eye on reports of where she had been seen and continued the trapping efforts. Finally, one afternoon, after being spotted near a local golf course, Jones along with Animal Control officers, moved the trap, re-baited it, and gently “pushed” her in towards the trap. She entered and was again brought to the shelter. Shortly after her return, she was released into the care of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. 

After being on her own for at least five weeks, and because of her prior examination, shelter staff knew she was in need of major medical care right away. HSTT teamed up with another local shelter, Pet Network, and had her sent to their veterinary clinic for treatment. Thanks to the incredible veterinary staff at Pet Network, Estrella received the care she was in desperate need of. HSTT staff was overjoyed when they found out that Estrella’s hind dislocated leg could be repaired through surgery and they feared amputation would not be necessary. 

Psychological rehab

Now that the medical portion of Estrella’s recovery was taken care of and she was back in the safety of the Truckee shelter, the real work on her immense fear of people, sounds, and unfamiliar environments could begin. 

HSTT staff knew that Estrella could be rehabilitated and overcome her fear, but that it would take time. Julie Del Vecchio, Town of Truckee Animal Services staff member, was one of the first to really earn Estrella’s trust. It was slow going at first. 

“Every day, I would work with her, giving her pieces of rotisserie chicken throughout the day until she started to eat from my hand,” says Del Vecchio. “She began to overcome her fearfulness with me and after about a week she allowed me to pet her head. After another week of consistent work and patience, she let me harness and leash her up to take her on short walks.”

With the help of many staff members from Animal Services and HSTT along with several dedicated volunteers, slowly Estrella began to trust people more and more. She still has a long way to go in fully trusting people and new environments, but HSTT knows with confidence that Estrella is now ready to truly find her way into a new and loving home. 

While Estrella has many great qualities, like walking well on a leash, very treat motivated, and loves being outdoors, she is not the dog for everyone. She needs a very specific home that will continue her journey to becoming a well-socialized, trusting dog. 

She needs a quiet, adult-only home where patience will play a key role in her continued growth in trusting people and her surroundings. Estrella really likes to be around other dogs, and could benefit from a calm and confident “role model dog.”

It would be great for her to be placed in a home with a dog like this that she could learn from (cats are unknown). She needs a home that understands the path to recovery that she is on, and is dedicated to continuing her socialization. For quite some time, she will need to be fully leashed when outside, so a fenced yard will play an important role in slowly allowing her to hopefully be off-leash at some point. She also wears special glasses outside for her eye condition. She’ll need a plan for when she’s left unattended and a commitment to ongoing training. HSTT is happy to support some costs associated with training.

Lastly, and most importantly, Estrella needs to feel safe and secure in her home. Once her trust has been earned, she is an affectionate, sweet, and trusting pup. A home that won’t push her too hard, but will wait for her to be ready to move on to the next step and a home that will celebrate all her wins is exactly what she’s looking for.

If you are interested in meeting Estrella for adoption, call HSTT at 530-587-5948 or visit the shelter Monday-Friday from 1-6 pm.

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