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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

St Nicholas Came - and He's Not Who You Thought He Would Be!!!

For Christmas, all of our family members were sick! So we postponed our family gathering until early January. We all get together for an epic bowling day and Mexican meal for the grandkids anyhow, we will just add our gift-giving to the same day. 

But we weren't alone, oh no no no!

We were busy busy busy helping track down a runaway 1 year old Shetland Sheepdog! The owner could no longer adequately care for him, and she has huge upcoming medical issues facing her. So she turned over ownership to us, if we could possibly catch it. 

It was his second time escaping (we helped catch him the first time in November after he was on the run for a week) and he didn't know anybody or anything cuz he was just recently adopted by her two weeks before! 

Since he had already been out on his own alone in the woods the week before, this time he was even more sly and trickier to catch. He learned to stop moving around during the daytime where people were trying to grab him. Instead, he was only moving at night.

He had a leash trailing behind him, and we were so scared of it getting snagged up in the woods somewhere.

This is the type of terrain he was hiding in:

This time around, the weather was at least warmer at night. In the high '30s instead of the freezing temps. We had tracked him down and figured he was eating food at the neighborhood feral cat feeding station. We assume he was getting fresh water from the river which is not yet frozen over. We know he was sleeping somewhere in these concrete columns and yard waste from the city municipal workers.

We were utilizing the services of a local non-profit called Get Toby Home. 


They have all of the equipment and the knowledge. They brought us multiple large live traps along with game cameras, and also Wi-Fi GPS cameras which emit a signal back to their waiting computers in Green Bay. Their volunteer staff monitor the cameras 24/7. Any movements are detected, as well as any other feral cats, opossums, raccoons etc that get into the trap. The volunteers will bark or hiss or make noises through the cameras' speakers to scare off the animals before they get into the trap. Sometimes we had to go and let out various critters that got contained by accident. 

We did a lot of the leg work on our end because we are at the far fringe of their service area. We were replenishing bait as well as moving traps from location to location. Depending on the sightings and graphing on the maps, we got pretty good at figuring out his routine and route that he would wander late at night. 

They even sent up one volunteer with a thermal imaging drone who went over the entire woodsy marsh area that we knew the dog was holed up in. 

So we spent two weeks tracking and following sightings and baiting live traps and moving Wi-Fi cameras around. 

We were handing out flyers and talking to people and searching searching searching. 

We were contacting property owners and obtaining permission to place live traps on their property. 

10 large profile signs including a photo were set up around town at all major intersections. We plastered social media with posts and getting updates from helpful residents. And some "not so helpful"  comments. Why are some people so mean when they are behind the invisibility of their keyboard? Some of the comments were just horrible!

We drove around and around and around many miles at slow speeds with flashlights at night because that's the only time he was moving around. I think we went through three or four sets of batteries in all of our flashlights! 

At one point we had no spottings of him in five or six days. We were really concerned that the leash had gotten snagged up somewhere and he was dead. Either that, or he became coyote food.

Imagine our delight after 6 days he showed up on a camera again, this time dragging the leash only half as long. The end was all chewed off raggedy. So we are sure he was snagged up somewhere on a tree or rocks and had to chew himself free! He looked definitely skinnier by this time. He was starving!

He was becoming more and more clever each time we were sighting him on the cameras. We actually have a trail of food going into the cage where he just needs to step on the trigger panel for the door to shut behind him.

We also left pieces of our scent around so he would get used to our smells. I wove Binney's dirty bandanas into the mesh of the cages. He would stop and smell her scent every time. 

Every day when we would go back to re-bait the traps, we would bring along Binney and have her walk through the area. Many times she would obligatory leave a spot of pee. We would also grab any of her morning poops in a doggy bag and bring it to the trap sites. We would scatter it around so he would get used to her and also be attracted to come back to the area because she is a female. He is an intact male, never neutered!

So many times he would just come in so far, and back out. We needed him to step on this slanted piece of the cage to trigger the door shut. He would only go so far and stop. Arrgghhh! 

Twice he actually decided to get to the food he would just grab the blanket and pull it backwards out of the cage! Watch this video!

So then we had to get up at 3:00 a.m. and go out there and pull the blanket away from the opening so in case he did go back in, the trap door could shut correctly. If it happened to only go part way and get caught on the blanket, then he would be really really smart and never go back after such an experience. 

Each time we saw him on the cameras, we were just so close! But just not enough for him to step on that trigger panel. 

Our efforts were rewarded on the FIFTEENTH DAY!!!!----- on Christmas Eve we finally were able to capture him! 

The Get Toby Home team were monitoring the cameras, even on Christmas Eve. They were ecstatically calling to us to go go go and get him!

We placed the entire trap cage into the back of our Saturn and drove home into our garage and shut the door tight. 

He was very very scared, and very very skinny!

I was giving him soothing sounds of my voice and I actually got some licks on my fingers through the mesh of the cage. He even leaned in and let me scratch his ear for comfort.

We carefully transferred him from the end of the large live trap into our smaller dog crate. He willingly went in! 

Now we could carry the secure crate into our house where he would have no opportunity to get outside. 

He is very skinny and was dehydrated. It's hard to tell with all the hair in the picture but he is all skin and bones.

We got him inside and gave him water and a small amount of food. He ate it gingerly, he didn't wolf it down so we knew he was pretty weak.

He met Binney nose to nose and he was extremely interested in her, as well as her in him.

We removed the awful dragging leash that was chewed away by his little teeth to escape wherever he was snagged up. We also removed this slip choke collar which is definitely a no-no!  He is now fitted with a secure harness as well as another buckle collar. 

Just look at this little guy! He has no idea about the wonderful world that is going to open up to him now that he is in our home. And Steve is right there to spoil him rotten!!!

He was so exhausted that he went to sleep. I think he was comforted by the warmth and the soft sounds in our house. We kept things extremely quiet. Here he is falling asleep from sheer exhaustion, but still wanting to keep his head upright and alert!! 

I believe that he is extremely thankful and appreciative of a warm home and kindness. Even though we have a fenced in yard for going potty, we are letting him out on dual leashes. One on the harness and one on the collar. With me standing at the other end monitoring him every second.  He is also been outfitted with an air tag.

So we spent Christmas Day traveling to the ER vet and getting him medically checked out. He is only 12 lb and just feels so frail underneath all that fluff. We also got out all of the burrs and twigs that were embedded in his coat. 

We have been rehydrating slowly as well as small amounts of food throughout the day, to not overstress his system.

We will be following up this week with our local vet, and of course get him in for all of his shots as well as a neutering session.

We are already bonding with him as well as our little female Sheltie Binney!

Meet Nicholas, 
as in St Nicholas 
who came on Christmas Eve!!!

If you are looking for a really good place to donate this year, this local Get Toby Home organization is made up of all volunteers, a registered non-profit, and nobody gets wages. They rely totally on donations for all of their equipment. 


What a Merry Christmas to us!


  1. Aww, that is so sweet - what an effort on your part (especially the night time stuff). I know he has found his place among humans, and judging by the look on Steve's face he will be loved. I bet Binney will enjoy the canine company too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. So glad you were able to get him out of the wild. I know that you and Binney will take very good care of him. Blessings on you and all the team.

  3. I would expect nothing less from you two. What a wonderful Christmas story. Thanks. You are two wonderful people.

  4. That is the best Christmas story! I am looking forward to seeing more pics as Nicholas gets settled in. Hopefully he will be feeling stronger and safer very soon.

  5. It IS a great Christmas story. Such persistence you had, and it paid off. He is one lucky dog.

  6. You are truly special people with big hearts. Bravo to you !!!
    This is just the best story of rescuing at its best.
    Thank you and a blessed New Year to you all. 👏👏👏
    Linda a.

  7. Aww. He's beautiful. Great story of his beginning with you. Merry Christmas, indeed.

  8. Finny took care of Binny; Now it's Binny's turn to take care of Nick!

  9. Thank you so much for rescuing this beautiful boy. He does not know how blessed he is to be with you and Steve. It is just the best story to read about Christmas! His name is perfect.
    Liz W

  10. You made me cry! Happy tears...such a wonderful, heartwarming tale! (Or should I say tail...)


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