The large fenced in area with regular food and water, straw beds, new four-legged friends and human care is a change of pace from the streets a former free-roaming dog was calling home.
A team of volunteers rescued Freedom, a Norwegian Elkhound and husky dog, early Saturday morning.
Now after living on the streets of Soldotna for about 19 months, Freedom is adapting to life on a two-acre property near Kasilof where Jill Garnet and kennel partner and boyfriend Sean Rice run Red Shed Racing caring for unwanted dogs.
Following multiple failed attempts to capture Freedom and with winter approaching, the group switched its focus from capturing Freedom to making sure she had food and water and showing her love. When it got cold, Garnet made a straw bed for Freedom and even set up a doghouse.
Thanks to fresh snow, Garnet was able to track Freedom and discovered she had gone into a fenced yard of a home up for sale where the gate had been broken. The group got permission from the owner to start putting food in the yard for Freedom.
Garnet said the group called it the “bowl of love.” It had “fun food” like hot dogs and cheese and steak to entice Freedom to keep coming to the yard.
To establish a friendly connection with Freedom, Garnet began walking the streets and singing with one of her 14 rescue dogs.
“She really liked that,” Garnet said. “She felt that was very nonthreatening.”
When Freedom began consistently coming to the “bowl of love” multiple times each night, the group decided to act.
Garnet said the group researched and got a safe combination of drugs that would sedate Freedom enough, so she would “go down” and could be collected.
Carefully, the appropriate dosage was measured out and put into Freedom’s “bowl of love.” After Freedom ate the food, one group member was then supposed to block the open gate with a panel to keep Freedom inside until she “went down,” Garnet said.
But the group member trapped her in the fenced yard early. Freedom bounced around the yard trying to figure out how to get out, but eventually she just sat down in front of the panel. Slowly, a group member laid a blanket on top of her and Freedom went right into a kennel. Freedom ate maybe one piece of meat with about a tenth of the dose, Garnet said.
“It was crazy,” Garnet said.
She said Freedom was calm that night, but she wasn’t drugged.
After a health check from the vet, where Garnet said Freedom didn’t flinch once, Garnet and Rice brought Freedom to their Kasilof home. In the yard with an 8-foot high fence, Garnet has introduced Freedom to a couple other rescued dogs in a large pen and said she gets along well with them.
While Freedom did curl up to Rice her first day at her new home, Garnet said the couple is giving Freedom space and time to choose how she wants to live her life at Red Shed Racing.
“We’re never going to pressure her to do anything she doesn’t want to do because we have respect for her,” she said.
Garnet became aware of Freedom through the Facebook group Kenai Peninsula Pets Found-Lost-Rehome-Sell and began working to get her off the streets in April 2013.
First Garnet tried a baited trap method, but Freedom never went far enough into the trap for it to work.
“(Freedom) knew she could get all the way in and reach to the back with her paw, get whatever food she wanted, eat it and never put her body in there,” Garnet said.
Online threats to hurt or kill Freedom from Soldotna residents scared Garnet and Rice into trying to act fast to save her from potential harm. The couple tried to net Freedom, but they didn’t have time to test their latest idea before Freedom came over to see what they were doing.
“We were so pressured and stressed by the thought that somebody was going to kill her that we’re like, we’ve just got to go for it,” Garnet said.
They piled meat in the middle of the net to bait Freedom. When Garnet spotted Freedom eating the meat, she whispered in her cell phone for Rice to pull the rope triggering the net.
The whole net went up in the air. But Freedom wasn’t it in; she was still free, Garnet said.
Garnet said Freedom was affected by their attempt to net her because if she saw them, Freedom would leave for hours.
“She lost trust in us. … So that was kind of a mistake,” she said.
Eventually, they baited her into a new spot and monitored a pen with a remote trigger door. Garnet said it took months before Freedom went into the pen. One night while watching the pen, Garnet said she confirmed with her lookout partner that Freedom was completely in the pen and they agreed to close the pen.
“Boom! Door closes,” Garnet said. “She is not there. … Like she’s the magic dog.”
After that Garnet and the group recruited a veterinarian to dart Freedom, which didn’t work either, before starting the successful “bowl of love” campaign.
Garnet began rescuing sled dogs in Colorado in 2001 and moved to Kasilof in 2006 and continued providing a home for dogs.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.