Staff at Thurston County Animal Services refer to Buddy, a spunky red Australian cattle dog, as a “frequent flier.”
“Everyone knows him,” said animal care technician Heather Leu.
Buddy has been brought to the shelter about 11 times over the past six years, according to Animal Services assistant Dustin Wade. The dog’s owner is homeless, but usually comes in right away to pick him up.
In February 2013, Buddy’s owner wrote a note saying he needed help and tied it the dog’s harness. The note was spotted by a woman who was walking her dog on a nearby trail. She called 911, and crews were able to reach Buddy’s owner, who was stranded at a nearby homeless camp with a medical emergency, and get him to a hospital.
This time, somebody dropped Buddy off at the animal shelter in Olympia early Monday morning. On Wednesday, an Animal Services staff member called local hospitals, jails and other places looking for a reason that might prevent Buddy’s owner from picking up his dog, Wade said.
On Thursday, Wade and another staff member decided to go into the woods near Tumwater and search for Buddy’s owner.
“We knew where his camp was, and thought we should at least go check and see if he was stuck in the camp, if he was injured and couldn’t get out … whatever it may be,” Wade said.
They found Buddy’s owner at a site with a large structure made of wood, tarps and pallets. Wade described it as “a house, basically, in the woods.”
“(He) said he’d been suffering there for a week, wasn’t able to get up the last couple of days, couldn’t stand on his legs, and was happy to have some help getting out of there,” Wade said.
The man, who is believed to be in his mid-60s, was transported by ambulance to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, where was being seen in the emergency room on Wednesday evening, according to a hospital supervisor. No other information was released.
Wade said Buddy’s owner had used wood and other items to build a barricade of sorts around the camp, in an effort to keep the dog close by.
“(He) said he didn’t want Buddy to get out, but obviously Buddy had other plans when he kind of knew something was up,” Wade said. “He found his way out — probably just climbed over and found help.”
Wade said Animal Services plans to keep Buddy safe until his owner is released from the hospital.
“He will be getting the dog back,” he said.
Wade described Buddy as well fed and happy, and said the owner “takes really good care of him.”
Even though Buddy isn’t up for adoption, the shelter has about 22 dogs, 65 cats, two bunnies and a snake that are available. Because of the media attention, Animal Services workers think they might have a better shot at finding permanent homes for many of those critters during this holiday season.
But they’re also interested in finding a permanent home for Buddy and his owner.
“Maybe this time is the time for (Buddy’s owner) to find a place to live,” Wade said. “A nice safe warm place where people can help him, where he doesn’t get stuck. Where he gets the medical care he needs, and where he can live with his dog in a steady place, and live the life he wants to live.”
Wade said they’re trying to gather information on social service agencies and other resources for Buddy’s owner. He said he knows it’s hard to find places that allow pets, but noted Buddy’s owner considers him a service dog.
“I think it’s a good story,” she added. “Get him out of the woods, and the help he needs. Without (Buddy) coming in, nobody probably would have found him.”