FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — At first sight, Frodo looks like any other dog.
Trotting around the backyard of his new Loveland home, the 2-year-old, Korean-jindo mix seems carefree, innocent. But by the time of our first meeting, I had already learned of his near-adoption, great escape and the 11 days he spent wandering a south Fort Collins natural area in July.
Then, stepping gingerly out of her hiding space into a sunny patch beside Frodo, I saw Peggy — the reason he’d come back.
They look like normal dogs, but “getting an animal that was never bred to be a companion animal, it’s all completely different,” said Michelle Cline, the evaluation and enrichment coordinator at the Larimer Humane Society, where Frodo and Peggy were brought — alongside eight other dogs — after being rescued from deplorable conditions at a South Korean dog-meat farm this spring.
Peggy and Frodo were among five dogs from the meat farm that ended up staying at the Larimer Humane Society, while the rest were transferred to other Colorado shelters, reported the Coloradoan (http://noconow.co/2aBS9Hb).
“Peggy was very much catatonic, shut down, extremely fearful,” Cline said, adding that humane society employees had to carry the 2-year-old chocolate lab mix outside to get sunshine or go to the bathroom.
“That’s how absolutely terrified she was.”
Frodo, on the other hand, was a live wire.
“Instead of shutting down and avoiding us, he would begin to panic,” Cline said. “Anytime we would go to leash him, he would go into this flight or fight response.”
While they seemed like two very different dogs, Cline said, they remained close during their time at Larimer Humane Society. For a while, they were housed together, then paired together in the property’s play yard, where they showed unexpected playful behaviors.
Since Frodo progressed faster than Peggy, he was the first of the two to be adopted on July 7.
Cline was eating lunch when she heard a commotion that day. While being loaded into his new owner’s car, Frodo had panicked, slipped out of his collar and slip lead leash, and took off running.
Cline ran out of the building and said she came within inches of him before he spotted her and bolted in the other direction, running across E. Trilby Road and into a nearby mobile home park.
Shelter workers, including all but one Animal Protection & Control (APC) officer on duty, ended up searching the area and canvassing the nearby Prairie Dog Meadow Natural Area for four hours that day.
They even took Peggy along with them, who was “the only thing we had in our arsenal” to get Frodo back, Cline said.
“Poor Peggy,” Cline laughed, recalling the two of them trudging through waist-high grasses. “She was amazing.”
But Frodo had gone too far and, while Cline said they knew he was probably somewhere in the natural area, the grass was too high for shelter workers to see.
Eleven days passed before Cline looked up from her lunch on July 18 to yet another commotion. An APC officer had spotted Frodo outside of the Humane Society and Cline heard someone yell the phrase “bait dog.” Running through the shelter, she found Peggy and leashed her up.
“We knew that the second he saw Peggy, we’d have him,” Cline said.
This time, it worked.
Walking through the waist-tall grasses again with Peggy, Cline said she heard a co-worker talking to Frodo, whom he’d found nestled in a little den under some cattails. But Frodo got spooked again and ran out of the cattails, where he came face to face with Peggy and Cline.
“I said, ‘Frodo, do you want to come say hi to Peggy?'” Cline recalls. “And he turns and looks at us and starts licking Peggy on the face.”
“Peggy was the only reason we got that dog back,” she added. “It was just so overwhelming to see.”
After the ordeal, both dogs were returned to the Humane Society and shelter employees made a decision.
“With such difficult dogs to adopt out, it makes sense to not adopt two,” Cline said.
“But we basically decided that they needed to go together,” she added, saying that while it’s not a common situation, adopting Peggy and Frodo out together would mean that they’d be happier and, therefore, easier to introduce into a new home.
With several prospective owners, the shelter screened people who came in to look at Frodo and Peggy. Then, Ron Averill and his wife Renae, of Loveland, stopped by.
“Her face when she saw them, you could see it in her eyes that she was ready for these dogs,” Cline said.
Standing on his porch, Ron Averill overlooked his backyard where Frodo was frolicking and Peggy was slowly coming out from the shade.
The couple’s last dog had died two years ago and they were ready for a new one when they went to the Humane Society in July and saw Frodo and Peggy.
The dogs have now been with the Averills for two weeks and are slowly getting used to their new surroundings. They’re quicker to come around people, love being tossed dog biscuits and, with a little coaxing, will come up and sniff Ron Averill’s hand.
Peggy’s also getting more comfortable in her yard and has started walking onto the porch. Neither of them is ready to go inside the home just yet, Ron Averill said.
It’ll take time, which they have plenty of.
“They’re each other’s friend,” he added. “That’s all they’ve ever known.”