Bringing Lily home after six months in the sagebrush |

Bringing Lily home after six months in the sagebrush

by Sheila Gardner

Lily is one smart dog.

For six months, the 45-pound Rottweiler mix eluded capture in south county despite the best efforts of Douglas County Animal Care and Services staff and the passers-by who left her food and water.

In order to survive, Lily learned to look both ways before crossing a highway, boosted bait from a live trap, and befriended a Chihuahua and other critters out in the vast expanse of sagebrush that encircles Holbrook and Topaz Ranch Estates.

She was finally captured Dec. 13.

“This was a first for us,” said Supervisor Janet Duzan. “It took us months to impound her. We learned a lot from her, but we got really determined to bring her in.”

In the month that Lily has been at the Douglas County shelter, she has acclimated to her new surroundings and is patiently waiting for the right person to come along to offer her a permanent place to live.

Lily’s saga began about six months ago when she was spotted in the sagebrush off Highways 208 and 395 in south county.

Word reached the animal shelter in August of the wandering dog, and the search was on, spearheaded by Duzan, Animal Services Officer Liz Begovich and south county residents.

“We started out in the conventional way, with a leash and treats,” Duzan said. “She would just run when anyone pulled up.”

Lily developed her own fanbase, Duzan said.

“She was always healthy,” she said. “She had a bucket of food and water every day, and a supply of dead rabbits.”

Lily made friends with a Chihuahua and a postal worker whom she would trail as he walked old Route 208 and dropped marshmallows.

Duzan estimated staff made a dozen trips just to try and capture Lily.

She began to recognize their vehicles, so they borrowed a truck and tried to trap her.

“We spent two hours hiking around, trying to find her,” Duzan said. “Finally, we said, ‘She’s not around here, she’s gone.’ But she was up on a ridge, just watching us.”

Begovich said they coaxed Lily to migrate toward Holbrook which would be a safer environment and might give them a better chance of catching her. They posted signs for Lily’s benefactors, and moved her food and water.

“It was becoming a question of public safety,” Duzan said. “We were concerned for her. We were afraid she would get hit, or cause a big, bad accident.”

People wrote letters to the editor in The Record-Courier about Lily’s plight, berating whoever dumped her and expressing encouragement that she would be caught and find a safe home.

She was named Lily by a Douglas Animal Welfare Group volunteer who drove by her every day.

One time Duzan and Begovich were setting a collarum trap on the ground and preparing to bait it with pastrami.

“She came up from behind us, stole our bait, and walked off with a screwdriver,” Duzan said.

Finally, in mid-December, Lily wandered into an enclosed 60-by-60-foot garden plot. The owner closed the gate after her, and called animal services.

When Begovich and Duzan arrived, Lily made a brief show of aggression but she backed down. She was subdued with a tranquilizer that settled her down rather than knocking her out.

Her life on the run was over.

Duzan said she was surprised that Lily didn’t escape from the garden, but believes maybe she was ready to surrender.

When Lily got to the shelter, Duzan said she was “very calm.”

“She walked into one kennel and just stayed indoors for about two days. She tried a bed. We put a rug down, but she wouldn’t step on it,” Duzan said. “She never made a peep.”

The staff and volunteers were patient with her, theorizing she needed socialization more than training.

“People would sit in a kennel with her until she got used to being around them,” Duzan said.

After a month, Lily has become used to her creature comforts. She likes her bed, barks, socializes and plays with the other dogs at the shelter.

Duzan and Begovich are optimistic she will respond well to a home environment. She’s been spayed, microchipped and is current on all her shots.

Duzan estimates Lily is about a year old.

There have been a few inquiries from potential owners, and she’s had a steady stream of visitors of people who used to see her roaming in the sagebrush.

“She still is quiet,” Duzan said. “She’s not fearful, but she is timid. She’s very loyal. Once she finds her person, Lily will stick with them forever. She spent about six months out there, that’s half her life. Lily is a survivor.”


For information about adopting Lily or other animals at the Douglas County Animal Shelter, call 782-9061.