For the third time since I adopted my Korean “meat dog,” he decided to run off and explore more of the world than his leash normally permits.
On Sunday afternoon, Jinjja and I went on what has become our abbreviated walk, due to health issues (mine, not his).
We went down to the the grassy area at the end of my street, where he does his business and we sit for a while on a bench before heading back.
He sat on the ground on the side of the bench and I was absent-mindedly scratching his head with one hand, holding his leash with the other.
Somehow, the clasp on the leash mysteriously opened up and I looked up to see him standing, unhooked, a few feet in front of me. I called him, trying to sound casual and playful and upbeat and using the high-pitched voice his obedience class teacher recommends.
He took a few more steps away. I stood up and called him again. He playfully scooted a few more feet away. I lied about having a treat. (He hasn’t mastered the “come” command without bribes.) He didn’t fall for it. I took a few steps in the opposite direction. He didn’t follow.
Then I stepped in his direction and he was off to the races, and I followed trying to keep up. (I’m not setting any speed records these days.) He stopped to poop, then lengthened his lead on me by trotting at a faster clip, down one street, then another.
Jinjja was heading in the direction he’d gone the two earlier times he has scooted — down to a creek that leads into some woods, that lead to busier roads and other neighborhoods.
The first time was entirely my fault. I was stupid. We’d been up to the tennis courts many of us use as a dog park, and he had exhausted himself running with some other dogs from my block. On the way home, he was walking in lockstep with them, right in stride with the pack. I unleashed him to see if he’d keep doing that in the short distance back to my door.
He didn’t, and I should have known better, given his past and given what I’ve read about his breed (Jindo) — namely, that some of them never are able to be off leash because of their hunting, exploring, wandering tendencies.
That time, my neighbor Trish took off after him with a couple of her dogs. I lagged behind.
Fortunately that first time, Jinjja stopped in the shallow creek, and once I caught up with Trish, who had caught up with him, he obeyed my stay command until I was able to go down the bank, attach his leash, and haul him out.
I vowed then it would be years before I tried letting him off the leash again — if ever.
A few weeks later, back at the tennis court, he managed to slip through the gate as other dogs were coming in and out. Again he took off. Again Trish pitched in for the chase, as did two other neighbors, Nick and Margaret.
They managed to corner him down near where he was the first time and get a leash around him — which is no easy task.
Jinjja is still shy and skittish around strangers, still might run the other way when called. On Sunday, as I was pursuing him, and his trail, on foot and in car, knowing he was that way — not likely to approach anyone for longer than the times it takes to snag any treat they might be offering — I was feeling less hopeful with every passing minute.
When he disappeared behind a row of homes that backs up to the creek and woods, I stopped to make my first plea for help.
I’d met Victor a couple of months ago, while I was walking Jinjja and he was walking his new dog, Gracie, a Belgian Malinois. We ended up enrolled in the same dog obedience class. Victor — in his lower 60s, like me — has a bad back, and had to get up from his heating pad to answer the door.
But he sprang into action, pressed Gracie into service and we followed Jinjja down the poison ivy-filled path that runs into the woods behind his house. Jinjja had crossed the creek and was zig-zagging toward a briar-filled meadow at the end of the path. Unfortunately, Victor was wearing shorts, and we both ended up bloody by the time we spotted Jinjja in the clearing ahead.
Jinjja spotted Gracie and came running in our direction. He greeted Gracie and I was within three feet of him. That was as close as I got, and he took off again. Jinjja disappeared into the horizon and the briars became a little too much for both of us.
We headed back to the neighborhood, and I went home to get my car and head over to the adjoining neighborhood whose direction Jinjja seemed headed for. I grabbed a pack of bologna, an extra leash and my cell phone. I stopped to inform Trish what had happened and took off. I told Victor, who had changed into some long pants, my plan. I gave him a piece of bologna, which he stuffed in his pocket. With Gracie at his side, he walked back down the path to the meadow where we had last seen Jinjja.
Victor went back to the clearing, saw no sight of Jinjja, and headed back home, but not before rubbing bologna on his shoes. He dropped little pieces of it along the trail back to his house.
I pulled out for my car search, and Victor walked all the way back to the meadow, and into the next neighborhood. Trish, meanwhile, had hopped into her car and was heading there, too. All three of us were stopping to ask anyone we saw to see if they had sighted him and hand out phone numbers.
Victor found one home where Jinjja had stopped for a while. And Trish ran into a couple who said Jinjja stopped to play with their dog, and the dogs next door, but scooted off when they tried to beckon him.
About 30 minutes later, riding around back in my own neighborhood, a friend said she had seen him, just minutes earlier, walking through her front yard and stopping to poop.
(Pretty much everyone who had sighted him, in either neighborhood, mentioned he had stopped to poop in their yard.)
For the next hour I drove through one neighborhood then the other, then a couple of other nearby ones, periodically checking back home to see if he had returned.
I told my across-the-street neighbor Rita what had happened. I informed neighbor Nick (who helped snag Jinjja during Escape No. 2) what had happened and he took off on foot — roaming our neighborhood and then hopping a fence into the adjacent one that, while right next door, is more than a mile away by road.
I kept driving around, spotting Rita on patrol in her car, Trish on patrol in hers’, and picking up a sweat-soaked Victor and a panting Gracie from the other neighborhood and taking them home.
Stopping at my house again, I ran into a sweat-soaked Nick, who had hopped back over the fence and was going to get in his car and go check out a nearby apartment complex that sits across the creek.
We were both headed out again when, down the main road into our townhome development, came a woman with Jinjja, on a four-foot purple lead.
I didn’t recognize her, though she lives just around the corner, but she was the same woman whose dog had escaped (and was recovered) a couple of weeks ago. One of my recruits, or maybe it was me, had stopped her earlier and asked if she’d seen a medium sized yellow-white dog with a curly tail. She hadn’t.
But apparently this complete stranger got in her car and drove to the area where her dog had been found. She spotted Jinjja, got out of her car and called him. He went the other way. She followed on foot. Another person saw her trying to catch Jinjja and lent a hand. Between the two of them, they managed to get Jinjja to accept a treat and get that purple lead around his collar.
Victory? Not quite yet. She tried to get Jinjja into her car, but he snapped at her when touched, as he’s prone to do when a hand reaches out to him, especially when he’s not on a leash and is unfamiliar with the owner of that hand. Thinking the better of it, she decided to walk him the mile-plus back to our neighborhood.
So, if you’re counting, that’s seven superheroes — Victor, Gracie, Trish, Nick, Rita, the anonymous supplier of the purple lead, and the neighbor who, while I hugged and thanked her profusely, I still don’t know her name.
Back home, Jinjja drank a gallon of water and, as I write this, has been sleeping now for about 12 straight hours.
Which is good, because we have lots of work ahead.
While he excelled at his first obedience class, yet-to-be-resolved health issues have prevented my return. Let’s just say I’m in that whole-lot-of-testing phase that precedes doctors taking their best guess at what the problem is, or (hopefully better yet) was.
If Sunday was anything, it was a lesson in hope, and a reminder that —
in good times and bad — friends and family and superhero neighbors are good to have.
(Jinjja — then Jindol — was one of four dogs that ended up at Watauga Humane Society in October after being saved from a Korean meat farm by Humane Society International. We’re pleased to report that all four have now been adopted — most recently Murphy who went to a new home last week. Murphy took a little longer to become social than the others, but after lots of work and time, he started gaining trust in humans, and bonded with one visiting couple who wanted him but were unable to take him. Later, that couple came back, and they’re now his parents.)
(Top photos of Jinjja by John Woestendiek, bottom photo of Murphy courtesy of Watauga Humane Society)