Friday 26th June: Roxy’s story

With the Number 1 signal already up and the threat of Number 3 being raised later in the day, I hold off calling a sampan.  I know there will be no problem getting over to Hong Kong, but getting back might be an issue.  Although there are friends’ places I can crash for the night, leaving the dogs on their own isn’t a good idea.  Even if I can find a sampan willing to take me if the weather worsens, the cost goes up to a ridiculous amount.  By mid-afternoon the weather report isn’t looking good so I decide to stay at home.  There’s more than enough work to do to keep me busy for the day.

 Most of the dogs aren’t keen to go outside when it’s raining so the ground floor of the house is chock-a-block with furry bodies.  Trying to make my way through to the kitchen area (it’s all open plan) means trying to find a space between them, just enough for a foot to fit.  Even opening the door of the fridge means having to move a dozing dog, not keen to have to give up its space.

 Woody, the ‘autistic’ dog, is one of the few that stay outside and now he has disappeared down a very large hole in a bank in the garden and won’t come out. The hole was dug by a succession of puppies and has been a problem before.  The monkey pups used to hide in there when they were young, at one time for days on end.  Finally the entrance was covered with a slab of marble, but somehow it’s been moved and Woody’s taken refuge down there.  It’s so deep that you can’t even see any dog that goes inside, as the tunnel turns at the end to make a safe and invisible hiding place.  Instinctively the puppies knew that this was how you made a den that would stay dry in the rain and cool in the heat, as well as being safe from intruders.

Roxy as a baby with her littermates

Roxy as a baby with her littermates

 I have seen this instinctive behaviour before in one of the older dogs, a very sweet and loving sharpei cross called Roxy, who had come to me as a tiny baby along with the rest of her litter.  A few years ago I had to make an emergency trip to England when my mother became very ill.  I had a lot of dogs even then, and I couldn’t just leave them for an unknown period.  An email was sent out to the mailing list asking for fosters, and to my surprise and immense gratitude, the response was amazing.  Within a day forty dogs had been shipped out to foster homes,  some of them never to come back (as they were subsequently adopted).  Roxy went to a home in Shatin, on the edge of the mountains, but almost as soon as she had arrived she slipped out of the door and disappeared. 

When I got back from England I went to look for her on a regular basis, calling her name over and over, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  I knew from the fosters that she stayed in the mountains during the day and came out at dusk, looking for food at a nearby construction site, then returning to the safety of the hills at night. 

Roxy's getting bigger

Roxy's getting bigger

By now three months has passed, and Roxy was seen venturing further in her search for food.  She had to cross a very busy highway to get into Shatin town itself, then back to the mountains again. I knew it was hopeless trying to find her, so I asked AFCD for help.  A large dog trap was placed on her known route at the side of the construction site, and I baited it with some smelly cat food.  After having done that, I headed towards Shatin town to catch a bus back to Hong Kong, following the same route that Roxy would herself take.  As I was walking along a narrow path I saw a dog coming towards me. Could it be Roxy? As she came closer I could see it was her, slimmer but still unmistakeable.  I crouched down and called her name, fully expecting that her eyes would light up with recognition and relief and she would run to me without hesitation.  How wrong I was.  She stopped, waited a second, and then shot round me and off towards the hills and the trap that was waiting for her. I was amazed and disappointed.  Roxy had been with me since she was a baby and knew nothing about living wild.  She wasn’t even one of the timid pups, but a happy and friendly girl from the start.  But when she needed it, she knew instinctively how to survive.

Roxy now

Roxy now

 As it turned out, Roxy went straight into the trap after she had run past me, unable to resist the smell of fish and a tasty meal.  AFCD were called and took Roxy back to their Shatin kennels where I went the following day to collect her.  She recognised me at once, wagging her tail and very happy to be taken out.  Back home, it was like nothing had ever happened.  She slipped straight back into being my Roxy again, with no trace or hint of what she had been through for her time as a wild dog.

 It’s time to get the dogs in for the night and as I call “In, in!”, the dogs and doglets obediently file through the door after having had their final pee of the day.  I see Woody hanging around, finally out of the hole, and push out the crate that is his own special bedroom.  In he pops and I close the door.  Relief.

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