Elusive Chihuahua captured near prison


It took a prison employee to capture an escaped Chihuahua.

The Chihuahua got loose almost three weeks near Interstate 84, when representatives of two dog rescue groups met in Pendleton to transfer the small dog from one vehicle to the other. The female dog, found in Idaho, was supposed to go to a new owner in Washington.

The dog squirted away and raced across the freeway. The Idaho rescue worker had other dogs in her vehicle and had to leave town. The two drivers contacted pet rescue volunteers Cynthia Hildebrand and Leslie Devine.

Hildebrand, of Mission, and Devine, of Pendleton, posted some flyers describing the Chihuahua. The Idaho Domestic Animal Welfare Group bought a classified ad.

Before too long, Hildebrand and Devine started getting calls.

Devine bought a trap with a door that is supposed to spring shut when the dog wanders inside to eat the food inside. She placed it where the dog was last seen. She caught some cats, but no dog.

The dog was spotted in the neighborhood for a couple of days, then they lost track of her as she somehow navigated the Umatilla River and turned up near the Blue Mountain Community College baseball diamond.

The trap failed again.

The Chihuahua eventually turned up in a woodpile behind the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. Devine set another trap, but prison guards reported the dog sniffed it and didn't go in.

The prison's communication director, Doug Harder, spotted the dog at the prison parking lot and followed her to the railroad tracks. As he walked toward her, a train came and blocked Harder's view. When the train cleared, he saw the dog up ahead and still alive.

The dog stayed safely ahead, made a big circle and ended up back at the woodpile. Two correctional officers who work the prison's back gate, came within a whisker of catching the wily dog last weekend as it wandered into the trap.

"They had a hold of her and she slipped right out of that doggone thing," Harder said.

Rick Punzel, a welder at the prison, finally nabbed the dog Wednesday morning. "It was sleeping on top of some grass clippings," Punzel said. "I was thinking, 'I can catch this thing.' "

He donned two pairs of leather gloves and grabbed the dog.

"It was a battle," he said. "It was hissing and growling."

But the Chihuahua wasn't ready to surrender.

Hildebrand took the dog until another rescue worker could transport her back to Idaho. She placed her within a six-foot chain link fence and reinforced the gaps to prevent an escape.

It didn't quite work. Hildebrand and her husband, Gary, left home for awhile. When Gary got back he noticed the dog running free on the couple's five acres. He called his wife.

"He said, 'The Chihuahua is loose,'" Hildebrand said.

She raced home to find her husband in hot pursuit. The dog aimed her body toward an outside fence and started digging.

"The dirt was flying," Hildebrand said.

Just as the dog was squirming through the opening, Hildebrand dove.

"I hung onto her legs, yelled to Gary to bring the crate and just laid there with both me and the dog gasping for breath," Hildebrand said.

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