At first glance, a rescued feral husky mix named Trek is captivating. He sits alert in a kennel looking warily at visitors with hypnotizing blue eyes, exuding a wild attraction.
“He’s beautiful, but complicated,” said Sue Van Etten, a volunteer who has helped care for Trek.
The dog is staying temporarily in a “dog cottage” at Seven Cedars Dog Training in Langley. The women who care for him are looking for another foster home, preferably with a dog, where he can continue to be socialized. The cottage he is staying at is unavailable starting March 1.
Van Etten’s reference to “complicated” in describing Trek means that he has come a long way in the weeks he’s been in foster care and learning to socialize with humans. He still has a ways to go. While he’s beginning to trust the women who work with him, he is fearful of people he does not know.
“It’s been an intense five weeks for the team, spending most of every day building his confidence and trust in humans,” she said. “It’s slow work, but it’s starting to pay off.”
Trek and his three siblings — Tonka, Tonto and Tundra — were about five months old when they were found running around a cornfield in Eastern Washington. Their mother may have been dumped in the area while pregnant.
“Trek and his siblings were feral, emaciated and flea-ridden when they were rescued, and Trek is the shyest,” said Lyn Kiernan, a volunteer with Red Waggin’ Rescue, a nonprofit with volunteers in Eastern and Western Washington.
While Trek’s siblings were placed in foster homes on Whidbey Island, his fear of people made his situation more complicated. The foster moms of the other three pups didn’t want him to end up in a boarding kennel, so they worked with trainer Maureen Fitzpatrick of Seven Cedars Dog Training to create a unique, if temporary, foster home.
Van Etten explained that Trek has been staying in the dog cottage with “members of ‘Team Trek’ taking shifts living with him and working on his rehabilitation.”
The Red Waggin’ Rescue website explains that the nonprofit is based out of Connell, a small city in Eastern Washington that works “to save the lives of innocent dogs and cats whose only crime is being uncared for, unwanted, unloved and alone.” The organization provides veterinarian care and places dogs and cats in foster homes until permanent homes can be found.
“Trek’s got a team of volunteers,” Kiernan said, adding that she got involved with the group through her neighbor Bigi.
“She was looking for a dog to adopt and volunteered,” Kiernan said. “I got involved. Women to women network. You know how that works.”
Kiernan is fostering Trek’s brother Tonka and is looking for a foster home for both Tonka and Trek. She has an older dog named Walter, a “senior boy” who was once like Trek, shy and afraid of humans.
“He was fearful,” Van Etten said, speaking of Walter. “Lyn spent months gaining his trust. That’s how I met Lyn — in a fearful dog class I was in with my dog Duncan.”
“Dogs draw us together,” Kiernan added.
Meanwhile, Kiernan, along with Karen Wolf and her wife, Deb Wolf, and another volunteer worked round the clock with Trek to get him used to humans. Karen and Deb have since adopted Trek’s sister Tundra, who gets along with their pair of wire fox terriers.
“Regal,” is how Karen Wolf describes Tundra.
“Her photo captured my attention and got me involved with the rescue,” she said. “We fostered other dogs in the past. When Red Waggin’ Rescue posted an urgent need to foster these dogs, I got Tundra and fostered her for a month. Then we adopted her. All four of the dogs in Trek’s family are so intelligent and different from any dog I’ve met.”
In addition, Tonto was adopted by one of the volunteers who helps socialize Trek.
Trek is comfortable with other dogs, Van Etten noted. When she visits Trek for three- to four-hour shifts to relieve the other round-the-clock volunteers, Trek stands at the patio door watching the dogs out for training at Seven Cedars.
“He loves other dogs,” Van Etten said. “Until a week ago, he hadn’t set foot on grass. It is normal for feral dogs to feel comfortable around other dogs. I’ve been reading about how rehab is a step by step process. You can get a full recovery with time. It took weeks getting a collar on him.”
Trek was recently neutered. The women who care for him wish to continue working with him and hope to find a foster home nearby for the young husky mix who is learning to live with humans.
If no foster home is found, Trek will need to go into a boarding facility and adapt to an entirely new living situation with new people, Van Etten said.
“The team is hoping against hope that he can find an in-home foster situation on Whidbey Island where they will continue his socialization and rehabilitation until he is ready for a permanent home,” she said.