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June 13, 2006 > Polo is missing! ..."The little sled dog that could"

Polo is missing! ..."The little sled dog that could"

by Nancy Lyon

Northern California Sled Dog Rescue or Norsled, is a wonderful California nonprofit organization that is asking for our community's help in finding a very special and frightened dog that disappeared in the Niles District of Fremont just a week and a half ago. His name is Polo and this is his story.

Norsled has representatives all over Northern California and their member in the Redding area keeps an eye on the shelters up there. Knowing the Adoption Coordinator, Gail de Rita has a penchant for red huskies, when the member saw Polo; she sent a picture to Gail alerting her that this was a dog seriously in need of their assistance.

When he was pulled from the shelter last September, he proved virtually a feral or semi-wild dog.  The poor dog led a rough life - he had all sorts of intestinal parasites, infected ears and skin conditions that left his fur sparse and rough. Foster parents Gail and Deb Wolf worked with him for many months to help - cleared up his skin and internal conditions. Perhaps for the first time in his life he was fed good food and his fur got shiny, thick and soft. His bald spots started to heal.  He was looking downright handsome!

Healing his spirit was harder. He was still scared to death of people but his foster moms had three other dogs who helped him assimilate. He was a very fast runner and on trips to the dog park he was kept on his leash when he was let run. He stayed beautifully with the pack but proved very hard to catch.

His foster family took him carting where he proved to be an excellent, fast, strong and competent sled dog. Learning these skills made him so much more confident. He had such a good time with the pack. He loved to pull the cart!

Slowly but surely he started to warm up -- first to all the dogs, his fosters' younger husky and he became close playpals. He slept on the bed with the older female husky who took him under her wing. Foster moms worked hard to socialize him and help him to overcome his fears. He remains very skittish and what happened to him in his early life to make him so fearful remained unknown but it must have been very traumatic. Finally he got to a place of trust where he slept on Gail's bed with his head by her pillow.

Unfortunately, while at an adoption fair, just as Polo was getting friendly and socialized, he broke out of his second collar and took off down a very busy street which led to the freeway. Fortunately, he still had on his Norsled collar with a Norsled tag and a microchip tag. Volunteers spent the entire afternoon driving, walking, talking to folks, and making fliers to locate him. But he was not to be found.

Animal Control called the next morning to say he had been caught on the freeway and had a broken pelvis. But only after a rigorous chase by Martinez Animal Control, incredibly still running with his injury. He was caught at a homeless encampment, completely dirty from sleeping in their "latrine" all night.

He was taken to the best orthopedic veterinary hospital in Contra Costa. Norsled's policy of "if it can be fixed, we don't put the dog down" kicked into gear. Many Norsled members were in the room while the vet read the x-rays and he explained the two options, expensive surgery or euthanasia -- all were in agreement - do the surgery.

This meant an expensive and long recovery time but Norsled raised the money. He became quite a cause celeb on their website and a very familiar face. His foster family kept him crated and cared for him over the next few months. Slowly, he regained the use of his back leg. They called him the "little sled dog who could." because he was, and is, tenacious, strong and tough.

A wonderful Fremont family with another Norsled dog, who looks much like Polo, was the perfect match for him. They had excellent dog skills, took Polo to work with them and otherwise made sure he had the best possible life.

Then on the evening of May 31, the unthinkable happened. After only 6 weeks in his new home, just as his leg had nearly healed from his first injury, Polo got out of his collar again. His "brother" Surf had chewed the original Norsled collar; his family got a quick fix collar until a new Norsled collar could be obtained. For Polo, the escape artist, this was easy to snap out of. He ran out onto Mission Boulevard and was hit by a car and flipped high into the air - the driver took off.

Very probably injured but pumped with adrenaline, Polo ran off into the night up Pickering Avenue with his family in hot pursuit on foot. By this time it was very dark and driving for hours proved in vain.  This was the last time this tough little guy was seen.

Norsled's members have all been intensely involved an area search for Polo; going on daily walks with fliers, calling on any and all religious affiliations for prayers and positive energy, even using animal communicators and psychics, generally putting his presence out there. Anything that might work, they are doing to find Polo.

The last possible sighting of Polo was off of Nursery Avenue in the Niles area of Fremont on Friday afternoon June 3. He was trotting at a good speed on the shoulder of the road. There was also a possible sighting at Vallejo Mills Elementary School and the park nearby.

This little boy is much loved and his family and Norsled want to get him back where proper medical attention and good food and shelter can be provided.

They ask that everyone keep an eye out for this fast, skinny, scared red husky mix with NO COLLAR.  If he is spotted, do not try to catch him. Just call Norsled at 800-471-5822 or Andrew or Mizuki at 510-557-3011 or Fremont Animal Services at 510-790-6634 to give details and location. There is a reward. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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