Monday, May 24, 2010

My dog, June Bug, is the front-page, headline story of the Sunday paper...

Dog tales

June Bug thrives on the solitude that Necel Golden’s
home east of Weston offers. Photo by Necel Golden

By NATHAN PAYNE, News-Record City Editor

Published: Saturday, May 22, 2010 11:53 PM MDT

When 13 neglected dogs were placed in homes in Gillette, it seemed like the climax of an event that had started with the discovery of 159 dogs at one home in Provo, S.D.

They were dirty, ragged, unfriendly and were totally unaccustomed to being around humans when they were found in November 2006. When those 13 dogs found homes in Gillette, it was like the nightmare was over for them and next would come the fairy tale ending.

But, alas, it wasn’t a Disney movie, and every story does not end with happily ever after.

The tale did, however, end up with a couple of fairy godmothers.

Escape artists

Jennifer Hackney takes all of the charity cases — those dogs that no one wants or loves, and some that might be impossible to love.

Hackney knew that her dog, Tanner, was the wildest of the 13 dogs brought to the Campbell County Humane Society from South Dakota, but she took him anyway. He had never been washed. He had never been touched. He didn’t want to be touched.

Because of those things, he would never be adopted.

She took him, at first, as a foster case. But she hoped that one day she would be able to prepare him and another named Scooter to be adopted into a loving home, with an owner looking for a best friend.

Tanner had other plans.

Hackney took Tanner home on Dec. 4, 2006, nine days after he was confiscated. Tanner and 158 other dogs had been rescued from a home where two women had been hoarding the dogs for years. The canines were housed in outdoor hovels in groups of 10 or more that bred and bred until the population grew out of control. None of them had been spayed, neutered or washed, but they had been fed.

“Physically they were in fine shape,” Hackney said.

The mental picture was not so pretty, though.

The dogs were mostly wild. They did not know how to react to the people who were trying to help them and were obviously frightened when they were taken from the quarter-acre cesspool where they had been kept.

Only four days after Hackney brought Tanner to her home in the Sundog subdivision west of Gillette, he escaped. She spent days chasing him, trying to corral him, but finally he disappeared.

“They’re not like normal dogs. They’re not socialized like that,” she said.

Hackney assumed her newest companion was gone, dead somewhere, hit by a car or killed by coyotes. The beagle-dachshund mix would be no match for the wild.

She felt horrible.

But for the grace of God...

Almost 40 days passed, and Hackney knew that Tanner would not be back. She had given up on ever seeing him again.

But then she got an e-mail, forwarded to her from a friend who worked with her at the Humane Society, where she is the president.

On Christmas day, Necel Golden had seen a black-and-tan dog scavenging for road kill along the Interstate 90 median west of Gillette. The skittish dog refused to come anywhere near Golden and her boyfriend, Travis Hackert.

The description of a beagle-sized rottweiler-looking dog was enough to convince Hackney that the stray was her foster dog.

She quickly secured a live trap and went to the mile marker where he was last seen. She baited the trap and went home, hoping that the dog was hungry enough to overcome his fear and enter the metal-mesh trap.

For several days, she drove twice a day to the trap to find it empty, and then would spot the dog in another location.

Finally, on the 40th day, she found Tanner inside the trap.

“I figured 40 days was my big sign from God ... 40 days, that’s your dog,” Hackney said. “I thought this one needs the most work, so I’ll keep him.”

She took the dog home, washed him and fed him.

And then she tied him to her leg.

For the next three months, Tanner learned to never leave her side by being tied to a leash attached to her ankle. The two went everywhere together for three months, a habit that persists today.

It is not so much of a choice for Hackney, whether to take Tanner with her. Most of the time, he makes the choice by scurrying out of the front door when she leaves and waits by her car.

He has become somewhat of a mascot for the Campbell County Humane Society, a tail-wagging testimonial of what can happen when the right dog finds the right owner.

On the seventh day, she rested

Animals in need have found their way to Necel Golden. She found Tanner in late December 2006. Six months later she found June Bug.

Golden was driving past a field at the corner of Little Powder River Road and North Highway 59 when she saw the petite blond dog sitting in the grass watching cars rumble to work in either direction.

She drives the same route to Gillette every day from her home near Weston.

Again, Golden e-mailed everyone she knew in the dog world in Gillette, asking if anyone knew of a missing dog that matched that description. Immediately she received a reply that there was another of the rescue dogs that had been missing for seven months since it escaped from the kennel where some of the dogs were housed in December. The kennel was less than a mile from where Golden found her.

For three days, the dog sat in the field watching her, and Golden felt as though it was beckoning for a home.

On the third day, she lugged a live trap over a fence and down to a culvert near where she last saw the dog. She baited the trap with cat food and expected the worst.

Golden knew how long it took Hackney to catch Tanner. She expected to check the trap twice a day, on her way to and from work, for as long as it took to catch the dog.

To her surprise, the next morning, the 25-pound terrier mix was sitting in the trap, waiting for her. Golden immediately lugged the agitated dog over the fence and into her car.

“She was like a wild animal, running back and forth in the trap,” Golden said. “She was crazed.”

For three days, the dog she had named June Bug stayed in a kennel in a spare bedroom at Golden’s home, hidden from her boyfriend. The couple already had three dogs and he didn’t want another one.

But she knew that she was a last chance for a dog like June Bug.

“If you put her in a shelter, they’re going to put her down because she is wild,” she said. “It’s just weird that animals in need come across my path.”

On the fourth day, Golden made the mistake of letting Bug out of her kennel. The dog bolted into another bedroom and lodged herself under a bed. Golden fetched her boyfriend and gave him a blanket to throw over the dog when she flushed it out from under the bed. Not knowing if the dog would bite, Golden donned a winter coat, gloves and a hat.

The scene ended with the dog out from under the bed, but with Golden covered in the blanket.

The first six days, Bug cowered in her kennel and refused to leave the shelter.

“We kept all doors and windows shut. She navigated the house under furniture,” Golden said. “We just ignored her.”

On the seventh day, they pulled her kennel out onto the porch so she could get some fresh air. Golden was given a glimmer of hope when she moved the kennel back inside the house: Bug wagged her tail once, then went back to cowering.

That night, nearly the end of the seventh day, while Golden was standing at the kitchen sink, Bug sidled up beside her and stood on her hind legs in order to put her front paws on Golden’s leg.

Golden immediately found a chair, sat down, and the tiny blond dog jumped into her lap and began to lick her face.

“She was just like a normal dog,” she said. “It was almost like a miracle.”

Against all odds

Hackney and Golden make no bones about the fact that they picked two dogs that had little chance at a normal life. They were hard to catch and at times even harder to love, but their guardians persisted against the odds.

The survival rate of the rescued dogs sits at a little more than 50 percent, although the 13 dogs fared far better than they would have had they been put in a shelter. Taking care of a dog that was born wild and has never had meaningful human contact takes a patient and dedicated owner.

Even today, June Bug cowers when anyone but Golden and her boyfriend are around. Tanner still has a distinct apprehensiveness when he meets new people, though anyone who rides in his car is immediately a friend.

“It is hard to have a dog you can’t take to the vet,” Golden said. “But we love our Bug.”

The dogs will never be normal, but Golden and Hackney are OK with that.

They don’t need a fairy tale ending.

They just need the occasional tail wag, and cold wet nose to remind them that they are the happy ending.

The South Dakota 13


Of the 12 dogs Jennifer Hackney can account for, she knows of seven still alive.

Tanner: He spends his days riding around town in Hackney’s car and meeting new people.

June Bug: She lives a quiet and happy life on a ranch north of Gillette, though she is still afraid of everyone but her owners.

Mick: He was one of the more timid dogs but found a good home with owner Donna Wells. He runs on a treadmill next to her stationary bike for exercise.

Skeeter: The dog was adopted and lives with Nikki Huddleston.

Snoopy: The dog still lives in Gillette.

Zipper: The dog still lives in Gillette.

Pokey: The dog still lives in Gillette.


Unfortunately, miracles do not happen in every case and several of the rescued dogs did not survive.

Cowboy: He was hit by a car.

Scooter: Scooter was adopted by Hackney. In December 2009, the dog escaped and was hit by a car.


Snickers: The dog’s owners cannot be found. Their phone was disconnected.

Scruffy: The dog ran away and is presumed dead.

Max: The dog ran away and is presumed dead.

No. 13: Hackney has searched for the name of the 13th dog, but has had no luck locating the last pooch.

Want to know more about adopting a pet? Call the Campbell County Humane Society at 682-7465.

What is the Campbell County Humane Society up to?

Selling used books

The Campbell County Humane Society soon will open a used book store in its office at 110 E. Lakeway Road, Suite 600.

Proceeds from the sale of donated books will benefit the the local organization.

Books to supply the store can be dropped in boxes at:

✔ RE/Max real estate offices on Boxelder Road

✔ Brothers Coffee on Gillette Avenue

✔ Espresso Roundup inside Don’s Supermarket

✔ Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Depot on First Street.

✔ Another drop box soon may be located in front of the Humane Society’s Lakeway Road office.

The animal rescue organization also needs bookshelves for the store.

For more information or to donate, call 682-7465 or visit the office between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.

Creating calendars

The Campbell County Humane Society is accepting entries for its 2011 calendar.

Entries in the calendar contest cost $15 and will be voted on beginning Sept. 2. Each vote costs $1.

All proceeds benefit the local organization.

Organizing wiener dog races

The Campbell County Humane Society will host its annual dachshund races Aug. 7.

Racers can pre-register now with the Humane Society.

Signing up volunteer help

To join the organization or learn more, attend a meeting.

The group meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month and at noon the fourth Tuesday of every month at the office on Lakeway Road.


  1. A sweet hello from Frog Hollow Farm Necel. That was quite an article - these poor animals have had such hard lives. Thank goodness there are people like you and Jennifer in the world. Thank you for caring! Ciao, bella!

  2. What a great article! I think it takes very special people to take on that kind of responsibility. We have rescue kitties and love them dearly. Doesn't it feel great to know that you gave an animal a better life? Good for you and your boyfriend. Carla

  3. I have to tell you how moving this article was to me. Bless you and all the wonderful people who reach out to these animals. Both of our dogs are rescues and one of them, Riley, was like a wild dog when we first adopted him. No social skills at all. He has mellowed a great deal, but still has issues: you can't grab him by the collar, he has to be sedated for any work at the Vet's, if he feels threatened, he will try to bite. But he loves us and our other dog, Scout. When we adopted him, we found out he had heartworm. He went through the grueling treatment for it and thank goodness, he made it.