By Pete Thomas/GrindTv
After Shaggy the stray dog was captured last Thursday, after eluding capture for eight months in Michigan, many people wrote emails and social media comments asking about his health.
Remarkably, after sleeping in ditches and wherever he could find cover, much of the time during severely cold winter months, Shaggy has been given a clean bill.
“He’s in surprisingly good shape,” said Melissa Borden, who runs a care facility for feral dogs called The Devoted Barn. “He’s about 30 pounds underweight, and his fur is matted, but he has no frostbite and no heart worms or tic-borne disease.”
Shaggy's only known medical issue is cherry-eye, which affects his eyelid. But it’s not serious, or painful, and will eventually be surgically repaired.
The Newfoundland became famous after he began to appear in Grand Rapids neighborhoods, but was a master at avoiding capture. He outran net guns and was never slowed by tranquilizers, attaining legendary status and earning other nicknames, such as "Bigfoot" and Bear Dog."
The capture effort was stepped up as Michigan fell under winter’s deep freeze, and it finally succeed at a suburban home owned by Jim and Kim Stubbert, who had been feeding Shaggy and even built a shelter for him in their yard.
On Thursday, with Borden supervising, Shaggy allowed Kim Stubbert to slip a collar around his neck, whereupon he freaked out for only a few moments, before lying down in submission.
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Now Shaggy, who is about 2 years old, is trying to get accustomed to living with 13 other feral dogs at The Devoted Barn, which rehabilitates animals in the hope of finding homes for them.
“He’s still playing invisible to us,” Borden said, adding that Shaggy sleeps in a large kennel with other dogs but is allowed several hours a day in a large play room. “But yesterday he ate peanut butter from my hand.”
Shaggy has not yet enjoyed the warm bath some readers wondered about. He’s not quite ready for such a forced and possibly traumatic event, Borden said.
In fact, Shaggy's fur is so matted that he’s going to have to be shaved, making his name sound a bit peculiar. "His coat is basically one big mat," Borden said.
He gets along well with the other dogs, Borden assured, explaining that feral dogs do not quarrel like domesticated dogs, and that they typically accept their place in the pecking order of the pack.
Borden said one of the benefits of having such a famous dog in her care is that he has brought lots of attention to The Devoted Barn, and to the plight of feral dogs, which are mostly abandoned pets.
When Shaggy arrived, Borden posted on The Devoted Barn’s Facebook page:
“Oh Shaggy, this is your story tell. You have captivated our hearts and frustrated us all at the same time. I listened to you and you told me what you wanted. You picked your people and they listened to you too. You trusted them enough to know this was the right time, the time for your new life to begin. You picked an amazing family.
“Now my promise to you, to keep you safe and protected while giving you the perfect environment for you to flourish into a wonderful dog that's trusting and understanding of love."
The Stubberts, Borden acknowledged, are leading candidates to adopt Shaggy when he’s ready to live a normal dog’s life, perhaps in about six months.