Animals

Every day, a woman visits a mountain to persuade large dogs to let her rescue them

Veronica Shea was hiking with her dog in California’s Angeles National Forest in 2020 when she noticed something weird moving ahead of them.

“We whip around the curve, and when I looked over, there was this huge black thing,” Shea explained in an interview. “He went up the side of a cliff.”

VERONICA SHEA

Shea pursued the fuzzy creature until she came face to face with three emaciated canines alone in the forest. She realized she had to save the dogs after learning they had been abandoned. Shea climbed up the mountain every day for many weeks to feed the dogs and build their trust.

VERONICA SHEA

The dogs gradually became accustomed to her presence and began eating off her hand. Shea, on the other hand, had no idea how to get them off the mountain. Will the other dogs escape if she captures one? She realized she couldn’t do it on her alone.

When she pleaded for assistance, a large group of rescuers rushed to her aid. They took materials up the mountain and constructed a makeshift cage together. The dogs were carefully enticed inside and transported down the mountain by the rescuers.

The three canines, thought to be siblings called Princess George, Grace, and Steve, were finally safe. But they still had a long way to go.

The rescuers sought Cheri Wulff Lucas, a well-known dog behaviorist and trainer in California, to see if she might assist the frightened canines in regaining their confidence. “They weren’t adoptable in the way they came,” Lucas said in an interview. “They were impenetrable. They couldn’t be restrained. They were simply afraid.”

Lucas’ teaching was favorably received by Princess George, Grace, and Steve. They still had a “very strong startle reflex,” according to Lucas. This made it difficult for them to find the ideal property.

VERONICA SHEA

“It was going to take a very special home for them to go into because they’re not the kind of dogs that are going to go to the dog park,” said Lucas. “Even walking them through city streets would be too much for them.” If they spook, they weigh 125 pounds and would be quite difficult to confine.”

But Lucas was confident that the dogs were secure on her property.

“I’m out there in the middle of nowhere,” Lucas explained. “There’s no one around here. From here, you can’t even see another house. So if they did escape, they’d just come back to me.”

VERONICA SHEA

Lucas had no intention of keeping the dogs herself, yet that is precisely what she did. This proved to be the greatest option for everyone. Princess George, Grace, and Steve were still living in a secure and supportive atmosphere. Lucas also learned that the dogs might assist her in her career as a trainer.

“If I get dogs that needs socialization — to be more familiar and less reactive with other dogs — I use my pack to help rehabilitate them,” Lucas went on to say. “And all three of them are extremely friendly with dogs.” They understand how to sniff appropriately and how not to dominate the dog that requires socializing. They’re simply perfect. And that’s not anything I taught them; it just happened.”

The three were especially helpful when Lucas began working with another dog named Andi, who had been rescued from a hoarding situation. “She had lived in a pen for seven years without human touch or being leashed or anything and she was terrified,” Lucas told me. “They just came in and made her feel at ease.” It was wonderful to witness. They moved her in ways that I could never do as a human.”

VERONICA SHEA

Lucas eventually adopted Andi, raising her own flock of dogs to 12. Princess George, Grace, and Steve have been living with Lucas for nearly three years and have transformed into entirely different dogs. “They’re incredibly playful,” added Lucas. “If you came to my house and did not know their backstory, you would think they were like any other dog.”

George is described by Lucas as a “couch potato” who enjoys lounging about the home and interacting with the other pets. Steve is the one who enjoys endless games of “chase” in the backyard. Grace is still a little shy, but she has a very tight relationship with Steve.

“They’re pets — they’re really pets now,” she went on to say. “They’re not cases for me anymore.”