We all know the story. Little Red Riding Hood knocks on her grandmother’s door and finds a hungry wolf with granny on his breath and the old matron’s nightgown on his back.
If only that granny had offered her hairy guest some hot dogs and cheese, things might have gone differently. The tale might have turned out like the story of the wolf in River Rose Village, a Greenacres trailer park where some seniors have harbored a wolf hybrid for the last three years, and neighbors are none too happy.
“She’s running all over our neighborhood,” said Larry Blanchard, a neighbor who’s tired of finding food buried in his garden and poop on his lawn. “We’re lucky she’s not vicious.”
Actually, the River Rose wolf isn’t a full-blown predator; she’s a hybrid, a cross between a wolf and a domestic dog. She goes by “T.M.” short for “Tippy’s Mom.” Tippy was a pup that had a distinctive black tip on the end of its tale. Dogcatchers managed to nab the pup, along with several others, but not the unspayed mother.
Neighbors suspect T.M. is part German shepherd. Some even think she could be part coyote. Less than waist high and a tad on the lean side, the animal might be a little small to be a wolf, they say. Her legend, on the other hand, has become larger than life.
The dog has proven to be a four-legged Houdini, too crafty for Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services. The agency, known as SCRAPS, has tried again and again to capture the dog with little luck. Only once has T.M. been captured, but she escaped through an unlocked gate.
But the dogcatchers keep trying. At various times in the last 18 months, there have been sheriff’s office marksmen perched on trailer house roofs to shoot T.M. should she interfere with dog catchers collecting her pups. For an animal unable to win the hearts of every two-legged River Rose resident, T.M. has been a hit with the community’s male dogs. Once a year when her biological clock strikes midnight, pups follow as many as 10 at a time.
T.M. isn’t a bad animal, neighbor Nadine Anderson said. Anderson feeds T.M. daily. Like the hybrid’s other supporters, she would like to see the dog captured only if it can be given a decent home. Animal control officers have said T.M. would have to be put to death if a sanctuary wasn’t available. However, by the grace of its wit and a long list of enablers, T.M.’s odds of being put down are slim.
Countless slices of hard cheddar cheese have been laced with tranquilizers in hope that the animal would conk out, giving officials a chance to transport T.M. to a sanctuary; a woman in Chewelah with a penchant for wolf hybrids is willing to take the animal. But T.M. has withstood the pharmaceutical assault without taking as much as a catnap.
“We could not believe the amount of tranquilizers she could take,” said Nancy Hill, director of SCRAPS. “We have hybrid wolves at the shelter periodically, and they are drug resistant.”
Or, maybe some of the neighbors who have befriended the dog are reluctant to give her doped cheese.
Regardless, the longer T.M. evades capture, the larger she becomes, at least in legend. Neighbors tell the story of how Lois Deckert, who befriended T.M., actually coaxed the animal into a box and loaded T.M. into a car. She drove the animal seven miles, past Otis Orchards to the state line, where a husband and wife had agreed to take the dog.
On her way home, Deckert stopped at Wal-Mart for an hour of shopping. T.M. was resting in Deckert’s back yard when the woman came home.
It didn’t exactly take T.M. an hour to get home, said Anderson, but the dog was back at River Rose by late afternoon.
These stories also make dog catchers look like buffoons, Toms to T.M’s Jerry, or Wile E. Coyotes to T.M.’s Roadrunner. In these stories the dog always wins.
“You haven’t seen a comedy of errors until you see someone with a throw net over his shoulders chasing after a wolf,” said Blanchard. “They were running after her, and she wasn’t even trying.”
The other story neighbors tell is about the day a couple of pest-control subcontractors hired by the county almost caught T.M. but quit for the day because it was 5 p.m., time to go home.
The dog is just too smart for capture, Anderson said. T.M. seems to spot approaching animal control vehicles long before her human neighbors know dog catchers are on the prowl. At the first sign of trouble, T.M. gets up, circles around the neighborhood’s back yards and heads down a near-vertical bank leading to the Spokane River.
The residents of River Rose believe T.M. knows the animal control vehicles by their color. Not that ordinary dogs see color, but you can hardly be a legend if your vision is monochromatic.
But all good tales have to come to an end.
“For the most part, it’s very crafty,” Hill said. “It’s not vaccinated for anything, not spayed. People love it or hate it. I just worry that it’s going to have puppies again and it’s going to get protective and bite someone. And it’s in violation of the leash law.”
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