Wendy Johnson hasn’t owned a dog for years, but when she and her granddaughter pulled up to her home near Cedar Ridge Elementary in Eden Prairie on July 22, there was one relaxing in the yard.
“I looked in the backyard and that’s when I spotted this black and white dog,” Johnson said.
The neighborhood quickly rallied around the small dog, which peacefully roamed the area for 11 days until the Retrievers, a Minnesotan volunteer lost dog team, helped snag him in a humane live trap. When he was finally settled into a foster home, the neighbors threw a thank-you party for the organization, raising money and acknowledging the work of its all-volunteer staff.
“It’s really nice to have these gatherings because everyone is so worried and stressing about the dog,” said Nicki Taylor, a Retrievers volunteer of four years who helped capture Shiloh. Taylor estimated they raised $240 for the group, and Johnson said she intends to make the party a yearly fundraiser.
“It’s nice to get together after the fact and see everyone happy,” Taylor added.
The mission to capture Shiloh, a 25-pound mutt (Taylor guessed beagle and pug parentage, with a bit of border collie) was a high-tech, late-night endeavor. The Retrievers set up a camera to figure out when he visited Johnson’s yard, which quickly revealed that Shiloh was a night owl.
“He liked to come around at 1, 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning,” Johnson said. The pooch stuck close to Johnson’s yard, at one point falling asleep nearby while she gardened. He always ran away when humans were too close, Johnson said, so capturing him by hand was out of the question.
Johnson and a neighbor posted about the dog on the neighborhood’s NextDoor page, a forum for neighbors to ask questions and start conversations. The post quickly racked up over 100 comments, which led Johnson to the Retrievers.
The Retrievers is a Minnesota-based nonprofit that helps people find and capture lost or stray dogs. Co-founder and director of marketing Devon Thomas Treadwell started out with Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest, another adoption group, and became an expert in assisting with calls for help with a lost dog. She created a team within the organization that eventually split off to become the Retrievers.
In 2018, the Retrievers assisted with 580 cases of lost dogs, she said, either by capturing the dogs themselves or advising owners on strategies to find their own dog.
“The idea is to generate awareness in the community,” Thomas Treadwell explained. “Often a lost dog won’t even go to its owner because it’s anxious, it’s on edge.”
Taylor and her team have helped capture around 41 lost or stray dogs this year, returning them to their homes or finding a foster home to tide them over until adoption. When she received the request for assistance on July 25, Shiloh − who had owners that were unable to take him back − was skittish and shy of people, which is how Johnson and her family came up with his name. But he would often hang out just out of arms’ reach, keeping an eye on the neighborhood’s activities. Even when Taylor and her team started their plan to capture him, Shiloh stuck around to see the action.
“He was just right there, hanging out with us while we were setting up his trap,” she said.
After asking neighbors to stop putting out food for the dog, Johnson and Taylor tried to lure the shy pooch into the trap with cheeseburgers and chicken.
“I was throwing him rotisserie chicken from Costco,” Johnson laughed.
Shiloh finally caved to the temptation of bacon and set foot in the trap on Aug. 1. After realizing his jig was up, the dog allowed Taylor to put a leash on him and requested some loving attention.
“He came right out and he walked right up to me, I was just bawling,” Johnson recalled. “I was so emotional.”