SOUTH BEND – When he escaped through a hole in his backyard fence, Pinto sort of slipped off the cute leather collar his family had bought him, labeled “Pinto el Vago” – which is Spanish for “Pinto the Vagabond”.
This inscription was prophetic. The cute black, brown and white dog would eventually make it five miles north to a shore of the St. Joseph River, where volunteers and firefighters would rescue him by boat.
But, Ramona Cruz said, in the nearly three years they bought him from an Amish family, he has never run away. Again, this was also the first time they had a hole in the fence. Cruz, her husband and her three children, aged 8 to 30, called him “el Vago” because he constantly roamed the yard.
“He never stopped,” she said.
On August 5, The Tribune reported, Clay Fire Territory picked up the dog from the steep embankment where he had camped and loaded him – captured moments before in a 70-pound cage – onto an inflatable lifeboat and drove him minutes to the boat launch. to the water of St. Patrick’s County Park. .
It had started about a week earlier when the owner of this property on Lilac Road contacted her neighbor, Tribune retiree and long-time pet advocate, Gayle Dantzler, who then called in volunteers from the South Bend Lost & Found Pets nonprofit that regularly trap and save. stray dogs. Ann Rudasics and Tina Donica set up a camera to monitor him and even heard a resident just north of the Michigan line who had tried but failed to catch him.
Rudasics and Donica baited their cage with a lot of meat. After Pinto was brought to the park by boat, the Humane Society of St. Joseph County took him to their shelter. Because he had no tag, they scanned him and quickly found an electronic chip, which led them to Cruz and his family. Within a day he was home.
Cruz stated that Pinto had been missing for about a week and a half.
“We thought something had happened to him, someone stole him,” she recalls. “Maybe he didn’t want to come home.
When she got the call from the Humane Society, she quickly agreed to pay a fee to host it. Humane Society director Genny Brown said he weighed 42 pounds – normal for a dog his size – and was in good health, having been spayed and vaccinated against rabies, thanks to his owners.
But during the first two days of returning home near Muessel Primary School, Cruz said, Pinto was not himself. He was calm, which the volunteers had observed, thinking he was shy because he was afraid of being in a foreign environment.
Then he went back to his habit, running around the yard and barking whenever people approached.
“He’s very hyper,” Cruz said of Pinto, a collie and Australian Shepherd mix.
In fact, she admitted, they try to pull him inside when he barks too much because of a nuisance complaint from at least one neighbor. But, she added, “He doesn’t like to be indoors except when he’s sleeping.”
He also regains weight because, before running away, said Cruz, he was overweight.
She and Donica are still wondering how he got to Lilac Road or down to the river.
As for the efforts of the volunteers and the firefighters, she said, “I am really very grateful; I don’t know how to say it.
“Crazy”, her 8 year old son, Hector, rang the bell. “Even though he’s a little spoiled.”
They even see Pinto as a sort of mascot for the family business, Mr. and Mrs. Handyman / Roofing.
So the name the volunteers gave the dog, River, didn’t stick. Cruz likes it, but Pinto is back. And she’s happy that they also microchipped their two other dogs, both Shih Tzu, who are Pinto’s “buddies”.
“It’s important to have the chip,” she said.