“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” – Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics
As many of you probably know, there is a little stray pup that lives up here on the mountain on the side of the road. A number of us have stepped up to take care of him, and every day, we’re asked the same questions about him. It gets tough to answer the same questions over and over, so I’ve created this FAPQ that we can just link to, so everyone will understand this little pup’s story. Thanks for your concern and offers of assistance! I would still encourage you to read through the past posts on the Suck Creek Photos Facebook page – there’s also lots of discussion there about him, as well.
Q: You’re terrible people, leaving him out there. Why don’t you just take him home?
A: This gets posted a lot, usually just like that. We’ve been called many names – terrible, irresponsible, selfish, cruel – but nothing could be more wrong. Dozens of people have offered to take him, but no one has been able to catch him. He’s skittish and fast and very smart, and he won’t let most people within 20 or 30 feet. He’ll get close to a few of us who visit, feed and talk to him regularly, but still not close enough to catch, and chasing him will just make him trust people even less.
Q: OK, why don’t you just trap him then?
A: This topic has been beaten into the ground. The local animal rescue group attempted to trap him on more than one occasion, and he refused to go in the trap, even though it was baited (and before he was popular and well-fed). Last spring, I intended to try again, and I asked people to stop feeding him, so he’d be more inclined to go in a trap with food in it. Most people understood, but a small group of people insist that he wants to be there, that he’s chosen to live there, and they accused me of trying to starve him, and said they would purposely continue to feed him, specifically so I couldn’t trap him (or “kidnap” him, as has been said) and get him veterinary care and into a loving home.
Q: Alright then, just tranquilize him.
A: This isn’t Daktari. You can’t just dump tranquilizers in an animal’s food and hope he eats it, or shoot him with a tranq gun. You have to have a proper weight of the animal; too little, and there will be no effect; too much, and it could kill him. If he just gets woozy, he could wander into the road (which he does too much already), and would be defenseless against predators, or he could climb up into the nooks and crannies on the bluff face where he’d be unreachable and possibly get injured. Now, if there’s a veterinarian that has the proper training and equipment that wants to come help out, I’m all for it. UPDATE: I have been having discussions with a local vet, and hopefully a plan will be forthcoming.
Q: Are you planning on keeping him?
A: Probably not. I lost my pair of beloved Alaskan Malamutes, Blackjack and Tonka, in 2021 and I’m not ready for another pup. Probably never will be. But first things first: get him off the side of the road.
If you want to know more about Blackjack and Tonka, they have a memorial Instagram page at instagram.com/blackjack_the_malamute.
Q: Can I have him, then?
A: That won’t be my decision. If he can be caught, through whatever method, he will go to a local rescue organization, who have already volunteered to get him veterinary care (as have a number of individuals, so thanks again!). The rescue group will decide where and how he is re-homed. He won’t be abandoned in a shelter; as soon as he is cleared by a vet, he’ll go to his new home.
Q: How long has he been out there?
A: At least 2 or 3 years. Maybe longer.
Q: Does he have a name?
A: He has a number of names – everyone kinda calls him what they like. He doesn’t respond to any of the names, as far as I know.
Q: What’s with the container chained to a tree out there?
A: A group of us leave food and water in a specific area, so anyone can feed him if they stop and see that he needs it (and please don’t overfeed him!). Twice in recent months, someone has stolen his food, container and all. No evidence of it being an animal – the containers were weighted with rocks, and there was no spilled food or wrappers. Some awful person stole food from a stray pup. Let that sink in. So, I bolted the container to the board, put rocks in the bottom, and chained the lot to a tree.
Q: Why don’t you just put up a trail camera or something, then?
A: Someone stole food from a defenseless little dog, you think they won’t steal a trail camera, too? I did have a trail camera out there for a few weeks which no one knew about, and to check for predators. All I saw was a possum, a raccoon, a cat, a few vultures and other birds, and the pup. No predators.
Q: Are you actually the “SuckCreek Sam” I’ve seen on the Facebook?
A: NO. Absolutely not. Whomever is behind that isn’t helping the situation, and is one of the people who is positive that he wants to be out there, cold, hungry, scared, alone and always just one wrong move away from death. I don’t know who this person really is, and I don’t care. All I know is that I (and others) have been personally attacked by this person, and this person is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
If you are following “SuckCreek Sam” on Facebook, I urge you to unfollow, and ask your people to do the same.
Q: Do you know where he “lives”?
A: Yes. I climbed up the bluff recently and found his spot. I don’t want to divulge a lot of details, but he has a relatively safe place that’s mostly out of the elements. Nonetheless, on Thanksgiving of this year, I climbed up and down the bluff five times to put a nice, warm doghouse in his space. The doghouse was donated by an individual (thanks again!), and the poplar shavings were donated by the county co-op (also, thanks again). I cleaned the doghouse out, and bought cans of spray foam to insulate the roof and the joint between the top and bottom, so it’s warm and cozy, and I positioned it so the bluff will block most of the weather.
In addition, I removed the old styrofoam cooler that someone (well-meaning) had left as a “house” years ago along the side of the road. It was so small he couldn’t get inside it if he wanted to, and it was full of moldy straw and a nasty wet blanket, and right out in the open, guaranteeing he’d never use it. Plus, it was a perfect place for a timber rattlesnake or copperhead to make a nest.
Q: He wants to be there.
A: No, he doesn’t. Dogs are pack animals, and whether their pack is other dogs, humans, ducks, or anything else, dogs are not by nature solitary animals. Just because something so traumatic happened to him that he won’t come too close to people (yet), doesn’t mean he wants to be there. Here’s proof: at the end of 2021, just a month after losing Tonka, I was out shooting (pictures) at Slayer Rock, and I heard a very faint squeaking coming from down in the gorge. It was a tiny black kitten, hiding in the rocks, maybe 7 weeks old, that had been clearly dumped on the side of the road. He came to me happily and willingly, and has been my constant companion ever since. You think that pup wants to be out there? You’re incorrect. He’s frightened and doesn’t trust people, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be there. Any of you who think that have my blessing to go stay out there on that bluff with absolutely nothing for a couple of days and see what it’s like. Maybe wait until January. Then tell me that’s what he wants.
Q: What’s the plan, then?
A: There is a plan to rescue him. Myself and several other awesome people are working to gain his trust and befriend him, in the hopes that one day he’ll just hop in the car and go. He’s getting close. I leave my back car door open when I’m there, and he’s put his feet up on the door jamb and had some looks inside. If befriending him doesn’t work, there are other alternatives being explored, but those won’t be publicized.
Q: OK, I’m convinced. How can I help?
A: Thanks! For the most part, our group has everything under control. If a time comes that we need food for him, we’ll ask (on Facebook) – but that’s not been an issue so far, thanks to the generosity of a number of people out there. There have been offers of a doghouse – if he’s still out there this winter, I plan on making him something, but if that changes, I’ll post that, as well.
If you’re adamant about donating for the pup, as well as other activities I pursue (trash bags and supplies for cleaning up, candy for the kids, bottles of water to hand out to people who need it, etc), you certainly can donate. My Venmo is @SuckCreekPhotos.
Donations are absolutely not expected or required, but if you feel the need to donate, thanks very much.
The one thing anyone/everyone can do out there is SLOW DOWN. He is often out in the road, and for the most part, he’s smart enough to get out of the way, but there are cars that fly through his section of highway. So please, slow down through there. You can also spread the word about him – he deserves to be known. Also, lay off giving him junk food – while any food is better than none, his diet of discarded cheeseburgers and half-eaten Taco Bell has made him finicky (which I understand – I’ll take fast food over a healthy diet every day).
Q: You know, it’s just a dog.
A: Shut up.
Dedicated fondly to the memory of Fredonia Fred, another pup on a neighboring mountain that lived most of his life on the side of the road; cold, scared, hungry and alone, but loved from a distance by his local community. Fredonia Fred was hit and killed by a car in June 2023. And, of course, my Blackjack and Tonka, who I miss every day.
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.”