The man who found the dog, freezing and starving at the edges of Love Canal, spent an hour in the cold, trying to get the dog to trust him.
Tom Jackson was leaving his job at JR Swanson Heating & Plumbing when he spotted a coat-less woman outside of her parked car on Frontier Avenue near 102 Street, trying - without luck - to get the shivering stray to come to her.
Jackson told her to go on her way and promised he would catch the dog. He asked only that she call the SPCA to let them know he needed help.
“I told this young lady, don’t’ worry about it. I will take care of the dog,” he said.
And so he did.
The dog, who looked to be a Husky, was bleeding from his paws. Whether hungry or thirsty or both, he seemed to be trying to lick and eat the frozen snow. For more than an hour, Jackson tried to gain the dog’s trust. The dog eventually found its way between the plow on his truck and the truck itself, appearing to appreciate the heat coming from the engine.
“He was very scared, skinny, and his paws were bleeding and raw,” Jackson said. “The look on his face, it was a cry for help. So I started trying to build a little trust.”
The dog would get close and then run away. But it seemed to understand this person might be able to help. Jackson was patient.
When he was able to get close enough, he decided to make his move.
“I threw my jacket around him to make sure I didn’t get bit,” Jackson said. “He actually let me pick him up.”
He put the dog in the back seat of his truck.
“Then I’m thinking to myself, I’m really hoping this is going to go well,” he said.
He poured some water into an old cup from a water bottle he had.
“As I’m holding the water in one hand, I reached over and pet him,” Jackson said.
When the dog let Jackson pet him, Jackson knew he was going to be OK. But there was no way he could bring the dog home as the couple already had two dogs including an 8-year-old Chihuahua named Rico and a nine-week-old German shepherd puppy named Jada. He knew he would have to take it to the SPCA, but first he wanted to make sure it was fed.
Tom called his wife, Renee Jackson, a hairdresser at Savoy’s Salon and Spa in Lewiston, who was on her way to her second job at a local sports bar, 87 Buf, in Niagara Falls. He asked her to bring some food and water for the dog and they agreed to meet each other driving halfway. When she saw the dog, its condition broke her heart. She snapped some photos of it to post on Facebook when she got to the bar, in the hope of someone knowing the dog’s owner.
“My wife was bawling her eyes out and I was pretty upset,” Tom recalled.
The pair wondered if someone had deliberately abandoned the dog but also understood that it might have just slipped out someone’s door.
“I know people with Huskies and they can be escape artists, but this dog had been out in the elements for a while,” Tom said.
Later that night, Renee’s friends began texting her to say the post had gone viral. By the time she looked at her Facebook page, there were more than 3,000 likes, 2,000 comments and eventually more than 9,000 animal lovers had shared her post.
“I was shocked,” she said.
And still, no owner has been found.
But the dog has been getting more than just likes at the SPCA of Niagara.
Janelle Harris, who works at the front desk, dubbed the dog Yukon and the medical attention he received has begun to heal his face and paws.
On Wednesday, SPCA spokesperson Kimberly LaRussa said his skin is already starting to look better.
“There’s a little more pep in his step,” she said of Yukon.
The dog will be put up for adoption when it is healthier, LaRussa added.
Meanwhile, Yukon’s rescuers believe there was a little heavenly intervention involved in the dog’s fate.
Their beloved dog, Angel Baby, an all-white 14-year-old German Shepherd, died at their home in January, and they’re still grieving her loss.
“It’s definitely a sign from our Angel,” Renee said, noting that before she went to bed the night they found Yukon, a picture of an an angel popped up on her Facebook page. It read: “All you need is love and a dog.”
“She was our baby,” Renee said of her Angel Baby. “She put that dog on my husband’s path for a reason.”
But, ultimately, it was Yukon who helped to save himself by trusting a human.
“He chose me and let me help him,” Tom said.
For more information about Yukon, visit the Facebook page of the Niagara SPCA or call 731-4368.