When Veronica Shea was out hiking with her dog on her regular trail in the Angeles National Forest in California, she spotted something unusual.
When she came around a curve, she saw what she described as a “huge black thing”, going up the side of the cliff.
Realizing it was a dog, she decided to follow it, and she sure was glad she did.
The dog took her to two other dogs that were extremely malnourished and all alone in the wilderness. Believing that they were abandoned, Veronica knew she had to help the pack.
For the next several weeks, Veronica climbed up the mountain to feed the dogs and try to gain their trust.
“You could see how malnourished they were. You could really see their ribs. You could count their vertebrae,” said Veronica.
And, they did! The pack started to get used to her presence and even began eating out of her hand.
Even though this was a big achievement, Veronica still had to come up with a plan to get them off the mountain.
She considered trapping them one by one, but she was scared that if she did that, the others might flee.
She needed some help.
As soon as Veronica asked for some helping hands, a whole team of rescuers stepped forward.
We came up with a plan. We have to build a crazy contraption that can be close by remote.
Together, they carried the equipment needed up the mountain and created a makeshift cage big enough to fit all of them in.
They carefully lured them inside and carried the dogs down the mountain.
The Mastiffs, now named Princess George, Grace, and Steve, were finally safe. However, they still had a long journey ahead of them.
Their rescuers contacted a well-known dog behaviorist and trainer in California, Cheri Wulff Lucas, to try and teach the nervous dogs to trust again.
“They weren’t adoptable the way they came. They couldn’t be touched. They couldn’t be leashed. They were just terrified,” said Cheri.
Even though they responded well to the training, the pack still showed a very strong startle reflex that made it difficult to find them a forever home.
It was going to take a very special home for them to go into because they’re not the kind of dogs that are going to go to the dog park. Even walking them on city streets would be a lot for them. And if they do spook, they weigh 125 pounds, so [they would be] very hard to contain.
However, since Cheri lived in the middle of nowhere with no traffic or even other homes around, she knew that they were safe on her property.
Even though she didn’t really plan on keeping the pups, that is what ended up happening.
Not only was the pack living in a safe and healthy environment, they were also able to help Cheri with her work as a trainer.
If I get dogs that needs socialization — to be more familiar and less reactive with other dogs — I use my pack to help rehabilitate them. And all three of them are highly social with dogs. They know how to smell properly, how to not overpower the dog that needs the socialization. They’re just flawless. And that’s not something I taught them — they came that way.
The pack proved to be very helpful when Cheri started working with a pup named Andi.
Since Andi lived in a pen for seven years with no human contact, she was quite terrified and overwhelmed.
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When Princess George, Grace, and Steve noticed that Andi was stressed, they reassured her and made her feel as comfortable as ever.
It was really sweet to see. They brought her around in a way that I never could as a human.
Seeing the dynamic that Andi had with the pack, Cheri decided to adopt her as well, making her the 12th dog of her pack.
Years have passed and Princess George, Grace, and Steve look unrecognizable.
Even though all three of them differ in the way they like to spend time, George and Steve, who love to run around and socialize, and Grace, who is still a bit timid, still remain inseparable.
If you came to my house and did not know their backstory, you would think they were like any other dog. They’re pets — they’re really pets now. They’re not cases for me anymore.