Shaggy starts settling down at Monroe area dog shelter

Detroit News staff and wire reports

Newport — Shaggy may be settling down at last.

The Newfoundland mix, who captivated Grand Rapids by wandering free for six months before his capture last month, is making strides at an animal rescue and rehab facility.

The Grand Rapids Press reports Shaggy, an 18-month-old, 4-foot chocolate Newfie, is among 13 other undomesticated dogs being taught to trust people at The Devoted Barn in northern Monroe County.

The facility’s owner, Melissa Borden, says Shaggy is a “gentle giant” who “really wants attention.”

Borden snagged Shaggy in March. Kent County animal control officers had taken extraordinary steps to try capturing the wily animal, including getting a net-shooting device.

He was called Shaggy due to his rough appearance, and became a local folk hero as he evaded capture while roaming suburban neighborhoods just east of Grand Rapids. Animal control officials estimated residents of 30 homes were putting out food for him.

The dog’s odyssey began in August when he escaped from a trainer’s home in Grand Rapids after a 10-hour stay. Shaggy sought the company of other dogs but avoided most humans, and all that running took a toll on him.

When Shaggy went to the Monroe County shelter, he weighed 118 pounds, roughly 30 to 40 pounds underweight. But he was in good health.

Borden said Shaggy shows characteristics common in strays such as a fear of people and a reluctance to play. She said he’s making progress.

“It didn’t take too long for him to come out of his shell and realize we have good things for him, which is water and treats,” Borden said.

Dogs at the facility have limited contact with outsiders to help build the dogs’ trust in people. They’re hand-fed human food before they make the switch to dog food, which they’re not used to eating.

New dogs are petted 10 to 15 seconds at a time to become used to human touch. Once dogs are comfortable, Borden and volunteers will go into their kennels and snuggle with them. Borden fed Shaggy peanut butter with her fingers as she lay with her head on him.

“We do a lot of this — a lot of just laying here. He makes a great pillow,” Borden said. “Right now, we’re just going at his pace. We’re not doing anything he can’t handle.”

Associated Press contributed.