The deepest scars are often the ones on the inside – and abandoned and abused animals are often frightened or mistrusting of strangers. That was certainly the case with this dog when rescuers pursued her into an industrial site. Indeed, her reaction to the perceived danger was heartbreaking.
In July 2015 a member of the public spotted the petrified pup living on the streets of Los Angeles, California. Immediately, the concerned citizen called the animal rescue charity Hope For Paws. And, of course, the non-profit group happily responded.
So Eldad Hagar, founder of Hope For Paws and still an active rescuer, took his co-worker Lisa Arturo on a search for the pooch. It seemed, though, that the dog was either on the move or very good at hiding. But after five days, they finally spotted the stray. She was a lovely golden retriever the rescuers named Clarabelle.
However, if the team were hoping for an easy rescue, they were out of luck. Indeed, finding Clarabelle and catching her were two different things entirely. After all, the retriever was very nervous, and her skittishness made it difficult to catch her even with a gentle snare.
“I tried to get Clarabelle with my gentle snare twice and failed both times,” Hagar wrote on his Flickr. Nevertheless, Hagar and Arturo had a few other tricks up their sleeves. Next, for instance, they planned to lure the stray with food.
With tasty treats, the Hope For Paws team tried to tempt Clarabelle into a cage. But although she must have been starving, her caution overruled her stomach. “As soon as the trap closed on her, she backed out before the [door] was completely closed,” Hagar wrote.
“After the trap failed, Clarabelle was really spooked,” Hagar explained. The retriever was now on high alert; all it would take to send the nervous dog running again was a loud noise. So when a train whistled passed, Clarabelle ran in the opposite direction.
Moreover, the golden retriever fled into a large industrial yard, which posed several problems to the Hope For Paws team. To begin with, the area was private property. Therefore, Hagar and Arturo couldn’t just walk in without permission.
But then, the rescuers saw a change of fortune. “No one was working that day at the yard, but we got lucky,” Hagar recalled. “One of the employees showed up to pick up something and allowed us to try and save Clarabelle.”
However, when they found Clarabelle again she had taken refuge under a shipping container. Obviously, that would complicate the rescue. “She was on a property where they fix trucks. It was dangerous,” Hagar told ABC News in July 2015.
“There was also stale water, bugs and rats,” Hagar added. But it also meant that after hours on the run, Clarabelle had backed herself into a corner. So Arturo blocked off the retriever’s second escape route, and Hagar crawled partway under the container with the soft snare.
After edging even further under the container (and over a dead bird), Hagar managed to get the snare close to Clarabelle. Arturo helped maneuver the dog’s head into position by poking her gently with a soft plastic tube. Then they just had to get her out.
As difficult as it had been to keep up with Clarabelle, though, things then took a turn for the worse. The retriever reacted badly to her rescue and panicked; she began yelping and lashing her body around. And when that didn’t work, she resorted to a heartbreaking reaction of pure terror.
“She was so scared that she covered her eyes like a frightened child would,” Hope For Paws’ captions explained on its rescue video. Hagar’s soothing tone did seem to calm her down, but their rescue options were limited. At any rate, physical force would only make things worse.
“I could’ve dragged her out and battled,” Hagar explained to ABC News. “But I wanted to build a relationship for her safety, my safety, and so it wouldn’t be a traumatic experience for her.” Indeed, Clarabelle’s reaction also seemed to distress Hagar. So he decided to crawl to her.
When he reached her, Clarabelle just seemed thankful to have some company. She even let Hagar give her some affection. He decided that the safest way to rescue the dog was to pull her out with him gently, little by little. The whole operation took four hours.
“It really took so much effort, but it’s so rewarding,” Hagar told the media. Clarabelle’s reaction made it all worthwhile. When she came out from under the container, she realized she was safe and gave her rescuer the greatest thing he could ask for: a big doggy hug.
“To really see a dog go from that scared and not letting anyone touch her, to her coming to me to give her a hug. [It] was very, very sweet,” Hagar said. And once he had her, he took Clarabelle to Dr. Erin Wilson for a bath and a medical examination.
Later, Hagar told ABC News that Clarabelle was doing well in a foster home while she waited for a forever family. Hopefully, her rescue video helped with drawing potential adopters. For sure, it made the golden retriever a viral star, as the video received over six million views on YouTube.
“You can see in the video,” Eldad Hagar told ABC News. “She’s a happy dog now. She bounced back from being fearful.” We hope that Clarabelle found the home she was always meant to have so that she can live free from fear. After her traumatic experience on the streets, she certainly deserves it.