IRVING PARK — A group of neighbors came together Sunday night to help rescue a frightened and malnourished dog hiding in an Irving Park alley.
Marni Willenson had just returned to her home at Cullom and Ridgeway avenues from a vacation Sunday night when she spotted a dog in the alley while pulling into her garage.
“He stuck his head out of the garbage dumpster that is basically next to our garage,” Willenson said. “I didn’t want to hit him, so my teenager got out of the car and went over there.”
The black dog looked underweight, had ears cropped incredibly short and was fearful, growling at the teen as she approached.
“We wanted to give the dog space, but I didn’t want to leave it out there as it was getting cold,” Willenson said.
As Willenson unloaded the family’s luggage, she kept an eye on the dog.
“He was just scared, very scared,” she said. “He was crouching in that spot, kind of hiding there. He was coming out a little bit looking around but still hiding and just being defensive in that spot. There was no good way to get to him.”
So, she decided to ask her neighbors for help.
Willenson took to one of Facebook’s Irving Park groups around 8:30 p.m. to ask if anyone recognized the pup or could help calm him down. Within minutes, she was getting advice and offers for help, with some neighbors deciding to head out to the alley with dog toys and treats.
“When I got there Marni and her husband still weren’t having any luck getting him out of the little corner he was in,” neighbor Diana Delia said.
By the time she arrived it was 10 p.m., and Delia said she could tell he was a really sweet dog by the way he was acting.
“I brought a brick of cheese I had in the fridge and I just kind of started feeding him out of my hand,” Delia said. “I didn’t like the idea of throwing food at him, you know?”
As time went on the dog slowly built trust with the group of neighbors in the alley, but getting a leash on him was tricky. Eventually, another neighbor who has experience volunteering for a dog rescue arrived with canned dog food and was able to leash the dog.
The neighbor took the pup to the Jefferson Park (16th) Police District at 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. to see if the dog had a microchip or was registered with anyone.
“[The neighbor] said he’s a volunteer at a couple of these dog rescues and he was the one that knew to take the dog to the 16th district and all of this,” Willenson said. “I didn’t know any of that but all these people are kind of helping by posting in the comments of Facebook post.”
Chicago Police are equipped with microchip readers, according to a police department spokesman.
On the car ride over to the police station, Delia said the dog went from being nervous to cheerful almost instantly.
“It’s like a light was turned on, I just kept talking to him and he was just like, ‘Okay, I feel better now,’” Delia said. “He was wagging his tail … People at the police station were like, ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute.’”
Officers told her the dog wasn’t microchipped and, because he had no other ownership tags, if he was left with at the police station he would have been held there until Animal Care and Control could come by and pick him up in the morning.
Delia didn’t want that, but also couldn’t give the lovable pup a home for the night either. It was nearly midnight by then, and luckily another neighbor reached out offering to help.
“I follow the Irving Park Facebook groups and pretty routinely I’ve seen these posts about lost dogs,” Madison Donnelly said. “I’m lucky enough to be blessed with a whole yard and a larger home with two other dogs here. So even if my dogs and him don’t hit it off, I can still acclimate him. Both of my dogs are rescues as well.”
Delia, who had bonded with the dog on the car rides that night, stayed at Donnelly’s home for about an hour helping the dog get used to his new surroundings.
“Oh my goodness, this dog is unbelievably sweet. We’re still working on getting him comfortable with my other dogs because we don’t know if he’s had any socialization with other dogs. So we’re working on that,” Donnelly said. “I also gave him a bath and he loved that.”
Donnelly also has an appointment Tuesday with her veterinarian for the dog, which she and Delia have decided to name Rubio in honor of the neighbor who was able to get him calm enough to exit his alley hiding spot.
“He’s just so sweet and gentle, I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t loved at some point,” Donnelly said. “Ultimately I do think he needs one-on-one attention in terms of trying to find a long term foster home so he can continue that progress.”
Anyone with information on Rubio’s owners can call the Jefferson Park police district at 312-742-4480 or can click on this missing dog listing.
“He’s tall and proud. He’s still very malnourished but he’s strong wagging his tail,” Delia said. “He’s just a sweet little guy, a good dog.”
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