Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Montrose Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) had heard numerous reports of three Italian mastiffs roaming the hills and low, thorny brush of Mount Mooney, before spotting them in mid-March, LASD Sgt. John Gilbert said.
The dogs were clearly out of place in the treacherous, uninhabited terrain of the Angeles National Forest, near mile marker 45 of Highway 2 (the Angeles Crest Highway), where they had apparently been left to fend for themselves.
“Three purebred dogs just showed up out of nowhere in an area not far from the roadside,” Gilbert said. “Those are all indicators that these animals had been abandoned.”
Some of the MSAR volunteers spent money out of their own pockets to leave food and water out for the mastiffs, Gilbert said.
However, the dogs had to contend with frigid temperatures and rain brought on by a storm in March, shortly followed by a heat wave in April. There are no caves, and few natural sources of shelter in the area that could have offered the animals refuge.
According to reports from Caltrans staff working in the area, the pack had been on their own for possibly two weeks to a month by the time concerned observers contacted Dog Days Search and Rescue (DDSAR), the Simi Valley non-profit’s cofounder, Jo Ann DeCollibus, said. She and her team traveled to Mount Mooney and spent about five hours each day, beginning March 27, tracking the dogs and then attempting to gain their trust.
“They were all very skittish,” DeCollibus said. “Our fear was that we might be able to wrangle one, and then scare the others, sending them onto the highway.”
DDSAR staff set up feeding and shelter stations for the pack, and monitored them over the course of a month. They got to know each dog’s unique personality, and gave them names.
Gracie is the alpha female of the group, DeCollibus said. Stevie is a playful male who was frequently caught on camera hiding the food bowls volunteers left out for the dogs. George, a female, was the boldest of the three, and the most willing to approach humans in search of treats.
After weeks of coaxing, all three dogs walked into an enclosure built by rescuers and were humanely captured together Monday, April 27. They were brought down from Mount Mooney with the aid of MSAR volunteers, and then taken to DDSAR’s facility in Simi Valley for rehabilitation.
The stray animals were malnourished, but otherwise healthy, DeCollibus said. They must be held in case their owner decides to claim them for at least two weeks before rescuers can make them available for fostering or adoption.
DeCollibus said it is possible that someone is out there looking for Gracie, Stevie and George. But, in her experience, that was unlikely given the circumstances.
“I get it, times are tough. Maybe it was a backyard breeder who couldn’t afford to take care of them anymore,” DeCollibus said. “The dogs stayed in that area for a long time. We see this a lot in pets left by the roadside; they were waiting for someone to come back and get them.”