Photo left: Jade Ann Sharpei,  Photo right: Vickie Spence.

Photo left: Jade Ann Sharpei, Photo right: Vickie Spence.

How does a young poodle survive coyotes, near-starvation and a year of desert heat and biting cold?

Everyone agrees: Matty is 12 pounds of tenacity.

He was rescued from his harsh homeless life at 5 a.m. Tuesday by a group of cagey women who wouldn’t give up on finding him.

Score another win for the Las Vegas Trapping Girls, who have saved more than 300 dogs and a half dozen domestic cats over four years. One mission for a lost dog at Mt. Charleston resulted in a trapping a trio of abandoned kit foxes.

Las vegas Trapping Girls L-R Kim Biron, Vickie Spance, Kim Petricka, Jill Luttinen. Photo: Courtesy

Las vegas Trapping Girls L-R Kim Biron, Vickie Spance, Kim Petricka, Jill Luttinen. Photo: Courtesy

After the tiny wire cage slammed shut at 5 a.m., Thursday, “We just started screaming and hollering,” said Kim Biron, co-founder of the six-member trapping group. She and fellow co-founder Vickie Spence had been watching the trap through binoculars from a nearby vehicle. They had been receiving sightings of the dog for a year.

Their stakeout strategy of putting out the cage near the last sighting, with dry dog food, had paid off. “Meat would attract coyotes,” she said.

Biron credited a tip from a local dog lover, Joanne Downey.

A week ago, Downey saw a photo of a matted, dirty gray dog on an app for Nextdoor East Charleston. “They have them for all areas of town,” said Downey. “Someone had just posted a picture of this poor matted dog running across someone’s driveway.

“I couldn’t get him/her out of my mind. Then I remembered I saw a segment on TV about a group of women who rescue dogs in the desert. I found their Facebook page (The Las Vegas Trapping Girls) and posted that dog’s picture.”

They contacted Downey. “They were great,” she said. “You could tell they love animals.”

During their followup calls, Downey nicknamed the dog Matty, after its matted condition, and it stuck.

“He had to be a fighter with a will to live,” said Downey.

How Matty stayed alive is a small miracle. For one thing, he could barely see through a thick, tangled mop of fur that covered his eyes, making him an easy target for predators. But he stunk to high heaven of urine and feces and that may have disguised his scent, Downey theorized.After being sedated for an hour-long grooming at Animal Hospital Northeast on E. Lake Mead Blvd., Matty stood unsteadily in the cage he was captured in. When a staffer attempted to remove him, he growled and nipped at the hospital employee’s hand. Matty defiantly refused affection.“He’s still scared from being in the wild so long,” said Sheena Galang, who works at the hospital. “His fur was layered with dirt, weeds and sticks. He was in tremendous pain from a stick that was embedded in its fur and had punctured its skin.”
She added, “We’ve never seen matting to this extreme. We couldn’t even tell what sex it was.  “It looked like it weighed 25 pounds,  but when we shaved it, it was 12 pounds,” said Galang.“He must have a real scavenger,” said Galang. “I so hope he finds a good home.”Biron said her group has trapped 22 dogs since Christmas and its become a financial challenge.“We’re trying to become 501C3 non-profit,” said Biron, whose day job is answering phones for the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society. “They need grooming. Some have ear and eye infections. The traps are expensive. The Animal Foundation has started charging to take animals in.” “We’re just trying to help. It’s unfortunate but a lot of people will sit in front of their computers and post things all day, but that’s not the hard part.”
(Full disclosure: Downey has been my assistant for nearly 10 years. To say she has a soft spot in her heart for dogs would be an understatement.)