A dedicated group of volunteers has caught a dog that cleverly eluded them for more than three months in east Belleville and west Shiloh.
Nixon's wild adventure ended early Sunday morning, when a motion detector over a food bowl in a custom-built trap triggered the door to close, forcing him to stay put until help arrived.
No more roaming fields and neighborhoods. No more eating at the back doors of compassionate strangers. No more living in a world without rules and regulations.
"It's going to be a bit of a transition for him," said owner Cesar Galan, 28, of Belleville, who lives in St. Clair Village townhouses, off Illinois 161. "I've got to re-potty train him, definitely. He's just been going wherever he wants. And he's not going to like not being able to do what he wants to do, but I have to keep him safe."
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The animal rescue's timing was fortunate. Nixon, an Akita-husky mix, had a nasty wound on his neck that was infected. But a veterinarian found no evidence of heart worms, and the dog had gained six pounds.
"He weighed 56 pounds," said Maryanne Martin, 38, of Shiloh, one of the volunteers who had been trying to catch him. "He looked good, except for the laceration on his neck."
Nixon is about a year old. Julio and Debbie Galan, of Fairview Heights, bought him from a breeder and named him after President Richard Nixon. They gave him to their son, Cesar Galan, when he moved to Belleville in late December.
The white dog with a brown and black face and brown splotches on the side lasted only one day at his new digs, causing some to wonder if he was homesick or just disoriented. He wiggled out of his harness and ran away during a walk. Galan posted a notice on the Facebook pages "Lost and Missing Pets of Belleville, IL" and "Lost and Missing Pets of St. Clair County, Illinois."
In the weeks that followed, neighbors and other residents began using Facebook and Nextdoor sites to share Nixon sightings in Chenot Place, Old Lincolnshire, Villa Madero and Eagles Landing. Whenever someone tried to approach him, he darted off.
"Saw him off Lebanon Ave and Villa Madero subdivision headed towards Hartman," one follower posted on Facebook. Another noted that he was hanging out on Cresthaven Drive late at night. "Doesn't appear any thinner, so someone is feeding him," she said.
Martin created a GoFundMe page, which raised $250 to buy supplies for a custom-built trap made of fencing and mesh with a motion detector and night-vision camera. Volunteers put it on Magnolia Drive on March 18 then moved it to Anderson Lane on March 27. Bait ranged from hot dogs to bacon to pork chops.
On March 29, the camera snapped a photo of Nixon outside the trap. On April 1, he went inside.
"He really played an April Fool's joke on us," Martin said. "He went in and out, in and out, in and out, but he did not eat the bait, and the bait was Easter ham."
Volunteers changed motion-detector settings so Nixon didn't have to eat hanging meat, only dry dog food in a bowl, to trigger the door to close. That ultimately led to his capture on Sunday. Jim Jennings, owner of the property on Anderson Lane, discovered him in the trap about 3 a.m.
When Martin and volunteers Gay Arnold and Angie Caito-Price showed up, Nixon wasn't panicking, barking, growling, whimpering or acting aggressively. But Galan decided to bring his mother anyway, figuring she raised the dog from a puppy and could put him at ease.
"He was kind of pacing a bit, which was understandable," Galan said. "He was still in his survival mode. My mom whistled like a frog from (her native Puerto Rico). It's called a coqui, and he recognized the whistle, and he looked at her and sat down. He let her slowly approach him and pet him."
Volunteers gave Nixon some calming medication, got him in a kennel and took him to Belleville Animal Clinic, where he spent Sunday night. Dr. Janet Linton shaved, cleaned and disinfected the wound and gave him an antibiotic, pain killer and cold laser treatment.
In the next three weeks, the dog will receive nine more treatments to help with healing.
"We wish Nixon could tell us what happened," said Clinic Administrator Cheryl Yarber. "But we don't feel he was attacked by another dog or a coyote. He probably got entangled in some type of wire."
Galan, who works at Papa Murphy's Pizza in Swansea, has a challenging few weeks ahead. Not only must Nixon get used to residential living, he can't wear a regular collar or harness until his wound has healed. Volunteers have offered to find temporary foster care at a home with a fenced yard if needed.
On Sunday, Martin created a second GoFundMe page called "Nixon's Rescue Vetting" at https://www.gofundme.com/5dincjk to pay for veterinary bills. As of Monday afternoon, it had raised $660.
"So many kind people have taken an interest in this dog," Yarber said. "They're truly Good Samaritans."