For two years, the little dog who came to be known has Houdini lived in the shadows of one of the world’s busiest shipping ports — the Port of Los Angeles
Though he’d hungrily enjoy the food that workers left for him, he never let anyone come near him and was far too smart to fall into any of the traps rescuers set out.
On top of that, the little guy was fast, fast, fast — easily out maneuvering entire teams with nets! He had earned the name “Houdini” early on, as security guards had tried to capture him to no avail.
In the end, it took a “small army with Ninja skills,” as one participant described it to the Mercury News — and a well-crafted strategy — to finally snag the crafty little dog.
“We’d been out there three times before we actually caught him,” said Lisa Arturo of Hope for Paws, a rescue group that specializes in tough cases and heard about Houdini through a social media follower. “We’d get close and he’d yell at us ‘woo-woo-woo-woo!’ — like ‘Get off my turf! Get lost!’ ”
On Oct. 29, a volunteer team arrived prepared with a battle plan that included long rolls of plastic soccer fencing, zip ties, an animal snare, a big net and a wire cage.
It still took them more than an hour to outwit and snag him.
“He was very smart and jumped one of the cement dividers,” Arturo said. “So we built a little soccer net fortress. He was kind of trapped.”
The video above shows the chase that exhausted all of the two-footed participants.
Poor Houdini, exhausted and frightened, put up a brave fight, snapping at the volunteers’ hands.
“You feel bad while it’s happening, but you know he’s going to be so much happier when he’s rescued and is living in someone’s house, being on a lap and being loved,” Arturo said. “It’s worth it.”
These days, after being neutered, vaccinated, bathed and cuddled, he’s a completely different dog.
“He’s just such a happy dog,” said Annie Hart, who founded Rescue From the Hart with her husband, Robert, and took part in the rescue.
Both Rescue From the Hart and Hope for Paws, based in the central Los Angeles-Hollywood areas, have worked together to socialize and train Houdini so he might find a home for Christmas, and now there’s a mile-long list of people hoping to make their home Houdini’s permanent port.
As soon as the video was posted — an edited version aired on CNN — a flood of applications poured in, including several from the Port of Los Angeles. One port worker on the wait list had tried especially hard to catch him every night.
“He’d talk to him every night, he’d say ‘Please, please’ ” come in from the cold, Hart said. “His wife told me that he always worried about him.”
Houdini is still getting the hang of walking on a leash, but he’s already an expert snuggler, really enjoying his foster-home life. He loves other dogs.
But, say volunteers, escape artist tendencies can die hard. Rescuers hope he’ll land in a home with a VERY secure yard and perhaps another dog to serve as a constant reminder that being homeless is not nearly as fun as having a safe, warm bed with a buddy to snuggle.
And he’s wearing a GPS-fitted collar for now. Just in case.