Like many relationships, Stacey Roberts and Bud Dee’s began over a meal.
Bud Dee (pronounced “Buddy”) was skinny, timid and seemingly desperate for love — a challenge Roberts, 46, approached with a tender heart, hours of one-sided conversation and hundreds of pounds of dog food.
Normally she’d leave bowls of food and water by an oak tree off U.S 190, near La. 415 and northwest of Port Allen. It wasn’t until she drove away that she’d see Bud Dee — a nearly 70-pound, light brown mutt with white toes and a hint of Great Dane in his appearance — trot up to the food and feast.
Their first meetings, Roberts said, were rather inconspicuous and uneventful. For more than a month, beginning in early June, Roberts would make pit stops on her daily commute to and from CB&I, the company in Addis where she works, to drop off breakfast and dinner for Bud Dee.
Roberts, a natural nurturer having raised four children of her own, even skipped out on a trip to New Orleans for the Fourth of July because she said no one would be around to care for Bud Dee.
As time passed, Bud Dee grew to trust his provider. A honk from Roberts’ truck would signal her approach, and she’d hop out and say, “Come on, Bud, it’s time to eat.”
Roberts took him on walks, and he’d travel alongside his new companion, leash-less, down U.S. 190 to the Shell gas station and back.
But she’d never touch him, fearful of losing the trust that took months to establish.
Roberts, who lives near the feeding spot, said she eventually decided to test the bounds of their relationship by bringing along one of her two dogs from home, a “fluff ball” named “Keiko.”
The risk paid off.
From the get-go, Bud Dee and Keiko played like the inseparable brothers they’d eventually become, she said.
One night, Roberts mentioned Bud Dee to her husband, Richard, who was already familiar with the bond that was forming between the dog and his wife.
“If nobody claims this animal, I know you’re bringing him home,” Stacey Roberts recalled her husband saying.
With the go-ahead from her husband to adopt the dog, the most difficult challenge remaining was to capture the skittish mutt — a tall task that involved collaboration between the East Baton Rouge Parish and West Baton Rouge Parish animal control centers, many failed rescue attempts and the local coming-out party of a unique, humane snare tool that ultimately brought the dog to safety.
Hilton Cole, director of East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control, first heard about Bud Dee through a post on a social media website — he doesn’t remember which one.
“There were a lot of people rooting for this dog,” Cole said of the posts, adding that Bud Dee had become somewhat of a celebrity.
After West Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control officials tried and failed to catch the dog, Cole offered them some tools — recently purchased humane foot snares — that he believed would get the job done.
“It’s a unique thing in that you don’t really see anything,” Cole said of the snare. “The dog just stands on a trigger (plate) and this wire thing shoots up and goes around its leg and catches it.”
He added, “I just knew it was going to work.”
For about two months, Richard Summers, director of West Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control, tried everything to rescue Bud Dee — from cage traps to collar snares. They were all humane, and they all failed.
Then one afternoon in mid-August, he received the new foot snares on loan from Cole, and on the same day, using cat food to bait the dog, Bud Dee was caught.
“There’s no perfect science to trap an animal because every one of them reacts differently,” Summers said, explaining the choice of bait.
“I don’t know what it is — dogs like cat food and cats like dog food,” he said.
Roberts prefers neither, but she buys plenty of both to keep her small herd fed.
Bud Dee meshed almost seamlessly with the crew at the Roberts’ house, she said, which includes Keiko, a poodle-mix named Chinook and a trio of cats.
“I never wanted another animal,” Roberts said, chuckling. “I have plenty. But as time went on, he was my friend, I was his friend, and how could I have spent all that time trying to get this animal to trust me just to drop him.”
Roberts and animal control officials said they believed Bud Dee was a former pet likely dumped somewhere between the wooded area and sugar cane fields off U.S. 190, which is why Roberts thinks it took so long to gain his trust.
“Now that he’s with us, this is the most lovable, affectionate, dog,” she said. “… (He’s) smart. He sits. He shakes. I tell him ‘give me a kiss,’ he gives me a kiss. This dog is like the perfect animal.”
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