What do you do when you spend hours trying to catch a loose dog with no success? Call the youth rodeo champion.
young rodeo champ ropes this missing dog
Credit: Courtesy of Heart Animal Rescue

Kelsey Schumacher was leading a group of would-be rescuers in a rural Iowa field earlier this month and it wasn't going well. They'd been there for hours, her feet were quite muddy, and they'd yet to corral the blind, injured dog they were after.

The young black dog was afraid and biting when people got too close to him, so Schumacher began to consider a long-range form of rescue. They were near a highway and needed to wrap their mission up quickly for the dog's safety, she says.

That's how a 15-year-old cowboy on the back of an ATV ended up lassoing the dog—allowing fellow rescuers to place him in a cage and finally get him the medical help he needed. Weeks later, the much-cleaner pup is adjusting well to his foster home. He is now named Will, after the rodeo teen who roped him in.

"A lasso is just like a slip lead," Schumacher tells Daily Paws.

The dog appeared on locals' radar days before the April 3 rescue. Schumacher, who's been rescuing animals for decades, started tracking the pup in late March near Lime Springs, according to the Cresco Times Plain Dealer. He'd reportedly been out there for three weeks.

She employed humane traps, but those weren't working. Instead, she was catching all kinds of other animals, including a cat named Ocean several times. On April 2, a local noticed the dog eating parts of a deer's carcass. She moved one of the traps close to the carcass, but the next day he was spotted laying next to it rather than inside it. 

"I couldn't figure out why he wasn't going into it," Schumacher says.

After about three hours of trying to catch him on April 3, it beame obvious he was blind. But his other senses were honed—so much so that Schumacher ditched her Crocs so she might be able to sneak up on him. No dice.

Rodeo—and good beer—is popular in northeast Iowa, and she had some experience roping, at one point thinking, "I'm going to get my horse and do this myself." Instead, she called several people she had in mind, but they were each at a rodeo event in nearby Decorah. Will Hinck was next on the list, and he and his stepfather soon arrived.

Will, a youth rodeo champion according to the Times Plain Dealer, mounted the back of the Razor ATV while his stepdad drove. The first several tries didn't work, but they did tire the dog out. From the back of the stopped ATV with one hand on the roll cage, Will finally lassoed the dog, who was standing in a creek bed when the rope settled around him.

Schumacher had never seen anything like it. They quickly got him into one of the live traps to secure him.

"We were really excited," she says. 

The dog—freshly named Will after his rodeo rescuer—arrived at Heart Animal Rescue. Julie Kriener, the animal care director there, is looking after him as his new foster mom. In less than a month, he's made quite the turnaround.

After three days to decompress, Will, who's about 1 year old, now likes to follow her around for treats and belly rubs, Kriener says. He's a lot calmer now, and she can even pick him up.

"He's still just learning to trust," she says. "Lot of confidence building to do."

He has plenty of health checks on his horizon, too. X-rays reveal an injured hock joint and gunshot fragments in one of his rear legs, according to the rescue. He still can't put weight on it, so more surgery might be ahead. Same goes for his mouth, where he's missing some teeth. An ophthalmologist will check his eyes next month to see if there's any chance he regains his sight. 

After days living outside and his traumatic injuries, the good boy will be eligible for a forever home after additional recovery and surgeries. It took Hinck, Schumacher, Kriener, and a band of other dedicated rescuers to save him, but it's worth it for him to enjoy the rest of his life in comfort.

"For him, it's his only life," Kriener says.