BUHLER, Kan. | Residents began noticing the dog more than eight years ago.
For the locals, the animal that appeared in the field was a real mystery.
People tried to get close. However, she was distant, so out of concern they began leaving food and water.
"It was a mysterious dog that sat in the field, and everyone pointed her out," said Mayor Daniel Friesen.
After all these years, the elusive creature — appropriately named D.D., for Ditch Dog — has finally come indoors to the home of Rachelle Cavanaugh, just in time for the cold weather. Cavanaugh believes D.D. was ready.
"She didn't want to live like that anymore," Cavanaugh said.
Everyone who has seen D.D. in the field along Buhler Road has wondered what her story might be.
The blond, wire-haired dog with a lovable Benji face, and missing her tail, never would let anyone get close. Even after she first appeared and a front paw got caught in her collar, no one could get close enough to help.
Residents began calling her "Tripod," as she hopped around on three legs, said Buhler Police Chief Bill Tracy. Numerous people came with a mission to get close to the dog, but no one could. Eventually, the collar weathered, rotted, and fell off. But D.D. still hopped on three legs for about another year.
People would continue to leave food. One woman even left a large self-feeder for D.D.
"Everyone adopted her," said Tracy. "She was the best-fed dog in town. She never bothered a thing and that's why she was allowed to stay out there.
"She was a very intelligent dog. I could tell if someone was trying to catch her; she would go out in the middle of the wheat field and curl up in a ball."
It wasn't an easy process taming the wild creature. But Cavanaugh, who took the dog on as project, began to wonder if she had become the dog's project.
D.D. was obviously a smart dog. Because of Buhler's leash law, she knew to stay on the county's side of the road. She never wandered into town.
At night she slept in a culvert, fending off coyotes. When it rained, she had to abandon her home because of flooding.
More than a year ago, Cavanaugh, who already had three rescued dogs at home, became concerned about D.D., who seemed arthritic, so she began leaving treats with medicine to help the pain. Then she put flea medicine in her food, and over time D.D. began to feel better.
One night, when Cavanaugh sat by the food dish, D.D. came charging toward her. There was a moment of uncertainty about what would happen. But D.D. came close and let Cavanaugh touch her.
"She was starving for attention," Cavanaugh said. "That forced my hand."
Now that D.D. had experienced human touch, Cavanaugh knew the dog would be seeking it out — maybe even going into the road to find it.
The week it started getting cold, Cavanaugh opened the passenger door of her car and let D.D. inside. She turned on the heat and the two drove around Buhler for a while. She took her home to meet her three dogs, and let her walk around the backyard. D.D. let Cavanaugh briefly put a leash on her neck. Then she took her back to the field.
Cavanaugh arranged for someone from Hutchinson's Apple Lane Animal Hospital to come to the field and give D.D. shots.
"It's been a process," Cavanaugh said, of finally bringing the dog home. "I didn't want my dogs at risk or to jeopardize her. If I was taking her home, it had to work."
Just a month ago, Ditch Dog was ready.
D.D. is now part of Cavanaugh's family. It's apparent that D.D. was once loved, but the past eight years have worn on the animal.
"She has some wicked scars," Cavanaugh said. And all the scars aren't physical. The sound of a Dr. Pepper can sends D.D. racing out of the room.
Nights seem to be the hardest. That's when D.D.'s anxiety level rises, perhaps after all those years alone in the dark.
"She goes to her pillow," Cavanaugh said. "She knows she's safe there."
For those wondering where the dog in the field went, Cavanaugh has placed a sign where D.D. once sat, with the following message.
Thank you for all the years of care and concern. I have found a home and I am adjusting. God bless you, Ditch Dog. "