Local Teen Comes to the Rescue

Lawrence Freeman    Dog whisperer and rescuer, Hannah Boles, patiently waits with “Sweetie” as she reaches out for help to get the wayward pooch back to her homeless owner.

Alameda High School junior Hannah Boles had no idea she was venturing into a stray-dog rescue when she spied a white and tan pitbull mix wandering aimlessly down Fernside Boulevard on April 19.

She asked her sister Catherine to stop their car so she could take to the street and persuade the anxious-eyed dog to come to her. Sure enough, Hannah’s gentle tones won the trust of the pooch. It came to Hannah, like a lost child seeking safe haven, and she sat herself next to the teen on a soft patch of lawn. 

The dog, which she nicknamed “Sweetie,” sat amiably, bathing in the warm touch of the soft human hand on her back.

A call to the Alameda Police Department (APD) revealed higher priority calls would delay an officer’s arrival. APD said that Hannah could wait and connected her to an automated number at the Alameda Animal Shelter. No one answered at the shelter either. A dead-end street for the lost dog with no collar.

Another call to APD informed Hannah that she could drop the dog off at the shelter’s location on Fortmann Way on the other side of the Island. There was a dog drop box to leave Sweetie in, she was told. It seemed like an option until she learned, after another call, that she would have to wait for an APD officer to show with a key. Time of an officer’s arrival: unknown. It was an unusually busy evening, according to the sympathetic police dispatcher. 

Well over an hour had passed since Hannah had taken the dog into her hand and heart. By then, a neighbor had brought a bowl of water and some cat food for Sweetie. Another neighbor walking two English terriers said that she had seen the dog coming from the other side of the High Street Bridge, and conjectured might be from the homeless encampment. 

Hannah thought back to winter 2018 when she noticed a small, wayward dog skittering down Lincoln Avenue, brought it into her arms and began knocking on doors until word got out to bring the chip-embedded pooch back home. This time, the salvation was all low tech, high heart and pure strength of character for Hannah.

Time rolled on, another half hour, and APD was still doing its duty. So, Hannah called for another kind of backup, just like any teen in need. 

She called Dad.

Her father showed, and faced plans A, B and C: Wait there even longer for the police, take the dog to the shelter and wait some more or let the dog go. Hannah, of course, had a fourth option, and Dad and her sister quickly got on the same page.

They would take Sweetie into their car, into their home and into the next chapter of the dog’s life and future in these times of trouble and need.

“I just wanted her to be safe, and get back to where she belonged,” said Hannah in elemental terms of compassion.  

Finally, at 11 p.m., APD phoned and said an officer could take the dog to the shelter. The system responded long after the family had. Were it not for Hannah and her family’s staying power, the outcome may not have the happy ending it does. 

Hannah only discovered after calling the shelter the next day to check on her transient soul mate, that Sweetie’s real name turned out to be “Renny.”

Renny had managed to get loose from her owners’ car in Oakland, likely at the Shell Station on High Street. A dog walker later speculated she raced across the High Street Bridge into Alameda and good fortune in uncertain times.  

As to whether Hannah would like to have a third go as a pet savior and “dog whisperer,” as Dad called her, she said, “hopefully not for a while. I don’t know how many more dogs I can bring home.”

Time will only tell, as it does for all things in trying times. 

After all, the name Renny in folklore means to rise again. The name Hannah means “favor or grace.”