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Wary of petting, dog relents in company of former, current master

Patti is more like a wild dog than a pet to the families she's belonged to. The shepherd mix is a recluse — refusing to be petted, running away from humans. Until one weekend, during an exchange that would send Patti back to her original masters, she surprisingly let down her guard.

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For two years, all went well. Lily watched the property from a hill, coming to the house to eat food the Williamses left for her.

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The dog never let them touch her, except once, when hunters fired guns nearby. Spooked, Lily hid in a dog house. Randy Williams leashed her and brought her inside.

"We petted her up for two hours," he said. "Then we left her in the garage for a couple hours when we went out."

When they returned, they found that Lily had torn drywall, wiring, and siding around a door. She wanted out.

"I took her outside on a leash," Williams said. "I petted her and said, 'You can come around if you want, or you can stay away. It's up to you.' I let her off, and that was the last time we touched her."

Until Saturday.

Though Lily never showed aggression to humans — she flees when people approach — a neighbor complained to the Armstrong County dog warden that Lily was off leash. The neighbor declined to comment.

The warden issued a warning in January. The Williamses had to leash or cage Lily or face a $500 fine.

"I would never chain her up, and I won't put her in a pen," Randy Williams said. "She'd kill herself trying to get out. I couldn't do it to her."

Then Deems re-entered the picture. She talked with her neighbors, and they agreed to welcome the dog back. If the Williamses could capture her, she would come and get her, she said.

But could they capture her? Allegheny County dog warden Steve Stoehr — known as a dog whisperer of sorts for his ability to win over even the most aloof dog — visited several times. He approached; she fled. He set traps lined with steaks; she refused to take the bait.

Running out of time before the fines started, the Williamses stopped feeding her for a few days. Then, on Saturday morning, Williams cooked deer meat, slipped in sedatives, and called Lily.

She wolfed it down, then trotted off. Williams found her hours later in a vacant house nearby.

"She was under a table," Williams said. "All I seen was her white head and those black eyes."

On Saturday night, still groggy from the sedatives, the big dog blinked at Deems when she walked into the Williamses' home. A group of about 10 people, including neighbors who came to bid farewell, watched as Deems got on her knees and cradled the dog's big face in her hands.

"Hi baby," she said softly. "It's me."

Randy Williams' daughter, Alison, covered her face and wept.

"She's so happy here," she said. "And now we have to get rid of her."

Her mother, Laurie Williams, hugged the dog she had touched only once before. "I'm so happy you were here for a while," she said.

They led the dog outside and hoisted her into the back of Deems' sport utility vehicle.

Deems wiped away her tears and took in the sadness surrounding her.

"I mean, really," she said. "How many people would do all this for a dog?"

The answer was written on everyone's faces.

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