Dogabout: The Saga of Sherpa Jack


Ted Olinger, KP News

The dark stain around Jack’s neck was from a draining infection caused by his training collar. Photo: Monica Gujral

A dog wandering the southern KP for eight months is now home. 

You may have seen the signs on the roads south of Home. You may have seen the Facebook posts with photos and sightings and stories about his escapades. You may even have seen him, the now legendary Sherpa Jack, a 100-pound Anatolian Shepherd living wild on the southern KP since bolting from his Longbranch home after Fourth of July last summer. 

After months of wandering and many attempts by many people, Jack was captured and returned home March 16.

“We got him from a breeder about July 10,” said Davy Kienast, who owns the dog with his wife Crystalann. They have two small children and an assortment of animals including sheep, chickens, ducks, geese and three other dogs on the Longbranch farm where they’ve lived for two years. 

The couple chose the Anatolian Shepherd because “he’s a livestock guardian to protect the animals,” Davy Kienast said. They named him Jack.

“We had him on a lead in the field with the animals, he was still getting used to us,” he said. “But we only had him three days. People were still shooting off fireworks here, and he chewed through his steel cable, climbed the fence, and ran away.”

Jack was 11 months old. He was also wearing an electronic training collar with prongs positioned at the base of his neck. 

The Kienasts searched the area and posted flyers and Facebook notices, but there was no sign of Jack.

A few weeks later, Kim Hunsaker noticed him in her Palmer Lake neighborhood.

Hunsaker worked in two different veterinary offices over 11 years and was familiar with the breed. After perusing Facebook, she found the post about Jack and contacted the Kienasts.

"I kid you not, within three days that dog was at my front door."

“He was using the woods by my house and behind my house as a passthrough trail,” Hunsaker said. “Every night at dusk he would come out of the woods and go traipsing through Palmer Lake. We (Hunsaker and the Kienasts) sat out here with food and eventually some live traps, but he was too smart. I talked with Animal Control and they said tranquilizing him is hard because if he runs off, we don’t have a way to track him and he’d be vulnerable.” 

Monica Gujral of Longbranch spotted news of the missing dog on Facebook some weeks later. She had experience rescuing pit bulls and thought about going to look for Jack.

“I kid you not, within three days that dog was at my front door,” she said. They spent four hours together that first day. 

“I learned you cannot call to him like a normal dog,” she said. “I started using some tactics I learned doing dog rescue; I turned my back to him and walked backward, and used my phone to see where he was. And then I understood if I whispered, if I used a small voice, I could talk to him.” 

Gujral contacted the owners and they spent time letting the dog get to know them during a few encounters over months, but they could never get close. They also noticed that his training collar had cut into his neck and caused an infection.

“He naturally grew much larger and so now it’s actually puncturing his skin and he has drainage all down the front of his neck,” Kienast said. 

“I don’t like my animals being where they’re not supposed to be,” he said, and they wanted him back. “We have tried drugging him, I’ve shot him with a net gun to try to capture him, and he broke the net and got free.” 

Gujral created a Facebook page for the missing dog called Helping Sherpa Jack—Lost Dog on the KP. 

“He probably knows every square inch of this peninsula better than any human being, so I said we’re going to call him Sherpa or Sherpa Jack,” Gujral said. “It’s almost like I’m a marketing rep again; I’m marketing his existence. My intention (was) to let people know he’s not a threat—he’s our local Bigfoot, except he’s a lot more accessible and he’s sweet and kind and he likes children and he likes other dogs.” 

Once they had an idea where Sherpa Jack was roaming, the Kienasts contacted Pierce County Animal Control for help and were referred to Lost Dogs of King County, an organization that specializes in capturing long-term stray dogs.

"We're just going to have to slowly rehabilitate him and get him used to people."

“We generally go after really hard to catch dogs, dogs that are just impossible to catch,” said Jennifer Hagstrom, a volunteer with Lost Dogs.

“We’ve got traps. We use trail cams. Jack’s a very confident dog. He watches our every move. And that’s the problem,” she said.

After defeating a few attempts to trap him, Sherpa Jack continued to visit a particular area in Longbranch even as separate efforts to capture him were underway in the vicinity. 

“We tried to work with the rescue people on the trap but that didn’t quite work out,” said Rachael Hurst of Longbranch. She has her own rescue dog who, with the neighbors’ dogs, made friends with Sherpa Jack, and Hurst was concerned Jack may get scared off—as he has from other homes—by too many people, nearby gunshots or too much attention. 

The KP Washington Facebook page kept track of Jack sightings to help capture him. Map: Sylvia Nold Wilson

“I’m a little bit of a farm girl,” she said. “I’ve been around the Anatolian breed before. I knew this wasn’t just your typical dog.”

Hurst started feeding him, patiently getting the food bowl closer to him each day.

“Eventually I had a hand resting on the bowl and I let Jack bump into my hand. The next time I reached out a finger and scratched him under the chin a little bit. Baby steps. The collar is tight, but I was able to get my fingertips under it on the top,” she said.

Sherpa Jack is known to have frequented at least three homes in the last eight months where there was a woman with experience assisting animals in need. 

On Saturday, March 16, Hurst was able to clip a leash onto Jack’s collar. He resisted at first, put then calmed down and sat down beside her. Kienast got a snare pole on him and with the help of a neighbor loaded him into a cage, and took his dog home. 

Kienast cleaned the wound on Jack’s neck and had him examined by a vet the next day. Jack has since been neutered and is recovering in the Kienast’s living room. 

“We’re just going to have to slowly rehabilitate him and get him used to people, so he wants to stay with us,” Kienast said.