The last feral dog along the changing Red Hook waterfront has been caught, signaling the end of wild times on Ikea’s new home turf.
Two weeks ago, Mama Dulce took her last run around the vacant lot next to the massive steel frame of the soon-to-be superstore before stepping into a humane animal trap. It was the first time the muscular, straw-colored dog — matriarch of a pack of mutts that had lived for years on the site of the old Revere Sugar Refinery — had ever been enclosed.
The bitch barked softly all the way to the city’s Animal Care and Control center. Last week, she was resettled in a Pennsylvania home, reuniting with another refinery rescue, Big Mama.
“She had to go,” said Harriet Zucker, a set designer and dog trainer who led the rescue, her 60th over the last 12 years.
“The dogs had lived there for many years and they were relatively safe. When construction began, the [danger began]. It was an accident waiting to happen.”
Zucker’s rescue efforts began in earnest in 2004, when Mama Dulce and Big Mama gave birth to a joint litter of 14.
The guards who watched generations of dogs settle on the rubble-strewn Revere property had let Zucker feed the brood for months, until she found people to adopt them.
After the puppy daddy, a Airedale named Scrappy, was adopted by a truck driver, the two mamas and a third feral companion were left alone at the old sugar plant, where they lived without a bark of trouble until 2005, when developer Thor Equities bought the rusting hulk for $40 million.
As construction crews began to demolish the plant, the dogs made a new home in the vacant, graffiti-covered lot nearby on the corner of Halleck and Ostego streets. Zucker delivered them hamburgers from the Fairway supermarket a few streets away.
“When I starting coming, their tails were curled up close to their bodies because they were scared,” said Zucker. “[Eventually they began to] wag their tails. They are wild dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a domestic instinct.”
Zucker — who kept one of the dogs as a pet — is perhaps an unusually passionate example of both a dog lover and a neighborhood stalwart. Her voice grows melancholy as she reflects on the demolition of the Revere sugar dome, a setting for movies on which she has worked, including “The Departed.”
Each spring, she invites the 18 sugar refinery dogs to a birthday party in a garden that’s a short walk from their razed birthplace.
Edie Stone, the adopted mother of Mama Dulce’s spawn, Baby Dulce, sees the rescue as another bittersweet sign of the once-wild neighborhood’s taming.
“There used to be the chemical plant, the sugar refinery, the stray dogs running around the streets,” said Stone, who is the director of the city’s Green Thumb program.
“It’s the end of an era, but one that it was time to say goodbye to. I think the dogs would rather be sleeping in our beds.”