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After roaming Alabama campus for years, Lulu finds a home

August 5, 2018

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — She’s been spotted strutting down fraternity row early in the morning and racing across the street to catch lunch at Newk’s. She was admired from afar as she lounged on golf carts near the University of Alabama student rec center and sunned herself on the roof of the old Bryce building.

During the two years since she first appeared, Lulu has arguably become the most sought-after girl on campus. Aloof, but friendly, the small Chihuahua mix dog kept so many people who approached at arm’s length, always managing to outrun and outsmart potential captors. She became such a fixture on campus that a Facebook page with more than 1,300 followers was created to keep her caretakers and fans briefed on her location and welfare.

A sizeable number of employees stepped up to care for Lulu, creating pit stops where she could catch a quick bite during her daily journeys or nap on a heated bed when the temperatures dropped.

She turned out to be so elusive for such a long time that it was a shock to most of her followers two weeks ago when Kevin Mount posted a photo of Lulu happily relaxing on his couch with his dog Carter. The self-sufficient, streetwise dog had finally chosen someone to trust.

Lulu’s happy ending is great news to those who love her, but a little bittersweet. They’ll miss seeing her as part of their daily routine, but are grateful she’s found a new home. More than anything, they’re touched by the way so many people came together to care for one little pup.

Mount said Lulu began following him and his dog Carter on their daily walks near his condo near Bryant Denny Stadium about two weeks ago. He recognized her as the famous dog from Facebook, and didn’t expect her to come close. But she made friends with Carter, a 4-and-a-half-year-old Catahoula mix, and began howling in the direction of their back balcony for three nights in a row.

She finally ventured upstairs and posted herself in front of the door.

“I opened the door and she gradually just kind of creeped in,” he said. “Next thing you know, she was inside and up on the couch. They were playing and having a great time.”

She spent the entire week there, only hanging out with Carter and having very little to do with Mount. Finally, she jumped on the bed one night and curled up under his arm.

“It amazes me that she went from being a dog that didn’t want to be touched to where she will whimper and cry until I pick her up,” Mount said. “I look at her all the time and wonder how she went all these years without this kind of attention because she is a very, very affectionate dog. It’s sad to think that she probably wanted that kind of affection, wanted that kind of attention, but she was just scared.

“I guess a lot of us are the same way.”

Two of Lulu’s most involved caretakers stopped by Mount’s home to visit last week, bringing leftover food and treats and eager for a chance to pet and cuddle Lulu.

“I almost cried,” said Phyllis Northam, who works for UA’s transportation services out of an office by the Campus Drive parking deck. “I couldn’t believe I could touch her after all this time. When I went to visit I thought ‘this is finally the place for her.’”

Lulu’s origin remains a mystery. One version goes that she escaped from a student who was moving out, another is that an owner moved and abandoned her. Mount said she’s housebroken and believes she did have an owner at some point.

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Northam first saw Lulu about two years ago.

“I was going in for night shifts and noticed she would be hanging out on top of the deck. I’d sit down next to her and feed her whatever I had and she’d sit with me,” she said. “But if I reached over to touch her, she would walk away. So I just quit trying to pet her and just sit there with her.”

Always punctual, Lulu began showing up at the transportation services office every morning around 6 a.m. Northam bought a pink food and water bowl and her office was kept stocked with food and treats.

“I wanted to take her home and give her a home, but she never would let me,” Northam said. “I figured I’d just take care of her the best way I could, and that was to keep her fed, watered and safe.”

From Northam’s office, Lulu would travel a fairly regular route that took her across the east side of campus. She’d occasionally run into a well-meaning student who would try to catch her, but the encounters would sometimes leave her even more skittish and in hiding for a few days. The Facebook page “Lulu — Alabama’s Elusive Mascot” was created in part as a response to the almost weekly postings in student groups about the “lost” dog, and to encourage people to stop apprehension attempts.

“A number of traps and rescue attempts have been done, but Lulu is just way too smart,” the introduction of the Lulu page states. “If and when she is pursued on foot, she will become erratic and dart in and out of traffic.”

Northam’s co-worker Dana Dunlap lives in McCalla, and would drive to campus on the weekends hoping to catch Lulu when there was less activity on campus. She worried about her at nights and on the weekends — pretty much every time Lulu left their office.

“But she had so many people taking care of her, it’s amazing,” Dunlap said. “Lulu was like our therapy dog, she made work better. And she knew so many people.”

A man in a suit who appeared to be a UA administrator once stopped Dunlap, handed her $40 and asked her to keep Lulu stocked with food and treats. People from all areas of the campus community checked in on the little dog, including students, grounds workers, professors and police.

According to everyone who followed Lulu’s movements and posted on the Facebook page, she seemed to start her day with the women at the transportation services office. She then made her way to Bryant Hall, the dorm that houses student athletes, to pick up a second breakfast. She then made a loop around that side of campus, often spotted at Newk’s, along fraternity row and nearby dorms and the recreation fields. At night, she’d visit the Kangaroo gas station across from DCH Regional Medical Center where she’d get a hot dog snack.

Lulu followed Dunlap to Publix one afternoon, where the dog had a run-in with an animal control officer. The officer left the grocery story empty-handed.

Dunlap once found Lulu taking refuge under a fraternity house back porch after a bad storm. The most outrageous Lulu sighting was reported in February. A woman posted a photo to the page that her son had taken while working at a construction site near Bryce. Although it was taken from a distance, a tiny Lulu is visible on the roof of the former hospital for mental patients.

The administrator of the Lulu Facebook page contemplated whether or not to share that photo. While the page did celebrate Lulu and her adventures, its ultimate purpose was ensuring her safety.

“This was in February and the page was so new that I didn’t want to post the info and have people trespassing to try and get her off the roof,” she said. “Luckily, the guy let his mom know that she comes and goes from the roof all the time. I posted to let people see, firstly, that she wasn’t stupid. She’s smart, resourceful and she finally trusted someone enough to have a home.”

Michele Blevins White is a Lulu fan who learned about her through the lost dog posts on the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange, a group that started as a place to sell tickets but is also a page for people to by and sell clothing and furniture and post about lost and found pets. White saw Lulu only once in person.

“You would have thought I saw Elvis. I got so excited that I just started talking to her even though she was almost a half block away,” she said.

In typical Lulu fashion, “she turned and looked at me for a while, acknowledged me and went on about her merry way.”

White’s 14-year-old daughter asks for Lulu weekly updates, she said.

“We enjoy talking about how a single dog has united so many people from different backgrounds to come together to care for one stray dog,” she said. “To my family, Lulu is like a foster child who has been searching for that perfect family and has been adopted into an existing one. A family who didn’t know they weren’t complete has now become whole because they were willing to open the door to someone in need. That means the world to me.”

Lulu seems to be enjoying her new life. Mount credits Carter with forging the friendship between the canines that led her to feel comfortable in their home, but it’s clear after speaking with him that he has a special bond with dogs. Framed photos of Carter and the Rottweiler he had in his 20s decorate his den, and he speaks about them like a true dog-lover.

After just two weeks, he has stories that show her personality and suggest she may always have that streak of wiliness she picked up while living on the streets.

Mount set out four hot dogs for Carter’s Wednesday treat last week and returned home to find Lulu made her way onto the counter and snatched them from the pan — leaving no evidence except for the missing hot dogs. He let the dogs out onto his balcony one morning and soon heard Carter’s excited bark. He walked back outside to see that Lulu had somehow made it down to the parking lot from the second-story balcony, which has no stairs.

Mount likes dogs with formal names, and has decided that Lulu’s official name is Louisa Garland — named after the UA president’s wife who persuaded Union soldiers to spare the President’s Mansion from flames in 1865. But she’ll always go by Lulu, and she won’t soon be forgotten by the people who love her.

“I know her caretakers are a little sad they aren’t the chosen one but I think she picked where she was needed and what she needed most,” the administrator of the Lulu Facebook page said. “She’s found that with Carter and Kevin and we cannot wait to see where their adventures take them.”

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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