Sadie the wayward dog had a close brush with the law last week.
The beloved mascot of a Simi Valley convalescent hospital escaped through the facility's sliding doors to do a little sunbathing on the front lawn.
But a neighbor took offense and called the dog catcher, who was moments away from booking the pooch before a hospital worker intervened.
"That's a leash-law violation," said Kathy Jenks, director of the Ventura County Animal Regulation Department. The dog could have been impounded and eventually destroyed, she said.
Had that happened to Sadie, it would have been a small disaster for the 22 elderly residents of Simi Valley Hospital's Long Term Care Unit on Heywood Street.
"I just love Sadie," said Grace Mosher, Sadie's 96-year-old caretaker. "Everybody loves Sadie."
Mosher shared a jelly-filled cookie with Sadie as she discussed the dog's reprieve Thursday. Though a bit hazy on the details, Mosher assured visitors that Sadie was now safe.
"She's a good dog," Mosher said. "We'll take care of her. That you can be sure of."
To ensure Sadie's freedom, hospital officials Thursday vowed to keep a better watch over the sad-faced Sadie while human resources workers made the dog an employee badge, replete with photograph, to hang around its neck.
Forgoing the usual reference checks and resume requirements for the sake of expediency, Sadie officially joined the hospital's work force. It is a move officials hope will keep the canine one step ahead of the dog catcher's noose.
"She's mostly been a law-abiding citizen up until now," said Jan Lackey, who brought Sadie to the hospital eight years ago after the puppy was scooped up wandering an Orange County neighborhood by the then-owner of the convalescent home.
Since then, the residents of the care home have adopted the 60-pound Sadie as their own. Sadie sleeps in Mosher's room every night. Mosher smoothes a blanket at the foot of her bed for the docile yellow Labrador, which nobody has ever heard bark.
"I wouldn't let him sleep anywhere else," Mosher said. The dog's food and water dish are also in Mosher's room.
During the day, the dog roams the hospital's neon-lit corridor and adds needed color to an otherwise sterile environment. Wheelchair-bound patients stop Sadie frequently to feed the dog snacks of crackers, cookies and biscuits.
Officials said pet therapy contributes to the recovery and morale of patients.
Though Sadie was a bit malodorous Thursday, residents took turns hugging their pet and expressing concern about Sadie's run-in with the law. Sadie's only crime in their minds, it seems, is waiting too long between baths. But the dog catcher has other ideas.
It is illegal for dogs--licensed or not--to roam Ventura County without a leash. Unleashed dogs often wind up in the pound, Jenks said.
"If it wasn't reclaimed by the owner, we'd hold it for five days in Simi Valley," Jenks said. "Then we'd ship it (to Camarillo), and if no one adopted it, it would get destroyed."