Homeless Dog Rescued After 10 Years Roaming NYC Parks Goes Home With New Owner, May Struggle to Adjust, Docs Say

Pulled from the grip of Old Man Winter, a homeless shepherd mix that had wandered two Manhattan parks for about a decade is headed to a warm new home. 

Charlie -- or Ricky, as some people who live near his choice parks fondly called him -- was rescued earlier this week by residents concerned the pup wouldn't survive the frigid temperatures.

After showing signs of improvement over the last two days at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners specialty and emergency hospital in Manhattan, Charlie went home Thursday with new owner Tina Ilmet. 

It seemed fitting Ilmet would adopt the pooch. The Washington Heights dogwalker built a shelter and slept in the woods to establish a bond with Charlie while he was still roaming Highbridge Park in Washington Heights and Inwood Hill Park in Inwood.

Ilmet and other neighbors had tried to capture him in the past, but he always escaped. This week, with temperatures hovering near 0 degrees, a group of neighbors, including Ilmet, managed to coax him into a van so they could take him to a hospital.

Ilmet told NBC 4 New York Wednesday that the pooch had become a local institution.

“Everybody knows him, but he’s a feral dog,” Ilmet said. “If you tried to approach him, he’d run away. I’ve been working with him for quite a while, so he finally got to the point where he would recognize me and wag his tail.”

Boaz Levitin of BluePearl Veterinary Partners said Charlie appears to be overcoming his medical deficits with treatment. 

"The only thing we're still struggling with is his mental condition," said Levitin. 

Levitin said Charlie "probably feels like he was abducted by aliens and he's just not used to all this."

Doctors said that after living in the wild for 10 years, Charlie is still an old dog struggling to adjust to his new surroundings. He's refused to eat anything since his rescue and yearns to go back into the wild. 

Ilmet said on a GoFundMe page set up for Charlie's care that the dog once had family to roam around with but all those pups were trapped years ago.

"He no longer has his pack, he's a slow old man now, and was not going to make it in this extreme cold," the page says. "He is a handsome mutt that was never dangerous."

Doctors are hoping a trial period in his new owner's home will give him a new leash on life. 

"They're willing to give him a lot of love," said Levitin. "We hope that's enough." 

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