Everyone wants to write a story in which he is the hero. I wish I could tell this story from that perspective, but I cannot.
A block and a half away from where I am walking with my dogs, I see a sinewy, tan chihuahua-mix with extralong legs, darting into and out from the edge of the road. The dog is perhaps fifteen pounds and wrestling small, bite-size pieces from a discarded pizza. The pizza is stuck to its delivery box, making every bite a hard-won prize. The dog is lean. And, its demeanor tells me that it has never really been treated properly, that it has never been loved.
As I stand there observing the dog at work, two ladies pass before us. They are also out for a walk—a talking walk. Interrupting their conversation and hanging onto hope, I call out, “Is that your dog?”
“No,” one of them shouts back. “We thought it was yours,” a woman finishes while nodding toward my two dogs, one on each lead in each of my hands.
I think to myself, “Another loose or stray dog. Why?”
When we first moved into this region, we were amazed by the number of stray cats in the neighborhood, as well as the sheer number of animals people kept. We also learned that the region boasts an unusually high rate of reported domestic abuse and/or violence. Not a good combination.
As I stand still, a Divine nudge comes through. “Go get that dog.”
Observing the skittish creature running to safety on the curb then back into the street for a bite of pizza, I see the gaping mouth of the city’s storm sewer system. Rain storms here can come so fast and heavy that, if the skies were to open up right now, the pizza, its box and the dog might all be swept away into the mouth of the drainage system’s toothless grin. Watching this poor dog, the world does not feel like such a safe place.
I answer my leading, “Not with two dogs already at home. Look at that dog. Somehow it has been abused or hurt. How could I possibly bring another emotionally compromised animal into our household?”
I look down at our first rescue dog, Lily, wagging her tail and looking back at me. She came to us as having been both neglected and abused. When she first arrived at our house, Lily could not even cross our yard without experiencing exercise-induced fatigue because she had been kept in a cage for so long. And, most of her front teeth were ground down to the gum because, as the vet put it, “She had probably been a cage-chewer.”
Lily’s own road to recovery had taken time and effort. We treated her with consistent respect, reinforcing basic household rules. We take turns. Everyone has a chance—to fetch, get a treat, be fed. Making salmon a regular part of her diet at the beginning of her tenure with us helped her cognitive functions improve as we trained her. The ash-colored places under her single layered coat eventually turned a healthy pink. And, we came to trust one another, though Lily sometimes still resented having to share her new-found home with our preexisting and more senior dog.
Then, considering the force of the Divine nudge, I attempt to envision the logistics of even approaching the Chihuahua-mix. Both of my dogs would have to share one lead. If I were to approach the pizza-eating stray from this direction, it might send the dog into the traffic on the busy cross street. Standing under the hot sun, mulling over the details of a potential “rescue,” I feel the perspiration begin to drip down the front of my body.
Upon moving into this community, I recall one of my husband’s first observations of several years ago. After returning home from a walk, he said, “You know, if we were at home (in the Upper Midwest) and people were addressing their children like they address their animals around here, I would be calling child protective services.”
Then, while turning my back on my guidance and a situation that desperately needs addressing, I mutter, “No. I cannot.”
In exasperation, I utter a pathetic prayer, “Dear God, please grant that this little creature finds a situation of safety and a good home. Amen.” I send the prayer up.
I mollify my conscience by promising the Divine that I will drive through this neighborhood again, during my afternoon errands. I do. The dog is gone. In my heart, I hope the dog is safe.
Two or three days later, as I am walking solo to work at a downtown coffeeshop, I find myself not two blocks away from the corner where I first sighted the Chihuahua-mix eating a discarded pizza. It is an average residential street in an average, local neighborhood.
Hearing a painfully loud yelp from a distressed animal, I turn to look across the street from where I am walking. With a broad back to me, I see a massive, not overly-tall human beast—of perhaps two-hundred-eighty-five-pounds and a non-descript gender—holding the same Chihuahua-mix dog by its back legs, upside-down in one fat fist. The human beast is systematically pinching the distressed animal with its free hand. The dog is yelping in pain at every assault.
Crossing the street, as I fold the umbrella I use against the sun, rage rises in me. I see the human beast retreat into the side door of a house. I follow, stepping firmly onto the front porch of the same house. The blinds are drawn. Taking the handle of my umbrella, I wrap firmly on the front, screen-door.
“Open up. Open this door,” I demand loudly. One of the blinds in a front window moves ever so slightly. “Open up,” I repeat. I knock again, repeating my demand.
There is no answer. There will be no answer.
Backing off of the porch, I make a note of the house address. Abandoning my plans for the coffeehouse, I walk straight home and sit down to type up a report about what I have just witnessed.
In clear, precise prose, I describe the manner in which this small, perhaps, fifteen-pound animal was being abused. Leaving the house, I travel immediately to the city’s animal shelter, north of town. The facility’s door is locked. All of the officers are out, responding to calls about stray animals. Taping the report to the facility’s locked door, I wonder how long it will be until this dog can be delivered from this abusive situation. How long will it be until we can all live in safety?