Shame and rules
Afraid to love
Afraid to love
more than you could lose
Let it run
Held back no longer.
For it's your life
No longer afraid
Let it out
even if it hurts
Don't be afraid
you've nothing left to lose
- LB Johnson
A few years back, in another life, another employer, one night late, I got a phone call. The caller was a law enforcement rookie, female, a friend. We chit chatted regularly but a call this late was not good news and I was afraid it was professional in nature. She said "LB., I need you to help me rescue a dog."
Apparently, the deadbeats who'd been living in an isolated old house down the road from her little place booked out in the middle of the night. She saw the vehicles loading up and leaving, good riddance, she thought. Then, late at night she heard, carried on the wind, the pitiful cry.
A coyote? A dog? The neighbors are gone, it must be someone else, she thought. The next night she didn't hear it over the chiilly wind, the third night she did, a high pitched whine of a soul's abandonment. The house remained dark, the utter stillness, utter silence, a testament to the tears outside.
She crept over, no sign that the residents were anything but gone, house empty of belongings, yard covered in trash. It was a pup, a retriever,mix, from the looks, left chained up in the backyard with a bowl filled with rain water and no food. Left to die when they vacated in a hurry. She called - "I need back up." Off the clock, just civilians, I knew what she meant. So off I headed, no purse, just a personal weapon, my ID, some cash and dog treats in my pocket. I got there; the house definitely vacant, no meth heads coming back and surprising us.
As we approached her, even in the dark, we could see the poor animal was starving and cold, temps reaching down in the 40's. Tonight was grey and even more cold, with a forecast of rain or freezing rain, but still the sky held in the moisture, refusing to release it. But it was supposed to go below freezing; she wouldn't have survived the night, it's only companion, the smell of water and blood.
Blood? Why do I smell blood?
My friend, crouched down over it as I stood watch, pointed at something, hard nosed law officer that she was, with tears in her eyes. The dog had outgrown her collar, and it was actually was cutting deep into the flesh, leaving bloody tracks in would have been the soft fur of contentment. She had to be in terrible pain, but she only licked our hands and tried to snuggle up. My friend said "can you get it out?" I always have some first aid/medical type implements in my bag but I had to say "I've never cut on anything still breathing". I expected the dog to bite me as I worked, gently, with small tools to free it. She just continued to nuzzle our hands, even though in my attempt to remove this tiny round torture device, I had to be causing her more pain.
I looked up to the sky, thinking for a moment the clouds had finally given up their rain, when I realized, what was on my tongue was the taste of salt as I worked away.
When finally we stood, the dog in her arms, the remnants of that collar laying on the ground like a broken mirror, we heard the crunch of tires, both of us putting our hands near our weapons There was the flash of red and blue, of a bright flashlight, the glint of a shield, as we smiled, thankful for assistance and she was recognized with a "What are you ladies doing out here?!" My friend called out "hey D.!" He replied, recognizing her immediately". . . . What ARE you doing out here? I was keeping an eye on this place in case they were back and up to no good."
She said, "I'm just stealing this dog Sir" He looked at the dog , a puppy really, and looked at me (I was not a local) and said "who's this?". She told him who I was, his eyes widened a bit in recognition and he chuckled and said "and what are YOU doing out here Doc?" I said "HELPING her to steal this dog, SIR!"
He just laughed. Calling the local animal officer was suggested, but we told him, given this rural area, that might take an hour or more, the pup was in bad shape and had lost blood, she could die if we didn't do something. My friend told him we'd take him to the vet, pay the bill ourselves and get her a good home. The dog clearly was a "stray" in the eyes of the law, abandoned to die. The Officer just said "Dog? What dog? I didn't see any dog", and tucked $30 in our hands to help towards the vet bill before he helped us load up and drove off.
The dog was cleaned up at the vets, an after hour emergency call, the wound not causing any permanent damage, but serious. In a few hours, that gentle little retriever was bandaged up and home at my friends, after an amber toast in crystal goblets, recognition among tired friends, as she curled up to sleep near the fire, joining a household that already had two spoiled, well loved dogs.
I hadn't thought of that in years, until the day some time back, another time, another city. A friend told me of a couple of stray dogs spotted by her office building, a place I often drive past on my way into work. The dogs were obviously dumped, she said, skin and bones, and she couldn't lure them close to her. A couple others had tried, with no luck. She was almost in tears as she told me, having a soft spot for strays (though we agreed stray cows do make tasty cheeseburgers). Animal control was called, then, and later, but the dogs ran off into some extended woods behind an old building nearby.
A few days later, driving by her office on my way back into the city, I saw, along the side of the road, a young woman pulled over, petting the form of the dog laying on the grass next to the curb. I pulled in behind her, and put on my emergency flashers, my work I.D. hanging around my neck as I approached, saying "can I help?"
It had to be one of the dogs my friend described. At first I thought that perhaps she'd accidentally struck the dog with her vehicle, but I could see as I approached that the dog was just too weak to move. It was emaciated, probably less than a year old, a bulldog/perhaps a little pit bull/mystery dog mix with a too small blocky face and low slung, long body. It was hard to tell, the dog so malnourished, the coat so worn away and mangy to not even be recognized as fur.
She said "another woman from that office there (pointing) was by, she got food for the dogs and is fetching a car to transport him, someone else has already taken the other dog to the humane society, this one is in bad shape."
The lady who had brought the food was my friend, another employee in a nearby building taking the other dog to the dog shelter. The dog remaining had eaten the half dozen or so burgers that my friend had brought and a lot of water, and just lay there, panting, as this young women stroked him and talked soothingly. Yet he had an expression, as bad off as he was, as if he knew no one was going to hurt him ever again. I called my office to let them know I'd be late returning and would do a leave slip for payroll when I got back.
I called my friend, back over at her office on the phone trying to find a vet. She said "if I take him to the humane society as bad as he is, they'll just put him down". She had called several vets, no one could get him in right away. She said she then called one animal hospital, not super close, but within driving distance. They could see him. It was Barkley's vet, not just one of the many vets there, but HIS vet, the pretty little blond he adores.
She came back with a coworker, while the young woman that had been there on my arrival went back to work. We rounded up a blanket and a box from our vehicle supplies and the dog was loaded into the back of an SUV, one person driving, one person, continuing to pet it, off to the vet. The exam was done and the dog admitted. A few hundred dollars were left for vet bills, my friend securing any additional payments with her credit card, which likely will be more. The dog had fleas, ticks and numerous bloody scrapes in a coat that was badly in need of care, the fur almost gone. They'd have to check for heart worm and Lyme. One eye had an injury but it was fairly clear. An IV was set up and my friend stayed with him while they got him settled in for a night or two stay. My friend had recently had to put down the very elderly dog they'd bought together. I remember too well when she told me that, everything leaving her eyes but the loss and her statement that she was not going to get another one, she was done with loss. That day, again she said she absolutely did NOT need another dog but wasn't going to let him die alone and in pain along the side of a road. She was NOT going to get attached to him.
She said "I wanted a lab, a healthy, pretty dog". I looked at her and said "Sometimes God doesn't give us what we think we want, sometimes He gives us what we need" and just waved as I drove off. We've all learned love, we've all learned loss, sometimes we have to learn hope.
Now, years later, that dog is firmly part of a home, sleeping peacefully, breathing slow into the darkness, leaving their touch upon a heart.