Friday, March 14, 2008

Save a Dog; Dodge a Restraining Order

On the upside, extreme anger causes me to run long distances, so dealing with this miscreant has kicked off an exercise frenzy that will get me back into runner's-shape.

On the downside the anger makes my veins throb with fury.

Corner Guy believes that caring for a deceased neighbor's dog means going into her home at 4:30 a.m. before he goes to work, pouring some kibble into a tiny food dish and water into another, then leaving the back door open so that the dog can go outside to relieve himself, and leaving the TV on loud so that the dog won't be lonely during the 10 hours that the man works, then occasionally allowing the dog to visit his home where three dogs and a cat live.

Poor Dog knows his care has decreased considerably since his owner died. Perhaps now he is eating a proper dog's diet of kibble instead of all the food the neighbors supposedly brought to her because she "wasn't doing anything, wasn't even eating," but Poor Dog had grown accustomed to sitting by her side all day and night and believes that care includes pets and cuddles. Poor Dog did continue to relieve himself outside as before, but noticed that the excrement remained in the small back yard interminably and had a hard time finding enough space to lie down outside without resting in his own feces. Poor Dog calls out for help when he is alone, barking and whining with the hope that a human will return and Take Care of Him. His throat begins to burn from constant use; he has hardly barked before this loneliness and the sum of barking for approximately two-weeks (human-time) surpasses all the noise he has made in his nine years of life. Given the meager effect of barking (some Woman From a Window above his yard asks him to be quiet, and when he does she says he is a good dog, which is a nice complement and makes him feel a little calmed. She also says that it is a terrible thing that he suffers and that she is really sorry. From other windows he hears calls of "shut up" which he is used to--he quiets--and "stop it!"--same response.

Being a smart Poor Dog, he decides to attempt his own escape. Each day and into the night, until he is locked back into the house by Corner Guy he scratches at the wood fence. Pieces of wood begin to chip off; progress is arduous and slow. During breaks he lies in that same corner, with his face toward the neighbor's house wall, his body along the fence between his yard and theirs. Sometimes he sits facing that way and crying. Woman From a Window thinks he looks like a little boy who has been sent to the corner--just missing a stool and a dunce cap.

After yet one more night of sleeping alone on the mattress of the floor where his owner died and where perhaps he used to sleep before, but the bed was higher... on legs?... he goes outside and decides to try using his voice, only this time louder than ever before and with a higher pitched cry. Woman From the Window begs him to stop, then disappears. She asks again, he does, she disappears, he starts again. A few minutes later Woman is at the gate. No barking, no guarding, only the tail-wagging hope that she will touch Poor Dog. She finds the latch. It's silver? It's high up? How does that work? Why is it so much easier for her to open and close the fence? She comes in and kneels down and pets Poor Dog. Then they are sitting on the steps toward the house, next to each other, looking over the concrete and grass yard dotted with piles of Poor Dog's excrement. Woman feels sick and considers cleaning the lawn, but Poor Dog is leaning heavily against her right side and she puts her arm around him. He leans more heavily, looking up at her and smiling, even attempting to kiss her face but she leans away.

Other Faces Appear in Windows. The People in the Windows, she knows, are stricken by the sudden quiet and must realize its cause. One of them comes over too. Another Dog Lover in Distress. None of the neighbors have slept well in weeks, and those with home offices cannot focus on the work before them. Dog Lover and Woman discuss ways to save Poor Dog. Unsure of whether he has been fed or watered, they look inside the open back door and see a giant bag of kibble on the counter. Cat food too, in a little Styrofoam bowl. Woman has already poured more water into the empty water dish; it is a hot day and the fat Poor Dog is panting. Plus she figures his throat must hurt from constant use. She looks for some sort of comfort object, maybe a pet toy or pillow with the owner's scent remaining--anything to make this dog feel safer when he is alone in the backyard. She knows she cannot stay forever.

She finds a pillow and a squeaky toy. The green ball with red and white dog-bone-shaped decorations on it looks new. She squeezes it, tosses it. Poor Dog does not care and just keeps looking at her, "Pet me, pet me, pet me. Please!" Even outside the dog does not chase the ball or even bite it once. Woman tosses the pillow toward the corner where he lies. It is a filthy looking pillow which she carries by the tag only. It lands in a planter nearby. She rises, dodging the dog shit to place the pillow on the ground for Poor Dog. She notices he has succeeded in scratching off splinters of wood from the fence. Slowly, like the man from Shawshank Redemption he is succeeding.

But then she sees it. Blood on the wood. Drops of blood on the concrete ground. A bloody patch on the stucco wall. She returns to the steps and sits with Poor Dog, noticing he's been trying to keep his right paw from touching the ground as he leans left into a cuddle.

Blood on the paw. She checks all four. Only the right is bleeding, but it is a large area, relative to a little paw. It is the area near and maybe including the bottom "palm" pad of his paw. It resembles a little boy's badly skinned knee. It looks bigger than two 25 cent pieces sitting next to each other. Woman from the Window cannot stand it anymore. No longer looking at simple neglect and sadness she sees animal cruelty. Poor Dog, whom she has watched for days, alternately hating and sympathizing with his plight, suffers torture by his own desperate attempt to find a way out. To have more. To live like he deserves to live. To find his owners or somebody to love.

Sickened, Woman reaches for the list of 17 animal shelters that she found in research yesterday, intending to give it to Corner Guy, whom she heard was trying to find a home for the dog. Corner Guy was not home both times she tried to visit him. She really meant to wait for him today, but the blood forces her to call the best shelter she knows where he will not be put to sleep. Shelter Receptionist says no private facility like theirs can take a dog until the county checks on the dog and determines its situation and owner. Woman explains that the owner is dead, the house is empty, there doesn't seem to be family and neighbors are "taking care of it." Still the county must be called. Woman calls County to acquire the necessary information.

Woman is surprised when County considers the dog's condition an emergency and sends someone over right away to examine the situation and assess the pet's health. Afraid he will be taken, she runs home to get a sweater--it's getting chilly outside--and waits at the corner so that County will hear the dog crying and know its pain, but she is also waiting for Corner Guy to get home so he can help.

Corner Guy is furious and lashes out at Woman, unable to process the idea that Woman loves dogs (has he forgotten how she kneels to pet his three dogs every time she passes them on her walk or even on the way to her street-parked car?) and acted in the best interest of the dog. Corner Guy "wishes [she] had waited to talk to him first."


To Be Continued...

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