The workers reported seeing six pit bull mixes running in and out of the woods for a couple of days, but I hope they miscounted because now there are only five. I pull up to the gate where the concrete becomes dusty road and the heat hits like a wall as I step out of my truck. I don’t like this place, I’ve said it before, it’s a menacing place full of discarded things and the threat is palatable. Above me the freeway traffic whines, families heading to July 4th barbeques and parties, looking forward to fireworks and fun. Down here, next to the river, people are gathered too, some are fishing or swimming, but most are just hanging around waiting for dark, a macabre celebration among the cast-off sofas, rubber tires and other trash. This river is not safe or clean and undertows and swift moving waters claim swimmers regularly, but in this particular area, hidden and ignored, the greatest danger is not the river. There are bullet casings on the ground and I would be lying if I said I would not feel safer with a gun of my own.
The gate that leads from the dump to private land is open, we are lucky that the landowners here are kind; they understand what we are trying to do. The dogs were apparently dumped all at once in the night and the females appear to have nursed many puppies so we suspect dog breeders, they sell the puppies and when the mother dogs are worn out, they either kill them or abandon them. This time there are males and females so maybe they were getting out of the business altogether and dumped them all. Either way, they’ve left them to be hit by a car, savaged by cruelty or eventually die of starvation. It is beyond my understanding.
Our little group meets, we talk and make a plan, three dog houses are set deep in the woods far from the dump, we’ll each buy food and take turns feeding and we wring our hands because right now there is nothing else we can do, but try to keep them safe and fed until we find a place for them to go or raise the thousands of dollars it will take to vet and board them.
It’s Friday, my day to feed and I drive down the dirt road –it’s quiet today and I feel safe because I’m on private property and there are workers on tractors across the small lake. On the road I notice dog prints everywhere, preserved like fossils in the hard ground, evidence of these and other abandoned dogs. On either side of the road the dense underbrush hangs like a canopy, inhospitable and thick with vines and poison ivy – I’m glad I thought to bring my boots and wish for long sleeves. As I reach the hidden trail that leads to their den, I hear the snapping of twigs and branches as they flee away from me, afraid to be seen, running from memories of hands that deprive and hurt, they would rather die together in the woods than trust another human, it will take time. I stop and let them get far enough away where they can bark at me because they need to bark, they need to feel in control and as much as I want to try and draw them to me with treats, I know it’s better if they don’t trust people right now. It’s a desolate place and people prowl around at night, and we’ve seen the results of their cruelty.
I haul the bags of food from the back of my truck to be stored in a bin we placed in the woods – we will all give to their care, to be sure they are feed. Mosquitos and other bugs swarm around my face and I try not to think about snakes hidden in piles of rotting leaves as I duck down under the hanging vines to get to the den. I can’t see them, but I can feel them at the edge of the darkness, like ghosts, silently watching as I arrange soft sheets and rugs in the dog houses and fill their bowls. I can feel their struggle, their longing for affection and kindness, for relief from fear. It breaks my heart.
The other feeding station is on the other side of an open grassy area between the woods that run along the road and I can hear them running again through the brush and I glance down the grassy corridor and see them dart from one side to the other. I finish filling the bowl and close the bag, I’ve done all I can today, but it’s hard to leave them out there. I load my truck I wonder what’s going to happen. How are we going to raise enough money to take care of them, how will we find rescues to help when everyone is so overloaded? Can we even find rescues willing to take pit mixes? Can we keep them safe and hidden until we have somewhere for them to go? Each one of us in our little group would love to take them in, but we feel that way every time one is dumped and we are all at the limit we can take care of – I have eight dogs and two cats at my house – so once again we get online and on the phone and beg for help from people and groups we know we can trust.
I’m trying to be glad they have each other and I’m grateful for the workers who help watch out for them, but before I leave I look down the road where they are hidden and I will them to stay out of sight, to curl up in their houses at night, and to be patient and know we are coming for them as fast as we can.
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