There is something haunting about that part of the river, down under the bridge with the echo of cars passing overhead, a lost place. I would like to stay safe in my truck, but this hidden place is where the unwanted end up and it’s the unwanted I’m here to find. She was beautiful and living in the thick underbrush near the river bank, skinny and scrounging for food among the garbage tossed out by passing cars, trying not to die, another ghost among the trash. The dog had belonged somewhere once, she had on a collar, frayed and faded, but like many pit bulls probably discarded when she didn’t produce enough puppies or maybe her disposition made her unsuitable for fighting, we see that a lot here in Houston where living things are possessions to be aquired and discarded at will.
You never know what to expect when you go to rescue a dog. I’ve had them run up to me and try to get in my truck and others I have to chase around and then watch in heartbreak as they collapse on the ground belly up, waiting for mercy or pain, and some cannot be caught without a trap, but they all have the empty pleading look in their eyes, fear and hope sown together. It took a while to find her and she seemed to have a hard time hearing or seeing as my fellow rescuer eventually walked right up on her before she noticed anyone was there, and she was wary, but she let us touch her and scratch behind her ears as we clipped the leash on her collar and walked her away from that place. We called her Marigold.
The plea went out and a group in Austin stepped up to foster her if we could get her there and since the weather was not good for flying, I agreed to drive her instead the next morning. I settled her in for the night on a new bed with fresh water and good food, gave her some treats and a rawhide and sat down next to her. Apparently that was her cue to edge closer, and then a little closer until finally she was in my lap, all 40 pounds of her. We sat like that until my legs were numb and the hour was late and I told her it was time to sleep and that I would see her in the morning and she cocked her head at me, got up from my lap, turned around twice and then curled on her bed. As I turned out the light, I heard her whine just once and then she was silent.
The next morning she’s full of life and when I go to load her in the crate I find my husband with her, his big hands cradling her face, telling her she’s going to be okay and to be a good girl and she seems to understand. I would have liked to leave her loose in the truck, but I’ve learned from experience that you never know how a dog is going to respond in transport, some sleep the entire way and others are jumpy and active, so for their safety, I use a crate. I had put her bed in the crate the night before and left the door open so she would be used to it and feel safe for the trip and sure enough, she didn’t mind at all when I loaded her up. As I closed the door, I asked her if she were okay and she replied with that odd little sound pit bulls make, my Maggie responds that way, too.
The drive from Houston to Austin is a nice one once you get out of the city, it’s mostly rural highway and the roads are quiet and traffic is light and you have time to think as you pass the small farms and towns with names like Giddings, Elgin and Manor. As I drove I wondered about Marigold, where she came from and where she was going, I didn’t know the young woman named Kate that was meeting me, but others that I trusted knew her and had worked with her rescue group before so I felt certain she would be in good hands, but even so I worried. She was going straight to the vet as soon as I dropped her off and then to her new foster home and I was glad she had a place to go, she was lucky, many like her are automatically killed in shelters for simply being a certain breed.
We arrived in Austin a little early so I sat with her while we waited, she wasn’t afraid, she trusted me completely and I prayed that her trust would be served. It’s hard to let them go and I told her so as we sat there together in the back of the truck with the door up watching it rain, I told her that she was going to be happy and she would learn about couches, toys and dog parks and that she wouldn’t remember me, that it was okay, she wouldn’t need to, but I would remember her. She put her paw on my leg and licked my chin with her eyes closed, this big sweet girl I’d known for less than 24 hours.
Soon I was loading her into another car and being assured that she would be fine, that her foster mom couldn’t wait to see her. I gathered her new bed and the red blanket and handed it to Kate who smiled as I explained that it was bought for Marigold and I wanted her to take something of her own into her new life, she understood and took them from me. I reached inside the car and gave Marigold one last pat on the head, closed the door and then they were gone, my part in her life was done. I walked back to my truck and as I was closing the back door I noticed something in bottom corner of the crate, I opened it, moved the other blanket and saw the treats and rawhide I had given her the night before, uneaten, tucked carefully and intentionally for safekeeping under the pad. She had buried her treasures.
Had I known, I would have sent them with her, but she was gone and I knew she wouldn’t miss them, she had many treats in her future, and standing in that parking lot in the rain, 3 hours from home, I realized that our brief time had mattered for her, that she had felt love in a handful of treats and a soft bed. She reminded me that anything, however small, that lessens suffering or enhances life is never wasted, it all matters, and once again I recognized God’s whisper in the voice of the helpless. She would be okay. I left her treasures where they were, climbed in my truck and headed east; it would be dark before I got home, dark when I finally crossed the river on the road leading me home.
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Update: Marigold was adopted quickly and is living a good life in Austin, Texas. To read about the Austin rescue group that took her in, please visit http://www.straightfromthestreets.org/. If you would like to help the group of individuals working to solve the homeless animal problem in one small town or to read more, please visit crosbypuppymassacre.wordpress.com