Category Archives: Places

As the Crow Flies

cloudIt’s stormy again today.  My phone beeps at regular intervals, letting me know that we are under this severe warning or that, but like most people who live inland from the coast, storms are a part of our life and Mother Nature has to do something pretty spectacular to get our attention.  From my desk I look out to the south and I know that past the fence, the fields and the far tree line, across another small town, then an inlet bay, lies the Gulf, her ever churning water stirring up the sand and silt.  As the crow flies, it’s not that far and we know her by the gulls that fly inland, the ancient sea shells we dig up now and again that say she once breached our borders, and by the clouds and storms she tosses across the coastal grassy plains of our home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor a time, my husband and I owned a small plane and I remember flying home, watching for her, watching for the faint line of darkness that signaled a vastness 151beyond, and as we flew closer to make the turn that would lead us back to earth, a reflection of light over moving waters would welcome us. We loved to fly along the coast, heading east over towns with names like High Island,  Boliver, Oak Island, Gilchrist, over beaches, wildlife preserves and empty places where homes used to be, claimed by the waters when the great storms came. Just along the edge of the sand, where the water washes up and recedes again, you can make out the shadow of an old highway that once ran the length of her shore, but now dormant and broken, slowly giving itself up to the sea.  Sometimes as we rose from the runway, we would point the nose southwestward, climbing up over Burnett Bay, rising across Kemah OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith Galveston a sliver of sand in the distance, slowly coming into focus and then we’d bank to the right over Surfside heading due west as we leveled the wings. We would head towards Matagorda, sailing on air over the sands and jetties, the inlets and canals punctuated with fishing boats. Out the right window oil rigs and the dark silhouettes of ships far out to sea offered themselves up to us, and to the north, clusters of small fishing communities surrounded by fertile green inland fields beckoned, back-dropped by the shadows of cities and the broad expanse of Texas beyond.

I’ve known her all my life, I feel her presence just past the horizon.  I’ve lived through her storms, first Alicia, as a young wife, bracing against the storm in a small frame house with my husband. A hand-held radio and flashlight between us in the darkness, the sound of a hundred trains barreling outside our walls, tossing debris and swirling, cutting a path through our town.  The silence of the eye of the storm, the strange brief interlude of sunlight, neighbors cautiously stepping outside to see how the world had changed and then quickly back inside again when the other wall of wind arrives.  I can remember the stillness and the light rain that was still falling when the wind finally passed.  It was a different world then, no cell phones or social media, no online reports of damages or loss of life, so you just waited until the world came back on again, until the lines were connected once more.  You opened your windows, sat outside with neighbors and shared what you had.  There were rumors of barges piled up on the freeway that ran behind our house along with tug boats blown inland from the ship channel, so groups of the brave, curious and bored hiked the distance down the highway to see for themselves.  It would be seventeen days before we had water or lights, but youth lends an elasticity to tolerance and we coped with the help of family and neighbors.

Hurricane Ike was a storm of a different kind and by that time we had lived in this small town and on this land for  almost ten years and our children were now adults.  Of course, after witnessing the human suffering and tragedy of Hurricane Kahurricanetrina and the panicked evacuation of Rita, everyone paid attention when reports started coming in of a possible storm in the Gulf.  If you live on or near the Gulf coast, you understand how it plays out as the winds of Africa push unstable air out into the ocean, as it bubbles up into tropical waves and you watch to see where it goes, how it grows and if the Gulf will pull it in and slam it against the land.  You watch the storm track, those wildly erratic colored lines creeping in every direction until the lines begin to come together and you see if it’s your time to worry.  We live far enough inland that storm surges cannot reach us, our worry is the wind and the tornadoes that the walls of the storm toss out, the wind that uproots trees and crashes them into roofs and windows, the wind that flattens metal buildings and wood houses, consuming the lives within.   The land we live on is flat and much of it treeless, we have no natural barriers to the wind and debris, but we have a sturdy home, built with storms in mind and there are many in danger that must evacuate so it’s reasonable that we stay put, off the roads and out of the way.

It’s the solemnity of the hours before it hit that I remember, the unknowing hours of wondering what life would look storm piclike tomorrow on the other side of our boarded up windows.  We watch the skies, recognizing the dark outer bands of clouds as the storm moves closer, we worry about our older son, an officer on duty out on the streets, whose only shelter will be a patrol car.  From the television we learn of those choosing to stay on Galveston and other islands, mostly older people who would not leave. They insist they will be okay at home with a beloved dog or cat, and that their shelves are stocked with water and food and they tell of past storms they have weathered in their stilt houses on the beach overlooking the storm barreling inland.  I believe that in spite of reassurances, their greater fear was being swallowed up in a shelter at the mercy of agencies and strangers, terrified their pets would be taken from them, so sadly they threw their lot in with the Gulf and let her decide their fate.  Twelve hours later we would hear that those that stayed behind were simply gone, their homes nothing but beams and posts sticking out of the sand. 

027I’ve walked her beaches as a child, braved the waves as a teen, honeymooned at the Flagship Hotel, and held the hands of my two little boys and now my grandchildren at the edge of her brown-tinted waters.  I have dug countless pennies and bottle-caps from the warm sand while treasure-hunting the beaches with my father. When I’m there, I feel the history of that city that sits on her shores, the beginnings and endings and the starting over, time and again.  Beneath my feet, I am aware that far down below lies the original elevation of the island, as it was before the Great Storm, before the city was raised and the sea wall was built. The stately houses and century-old buildings along the Strand have not bowed, though great losses are evidenced in the high water marks documented on small brass plaques far above my head.  I know from history passed down that some of those houses hide scars as well, under the fancy rugs and carpets, are the marks of axes where the floors were opened in the hope the rising water would anchor the house down and they might be saved in the rooms above, only to be washed away through attic windows when the angry Gulf waters reached the roof.

memorialThe cries of those lost in those terrible years, 1900, 1983, 2008, still carry on the wind there, blowing in a mist off the water, winding through the streets and alleyways, whipping the sails of boats and beach umbrellas, and then back to the water, always back to the water.  She is a constant, that vast unknowable body of water, both wonderful and terrible in turn, but always there, past the fence, over the tree line, across the bay, as the crow flies.

©2014-2015 itsa5doglife/All Rights Reserved


Have You Seen Us?

Rachel3What do you do when it all goes wrong?  How do you get past the despair, the brokenness and fear when you unknowingly delivered innocence into evil?  When you did all the right things, did all the research and yet still were deceived, lies upon lies until no one really knows the truth.  We do know one thing, our animals are all missing.

George2

George

I remember the day we found George, a small older chow mix, matted, hungry and shy, laying in the tall dry grass among the rotting garbage, his friend Remi, a chocolate lab, pacing around him, careful to keep himself between George and danger.  Two more throw aways, left to their fate in this dead-end by the river.  We walked carefully through the trash, knelt down and held a hand out to Remi, speaking softly, assuring him we would not hurt George, and soon we were loading them into crates.  As Leslie drove away with them, I breathed a quiet “thank you” and turned my truck towards home.  Over the next few days, after vetting, bathing and a haircut for George, the boys would bloom and Remi’s quiet dignity and George’s quirky little ways would win us all.  Remi quickly found a good home nearby and a place was found for George, a place where he was welcomed with open arms, with delightful comments about his unique look and fireball spirit.  We were convinced George was in the best of hands and would find his special human that would care for him forever and protect him, just like Remi.

Hope

Hope

Now and again you find a dog with so many problems you feel hopeless.  You run your hands over their dirty abused bodies, you feel the bones and hollows left by hunger, the skin ravaged by infection, but then you cradle their head in your hands, they lick your chin and you see a faint light in tired eyes, a tiny hope that your hands will not hurt them.  Naturally, we called her Hope.  I remember my visits with her, our walks under the massive old oaks in the neighborhood surrounding her boarding home.  Dog trainers would be aghast if they saw our walks because her nose drug us both down the street and often she would run back to me and jump up as if to say, “Do you smell that? Come on! Let’s go see, let’s go see.”, and so we did. Sweet Hope was heartworm positive, but we had faith that with a little time and treatment, there would be a forever someone on the other end of her leash.  There was a foster waiting for her, found by the wonderful place she was going, someone who could oversee her treatment for heartworms and then she could be adopted.  We were happy; we thought her future was living up to her name.

Rachel2

Rachel

Rachel was one of five, all dumped and left for dead, struggling to survive the heat, poisonous spiders, snakes and alligators that live in the swamp all around them.  We made a den for them, complete with dog houses and blankets, until we could catch them. Each day, we would go see them, fill up their bowls, calling to them in vain, hoping just one would get close enough to grab, but they had no trust left for humans.  Entering the den through the deep brush and hanging vines, we could hear their footsteps in the woods, circling the den and wanting contact, but always falling back to follow Ross, their leader, as he lead them away to the other side of the lake and far from us.  Rachel was a black pit bull mix with white on her nose and was one of the first to fall for the fried chicken in the trap, the smell overriding her fear.  Soon Kevin, a friend and expert rescue trapper, had her in his truck.  What a gorgeous dog, what a happy spirit once among the comforts of a bed and regular meals.  We were told she was adopted by the owner of a local winery where she was living her life and being adored by staff and guests alike. In my mind I can see her following someone, padding softly in the warm soft dirt between rows of grapes, I want to believe it, but I know is not true.   A call to the winery has confirmed that they have never heard of Rachel.

Bernadette

Bernadette

Howard

Howard

Further down the river, past the boat ramps and ATV park is another bridge.  Under this bridge you will find a makeshift shelter of old doors, windows and planks where passing transient travelers spend a few days and then move along again down the old highway.  You can also find dogs that have been left to fend as best they can.  We were looking for another dog, one that had disappeared from our regular site, but this morning what we found were two dogs, obviously together and waiting for someone.  The larger female was Bernadette and the small male we called Howard.  Bernadette spent her days waiting by the road, looking off into the distance for the person who had dumped her to come back, while Howard stayed close to the shelter, not usually venturing from under the bridge.  Being small, Howard was easier to catch, but Bernadette proved to be a challenge as she was too afraid to come close.  One morning one of our rescuers decided to make another effort all alone, certainly risky considering the area, but she felt she might be able to connect with Bernadette.  She carefully made her way into the site, and not seeing any strangers, she looked around for Bernadette and found her sitting on the hill leading up to the highway.  For two hours she sat there, talking to Bernadette, coaxing her with soft words and treats.  She told her about the new life waiting for her and that she could see Howard again, promising her that if she would only let her closer she would help her begin a better life.  Finally Bernadette relented enough to be caught up in a blanket and carried to the car and they made their way to the boarding kennel, calm and quiet, sensing she was safe.  I wish we could have kept her that way, I wish we could believe she is living out that promise and I hope she is with Howard wherever they are.

Sugar Bear

Sugar Bear

Sugar Bear haunts our thoughts, enrages our minds and breaks our hearts.  I wasn’t there when they found her, discarded under the bridge, in a filthy crate, her eyes matted almost shut, bleeding flea nests covering her body.  In spite of her terrible condition, she was a happy and trusting dog.  Leslie and Megan brought Sugar Bear to me to keep overnight so I could take her to the vet the next morning, so I prepared a bed, filled bowls with clean water and fresh food.  After she was settled, I cleaned her up as best I could without actually bathing her since it was so late.  When I got to her face she lay her head on my legs and patiently let me clean her eyes with a warm wet cloth, trying to wipe away the hardened crust of infection that held her eyes shut without hurting her.  As soon as she could open her eyes a little, she lifted her head to look at me and then stretched up to lick my chin, a blessing from a thrown away dog.  Sugar Bear had a condition where the eye lashes grow the wrong way and that was why she had chronic eye infections, but the surgery was simple although she would look funny with no hair around her eyes for a while.  The surgery was a success and she did look a little comical, but her eyes were healing and she felt great and ready to explore her new pain-free world and find her place in it.  Right now she should be lying at someone’s feet or napping on a kitchen rug in a beam of sunlight, she should be blessing someone’s life.

Sandy2

Sandy

No fosters, way too few volunteers, way too many animals, and no money for long-term boarding, the same story as always, so few safe options.  There are wonderful no-kill groups, many in the Austin and surrounding areas and we checked them all and found a place hidden in the hills of Canyon Lake, a beautiful resort town surrounding a deep cold lake.  This place was different, the staff were knowledgeable and talked about training, rehabilitation and high adoption rates, thus justifying the high program intake fees and they were fully equipped with a vet nearby and welcomed dogs that needed extra attention and care. The kennels were clean and animals had access to the outdoors and the looked clean, healthy and happy. They were listed with every no-kill organization we could find, we goggled for reviews, for any complaints, we grilled the staff, due diligence was done, but we were deceived, many were deceived and the animals paid the price.

Elliott and Noelle at shelter

Elliott and Noelle at the shelter

It began when we stumbled on some information about a burglary at the shelter and the disappearance of the manager and we started asking questions, addressing the Board that supported the shelter, begging, then demanding information.  There were four of our animals still there and we made arrangements to pull them immediately, in spite of threats to charge outrageous fees for “boarding” them.  We were forced to pay to adopt back our dogs, the great irony being the thousands of dollars that we had previously paid to place our dogs in an elite and progressive no-kill program to ensure their safety and adoption.

Garfield

Garfield

Twelve animals, all gone without a trace, all the records destroyed.  We have been told there is a good possibility they are all dead, that they were euthanized soon after intake and the elaborate “Happy Tails” stories were all lies. So much does not add up and we are not sure what is true, so we are searching for the animals, for anyone that might have adopted a dog matching their description.  Hundreds of flyers have been mailed and posted and we will keep searching. We know for sure that Sugar Bear is dead.  She was killed for being itchy, for scratching the hair growing back in around her eyes and other parts of her body, condemned by greed, killed by monsters.

A criminal  investigation is underway and a new Board of Directors and an entire community has stepped up and nothing is the same.  A new group of leaders are trying to make it right, trying to help us find the truth, and are committed to convicting these criminals, and the light is creeping back in, but it’s too late for so many.  Too late for the freezer full of dead animals found on the premises.  Too late for Noelle, Elliott, Sandy, Rachel, Tigger, Garfield, Gus-Gus, Bernie, Howard, George, Sugar Bear, Brownie, and Hope.

Elliott

Elliott

So what do you do when it all goes wrong?  How do you get back to that place where you feel you are moving forward, making strides in defeating the cruelty and apathy everywhere you look?  How do you take another step when your limbs feel tied by ropes of lies and failure?  You rage, you cry and beat your fists against the ground and then you get up.  You don’t keep quiet, you don’t pretend it didn’t happen, you make it matter.  You speak it out loud and yell it into every dark corner and space until you don’t have to anymore, until you are hoarse and everyone knows and things change.  Our group is different now; we trust others less and cling tightly to the four dogs we were able to retrieve from Canyon Lake when we learned of the deception. We are committed to placing them into forever homes and no where else.  We remain a little broken and we will limp for a good long while.  I don’t know what the future holds for us, how we will evolve or in what direction after this heartbreak, but we will figure it out, we will find our way, so in faith I will take a page from Hope’s book and say, “Let’s go see, Let’s go see.”

Tigger

Tigger

Gus Gus

Gus Gus

Noelle

Noelle

Brownie

Brownie

https://www.facebook.com/lostrescueanimalsofcanyonlakeanimalsheltersociety

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If you are interested in applying to foster or adopt, please visit our web page at http://crosbypuppymassacre.wordpress.com/

All photos are the property of the Animal Safety League of Northeast Harris County.

©2013 itsa5doglife  All Rights Reserved


Even Now

56Even now, as I travel the highway that carries me over the river, over the turnaround, along the creeks and bogs lining the road, I always look.   Just past the bridge through the clearing you can see it, the place where the gravel road wraps around the lake, where he always lay.  He was one of five dogs dumped at the same time, dumped to die at the hand of nature, fate or cruelty.

He was an odd-looking dog, more like a pit bull than a boxer, but there was something else in the mix as well and we called him Ross.  Of all the dogs, he had the most presence and he seemed to be the leader, the dog the other ones followed in spite of an injury to his leg.  If he came to eat, they all came to eat and when he was done they all left together.  This was back when it all began, when we were wringing our hands about what to do with five dumped dogs. Having little money and no fosters, we came up with a plan, a plan that would allow us to save them all.  We set up a den for them in the dense woods, with shelter, food and clean water and checked on them each day, hoping to draw them closer and gain their trust so we could take them to a better life.

We came to know the dogs well, but they would never get close enough to touch and I believe this was because they took their cues from Ross. Across the lake we would see them, sitting together in the morning sun or under a small willow tree by the small clear lake. As we entered the den, we would suddenly hear them in the woods around us, pacing and circling.  We contacted a rescue trapper named Kevin who has helped so many animals and with his help slowly we got them one by one, except for Ross. He watched from a distance as we loaded up his last friend and became distraught, running after the truck as it pulled out, and then stopped suddenly and ran back to the woods.

For weeks Kevin would set the trap out before the earliest light each morning and after dusk each evening, but the food in the trap remained untouched. We hired someone to dart him with a tranquilizer in order to save his life, but 5but Ross stayed hidden and became unpredictable. Kevin kept trying with the trap and we kept checking on Ross each day and although he was eating the food we put out, it was obvious he was not using the shelter anymore.

It was also obvious he was deteriorating both physically and mentally and we didn’t know what to do. Some days I would sit on the road outside the den and if I were still enough, he might show himself at the edge of the trees and I could feel his eyes on me. We would stay like that together until the sun grew too hot and then he would be gone again.

There came a time when we realized no one had seen him in several days so we met at the site, fanned out through the woods around the den, and walked and drove the dusty road around the lake.  We carried binoculars in one hand, smelly delicious food in the other and left it at various spots along the way, hoping to draw our boy out into the open. Days turned weeks, then to months with no sign of Ross. Other dogs were dumped, caught and rescued, we left his den in place, but we never saw him again.

I want to believe he left to wander and found the houses on the other side of the river, that someone he learned to trust took him in and that as I IMG_0658write this he knows gentle hands and a soft bed.  I like to think he’s with a pack again, leading them around a backyard until he’s called in for the night with a treat and pat on the head.  That’s what my heart wants to believe, but my mind knows better.  It knows that in spite of our efforts, somewhere out in those woods he laid down a last time, sick or hurt, tired of being alone, not starved or beaten, but tired and broken by his short and sad life, betrayed by those who dumped him, unreachable by those who would have helped him.

It’s the not knowing that stays with you, so I look.  Maybe one day I will see him, a spot of white on the dirt road as I go by and I will turn my truck around and drive back to that bitter place.  I walk to the fork of the rutted road and raise my hands to shield the light and see him, whole and healthy. As he gets to his feet he turns to look at me, willing me to understand that he’s at peace now, we don’t need to look for him anymore, and in a cloud of dust he is gone, back to the woods, and I let him go forever.

©2011-2012 itsa5doglife  All Rights Reserved

If you would like to help the small group that is saving the lives of dumped animals in Crosby, Texas, please visit http://crosbypuppymassacre.wordpress.com/


Finding Treasure

IMG_1466The cool morning promised a beautiful day and I had plans to spend it metal detecting with my father. We dream of finding gold coins and diamond rings, but the only things we find are pennies, old nails and pull tabs, but it gives us something to do together and you never know when you might find treasure. First however, I needed to run up the road and feed the three remaining dumped dogs our little rescue group is trying to catch down at the river.  I loaded the bags of dog food, tossed in my old tennis shoes and headed down there.

I’ve described this place before, an area full of old sofas, broken glass, and other things, where the freeway rises up over the river and people go to do things unseen. Unfortunately, because it’s Sunday, the gate to the private land where the dogs are living is locked so that means I will have to park and walk down to the hidden den we’ve created where the dogs can eat and sleep in safety. During the week I can drive up to the den and I always feel much safer out of site. I don’t see the dogs, but paw prints in the dust leading to the den tell me they’ve been there already this morning, but come dusk they’ll return.  As a Sunday treat I pour two cans of wet food on top of the dry, picking up the empty cans as I go, and then I crawl back out of the den, through the vines and low branches, trying to avoid the poison ivy this time.  I look around once more, hoping to see one or more of them laying in the early sunlight further down the road, but no luck this time. I hope they won’t be here much longer, but so far all of our trapping efforts have failed – these are smart dogs, not even fried chicken or hot dogs will entice them into the trapTreasure 2.

As I walk up the dry road to my truck I can hear the Sunday fishermen working their way to the river, I hear the crunch of their tires as they drive over broken bottles and cans where the pavement gives way to rutted trails, I hear them call to one another over the sounds of traffic above and the faint breeze smells of fish and decay. The sun is much higher in the sky now and I notice that the cool morning has warmed to a stale stickiness as I change out of my dusty shoes for the ride home. I’m in the truck, about to back up when I notice a faded red truck pulling slowly into the driveway behind me, it stops for a minute as if considering my presence and then makes a sharp right into a grassy beaten down area that leads down to the river. As the truck turns I watch and see a rusty dog crate in the back and the top of a small white head and I know another dog is about to be abandoned.

I sit there for a minute, not sure what to do because maybe it’s someone spending the day fishing or swimming with their dog, but my gut tells me otherwise, so I wait. I don’t have to wait long and soon I see it, a poodle-looking dog zigzagging down the path, confused, not sure where to go, so I get out and walk around the back of my truck. The dog is not skinny, but obviously neglected, its fur matted and skin raw and I kneel and call out to her, willing her to come to me and she does, she runs and jumps in my arms. As I stand up, I see the red truck making its way back.  Treasure 3I’m nervous, so I load the dog in the passenger seat, get in, lock the doors and get out of there. The local authorities have asked us to let them know if we witness anyone dumping animals and as much as I wish I could have gotten close enough to get his license plate, I just want to get away. As I drive around the bend that leads to the highway I look in my mirror and see him pull his truck under the freeway and stop. I call one of my fellow rescuers and ask her to call the sheriff. The deputies get there very quickly and are very cooperative and willing to help, but the man and his truck are gone.

I live close so our trip home is short, but the dog is panting and hot and jumping from seat to seat with her dusty feet – it soon looks like I’ve had 4 or 5 dogs in there. The first thing I do is give her water, and then offer her food, but she doesn’t seem hungry, what she really wants to be held and to go inside. The garage floor is cool as I sit down beside her and rub her head and inspect her body. The matting is unbelievable and there are flea nests in the mats against her I skin. Some of the skin is bleeding and judging from the smell, it’s been in bad shape for a while. While I do what I can for her, another rescuer is calling around, trying to find a place for her with a rescue group who has the facilities or fosters to take care of her whTreasure 5ile she heals and will find her the right home.

Our little group of 5 women do all we can, but like most rescuers, our homes are already full of animals we’ve taken in and fosters are almost impossible to find, not to mention how hard it is to come by funds for medical and boarding for the animals we find. It was just the weekend before that three more dumped dogs were found down there, and that’s in addition to the 3 dogs already out there we are still trying to trap. Different government agencies are trying to help, but the red tape is slowing things down. There are already signs made, cameras and lights ready to be installed, but control of this small filthy piece of land overlaps and any “improvements” to the area must be approved by all of the governmental agencies involved, which is ironic since the area has long been ignored and a haven for crime and illegal dumping of all kinds. I guess even with three groups in charge, everyone thinks someone else is watching and doing.

Now that I’ve had a chance to look her over, I pick this sweet girl up and carry her through the house to the back bathroom where I can bathe her and try to make her a little more comfortable. She lays her smelly little head on my shoulder and I feel her body relax. I draw water into the bath and softly set her Treasure 4 (2)down and she turns to look at me and I wonder what she’s thinking as she gives herself up to my care. With a cup I pour the warm clean water over her matted fur and apply blue Dawn to kill the fleas, a trick I learned from washing puppies at the shelter. It’s gentle, doesn’t burn or harm the skin, but it kills the fleas instantly – it’s the same thing they use to clean birds and other animals after an oil spill. I rub the soap in gently, avoiding her raw skin, and she doesn’t move, but dips her head down and closes her eyes, trusting me not to hurt her.

Finishing her bath, I rinse her body and the water runs off dark with dirt, dead fleas and old blood, but her tail wags when I talk to her. Although she’s not completely clean because of the mats and my reluctance to scrub her sore skin, she seems refreshed and grateful and shakes the water from her body as I release her from the towel. I show her the soft blanket I’ve made into a bed, but she chooses the cool tile instead and soon she sighs and collapses into the deep sleep of rescued dogs who feel safe for the first time in a long while. As I watch her sleep, once again I am touched by the grace of a discarded and neglected creature, simply hoping for attention, for hands that don’t hurt and to be home, finally and forever.

I leave her sleeping and check my phone and see that I have a message that Poodle Rescue of Houston Treasure 6will take her and I can bring her over anytime. This is the hard part for me. I always have mixed feeling about turning an animal over to someone else, I get too attached too fast, but I have 8 dogs, I can’t keep her and she needs special care to recover so together we drive across town. She sleeps all the way, not concerned about our destination, still trusting me to know what’s best. I pull up to the rescue and immediately I feel better, it’s a beautiful place, almost a spa for dogs with a pool, beautiful kennels and grassy areas, but still I hold my breath as gather her little body in my arms and go inside. We wait in the quiet lobby as the owner makes her way over to meet this sweet girl and take her from me, but I’m not yet convinced I’m leaving her.

A door opens and Guinnette walks in, the first thing she does is take the pup’s face in her hands and tells her she’s pretty and that everything is going to be just fine and then that matted dirty little girl licks her face. Guinnette tells me about the facility and their rescue work, shows me around and it’s everything I Treasure 7hoped for, no hidden places here, everything is open and clean and wonderful and all the animals obviously know and love her. I breathe a prayer of relief and thanks. Together Guinnette and I take her to the grooming room where a volunteer will groom her right away so she will be comfortable and then she will be fed and given her own roomy kennel with a soft bed for the night and she will see a vet the next morning. Satisfied, I bend down and rub her small head one last time, knowing I will never see her again and as Guinnette walks me out she asks if I would like to name her and I say yes, her name is Treasure.

©2012-2013  itsa5doglife, All Rights Reserved

If you would like to learn more about our group, please visit http://crosbypuppymassacre.wordpress.com/.  To learn more about Poodle Rescue of Houston, please IMG_0664visit http://poodlerescueofhouston.com/   Many thanks to Poole Rescue of Houston for loving Treasure.


And Then There Were Five

5The 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.52

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 53feed.  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 54somewhere 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.

©2011-2012 itsa5doglife  All Rights Reserved.

UPDATE: As hard as we tried for many months,we were only able to trap and save three of the five dogs.  Phoebe is in the care of a kind and patient family and she is still very shy and afraid of people, but slowly coming out of her shell.  Chandler and Rachel were accepted into programs, but unfortunately Chandler passed away.  Monica, one of the black dogs and a twin to Rachel, went missing a month or so after we found the dogs, we searched and were never able to determine what happened to her.  Ross was the last dog left after Phoebe was rescued, we checked on him everyday, our trapper spent weeks trying to get him and then one day he just disappeared.  Again we searched, the surrounding area and town, but we never saw him again.  If you would like to read Ross’ story, please read http://itsa5doglife.com/2013/05/11/even-now/.  Thank you for reading their story.


You Won’t Remember Me

Marigold1There 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.Marigold 2

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.

Marigold 3 (2)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.

Marigold 4Had 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.

©2012-2013 itsa5doglife  All Rights Reserved

 

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


At the Bend of the Road, Where the Woods Start

421682_365822190102072_293990553951903_1402507_1121050431_nI drove up to the small patch of woods at the bend of the road and slowly pulled my truck off into the red mud, opened the door, stepped out carefully and was instantly grateful I’d thought to wear my rubber boots. It was gently misting rain, enough to wet my glasses, but unfortunately, not enough to obscure the trash, broken furniture, tires and garbage littering the area, an unofficial dump. Warily I walked across the wet grass, I could feel and hear shattered glass under my feet, mostly beer bottles, but there were whole whiskey and other liquor bottles with their faded labels lying about as well. I followed along the road edging the woods, dodging oily puddles, twisted plastic and a broken printer and I whistled. The barking was far away at first, but soon closer and then I saw them. The small boxer mix wasIMG_1257 tan and more curious, anxious to see why I was there, but the black lab, a white star pattern on his chest, stayed back, more of a shadow than a dog and his face revealed the marks of fighting or some other cruelty, taking his cues from the boxer.

I hadn’t been sure I was in the right place, the text had given the precise location, but the woods went back for miles and the dogs had been seen in other areas nearby, sometimes running along the pipeline right-of-way or further down near the highway. Now that I’d found them, I headed back to the truck to get a bowl and a few cans of food. I opened the cans – thank goodness for pull tops – and filled the bowl and topped it with dry food because these guys looked like they could use some weight to help them survive the cold nights coming.  The boxer had followed me at a distance, still in the woods, watching me, but I didn’t see the lab as he had not worked up the courage to get closer, experience having taught him to be IMG_1258wary of humans, even those bearing food. I could feel their eyes on me and I heard the scrambling in the brush as I made my way deeper in the woods where they couldn’t be seen while eating. If spotted they could easily become a target for dog fighters looking for bait dogs.

In a small clearing further in the trees, I placed the bowl and quickly left.   Behind me they rushed the food and before I made it back to where my truck was parked, the bowl was empty and the boxer was behind me.  The bag of dry food was still in my hand so I poured more on the wet ground and he came 401485_328310880543561_302595423115107_860102_686325935_ncloser, sniffed at the food and then looked up at me. I reached out my hand and touched the top of his head; he flinched, but didn’t pull away and I could see large ticks embedded in his thin body and cuts along his feet from running among the trash.  I looked up, the lab came closer and I saw his eyes, frightened, craving attention, but he simply could not bring himself to come further and be touched, there were just too many painful touches in his past.  He hesitated, then backed away and looked at his friend, willing him to follow, and then slipped back into the darkening woods. It was getting late and I knew they both needed to go wherever it was that they went at night, hidden somewhere they felt safe enough to sleep. I hoped they had something to get under, out of the rain and I worried because the cold was coming.

Vincent AloneI could not have caught them and had nowhere to keep them if I did, but it hurt to leave them there, but  I knew someone would be out there again tomorrow to feed them. Sadly I climbed in my truck, wrenched my way out of the sloppy mud and turned towards home. As I pulled away, I glanced in my mirror and saw the boxer standing at the edge of the tree line, watching me drive away, and then he was gone, back to the woods, amid the trash, where he too had been discarded, as the rain fell harder.

Note:  Both Theo and Vincent were soon after rescued by the the volunteers of The Animal Safety League of Northeast Harris County with the kind help of Kelle Davis. Vincent was taken in by Lone Star Boxer Rescue and has found a forever home. Theo was  vetted and socialized at 610 Pet Lodge in Houston and was accepted into Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (Dogtown) in Utah where he was soon adopted. 

©2011-2012 itsa5doglife  All Rights Reserved.

Photos are the property of Stop the Crosby Puppy Massacres.


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